HEY, JUNIOR!

posted by / News / May 25, 2004

How many times have you looked at small waves and imagined yourself as a chipmunk? A squirrel, a rabbit . . .pretty much any mammal that can stand on it’s hindquarters can usually find head-high plus surf.

When the Atlantic Ocean barely flinched in the weeks preceding the Heritage Jr. Pro in Ocean City, and local amateur contests were either cancelled or held in dribble, there was question of whether or not the second annual event would have a bump at all.

Brian Heritage’s hard work has resulted in a tremendously successful South Jersey competitive scene.

“Ocean City is a hotbed of talent,” said Heritage, “there are five legitimate pros who call OC their homebreak. We are always trying to give the local kids an opportunity.”

However, if he couldn’t coach rodents to boost airs, who would you rather watch go to work on ripples that a pack of hungry 125 lb. professionals? Yet, when the fog burned off on Saturday morning, it was apparent that this wouldn’t be a ‘boat wake showdown.’

The pre-summer month of May on the East Coast has never held the magic that it’s post-summer counterpart has enjoyed, although this May was particularly depressing. When breaks all over New Jersey lit up with a chest to shoulder-high waves, Garden State surfers rushed toward the mysto swell and the first rounds at 3rd St. began to sizzle like sausage on a boardwalk grill.

To Jersey Shore amateurs, this contest offers competitive experience against an international field of tomorrow’s WCT hopefuls.

“This is a litmus test. The young kids can test themselves against the heavily sponsored guys,” said Heritage.

The locals breathed a sigh of relief at the substantial pulse. Who wants to surf against Floridians in knee high surf? You’re better off taking that entry fee to Atlantic City. The young locals put in respectable showings, but no NJ surfers made the quarterfinals as the morning’s clean lines dropped and the afternoon sea breeze kicked up.

“There’ re a lot of better kids than last year,” said 20-year-old Ocean City local Jerry Smith, “All the Florida guys are ripping. A lot of these kids get paid to surf, so you have to step it up.”

Heritage had the first heats in the water by 8 a.m. on Sunday. With knee to waist high conditions, any surfer who had made the semi-finals would have to make something of nothing. The Floridians have an amazing ability to create momentum through the flattest of sections. Six of the eight semi-finalists were from the Sunshine State, after knocking down a strong Puerto Rican contingency, including Dylan Graves and Wesley Toth.

Although Tommy O’Brien, who had surfed brilliantly in the mini-lines of the Billabong Jr. Pro at Sebastian inlet in March, was ousted, three Florida gators charged into the final round. The crowd began to fill in for the finals, New Jersey residents enjoying the soaring temps after the harsh winter.

Californian Justin Weigand, who took the inaugural event in ’03, faced David Awbrey, Eric Taylor and Alek Parker in the final. The finalists were undeterred as the surf continued to deteriorate, dissecting what older, less agile (over 21 and fat) surfers would deem barely rideable. Taylor and Parker, who finished number one and two, were somehow able to connect. On a long left, Parker decapitated the peak, tore into a backside cutback and waited for the inside section, where he found a worthy line on which to wail several moves off the top. It was Taylor’s long right, on which he came from the backside of a waist-high section to gain speed and work past the OC drain pipes, making superhuman speed toward his $1,{{{100}}} check.

“It was that long right,” explained the Vero Beach prodigy, “I had to hop to the inside, but it held up the whole way. It was pretty much just a gamble out there.” Jon Coen

The next national Junior event is the Lost Junior Pro, slated for July 24 -August 1, in Huntington Beach. The Junior World Championships will be held in North Narrabeen, Australia, in January.

Photo courtesy of Tom Spader. For more Jersey action check out www.localswell.com.

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