Surf: Chest to head-high plus, slightly onshore and sectiony.
Events Held: Junior Men’s Final, Boys Final, Menehunes Final, Girls Final, Menehune Longboard Final, Junior Longboard Final, Junior Bodyboard Final, Menehune Bodyboard Final, Open Shortboard Final, Women’s Longboard Final, Women’s Bodyboard
Nature’s Call: Alright already, go get your hurricane swell elsewhere.
Predicted: A lot of head-scratching over how to fit a five-foot trophy in a three-foot trunk.
Editor’s Note: Before we fall back on the pre-determined contest formula designed so we lazy writers can more easily distill 1000 heats into a single page, allow us to construct an overall theme — a grand statement if you will — to offer clearer context on the current state of East Coast surfing.
Nobody really knows what the hell is going on.
After all, following the strict law of media appeal, regional history and — quite frankly in some cases — talent, experts would’ve made winning cases of big firms like Guilbeau, Geiselman and Geiselman, only to be outsmarted by such upstarts as Rupp, Rheaume and Lineback. But this week’s shifty succession of storm surf, countless rounds and close calls proved one important fact: you can never really tell who’s going to win or where they will come from. Thank God. Otherwise, there’d be no need to run the damn things in the first place.
HEAT OF THE DAY:
Depends on the criteria. You want drama? Try the Menehune Longboard final where a flurry of overhead waves clashed with eight-foot boards and waist-high surfers for a gut-busting, tear-jerking climax. You laughed when a clean-up set turned the lineup into Tombstone, you cried when Justin Quintal’s nose reached its Breaking Point for the second time in two days, and you screamed for Chris Hunt who skillfully handled it all to come in the Top Gun.
You want performance? Try any of the double-elimination showdowns where Chris Ropero, Eric Geiselman, Eric Rheuame and Tony Silvagni duked it out on opposite sides of the heat. With so much spray flaying — or maybe that was the sun’s glare — it was hard to tell who was winning sometimes. But the predicted rivalry emerged soon enough (and evaporated even quicker) when St. Auggie’s 2003 champ Chris Ropero fell repeatedly to Eric Geiselman, letting the NSB 3-time Easterns title holder slip into the final against former Boys Champ Eric Rheaume. All eyes are on the Geis in every heat he surfs, but ask Kelly, ask Andy, ask anyone — it’s not easy being the favorite. So while the whole crowd waited for Geisleman to “go big” — a prayer he answered with two big boosts and an Gorkin Roll attempt — Rheaume simply disemboweled the day’s better lefts with smooth accuracy, and even managed to rip the head off a right or two to take the victory. At least one person wasn’t surprised with the result. As Geiselman said himself:”I told you, E-Ram is gnarly.”
You want pressure? The Boys final. If anybody knows a good manicurist, recommend them to Hunter Lineback and Sean Poynter’s parents, as Poynter’s more powerful display seemingly edged out Lineback’s consistent precision, only to have the tide turn back the second time they met. It was so close nobody had a clue. Poynter pointed to Lineback, Lineback pointed to Poynter, the tabulators pointed at you with their middle fingers. But in the end Lineback — the formerly unknown South Carolinian — hooked into his first Easterns crown and washed off the underdog stink once and for all. Which brings us to . . .
PERFORMERS OF THE DAY:
With his victory in Boys, his fifth place in Open Shortboard and his sixth place in Menehune Bodyboard, Hunter Lineback surely, and deservedly, took the year’s Junior Ironman award. But the biggest eye-opener of the event was Tony Silvagni. Already a top Longboarder for the US Team, Silvagni made the ugliest waves seem breathtaking with a graceful routine of carves, floaters and noserides — sometimes simultaneously — solidifying his rep as the East Coast’s Fred Astaire of foam and fiberglass to take a second Easterns win. But it was his shortboard performance that puts Tony in the top of this rank. In one double-elim heat, Silvagni could’ve outed Ropero and Geiselman all by himself, ruthlessly hacking set waves like a saline serial killer. “It feels good,” said the charming southern North Carolinian. ” I mean, I know I’m not as good as the best shortboarders, but I like to show I can try.”
Get ready to hit the “awwwww” button for the next Lineback in line, a young girl by the name of Keenan. This cute, widdle, itty-bitty 11-year-old has made at least two 10-year-old boys’ lives a living hell by crossing over to Menehune division for a fourth place result, implying that the North Florida power movement may soon be shifting north of the border — and it doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender or age. Good thing Nick Rupp was around, the toe-headed Tarheel stuck move after move to keep the battle of the sexes going strong, making sure little Evan Geiselman doesn’t get too much too soon and NC stays in a champion state. Meanwhile, MD’s Devin Ricke kept his Easterns crown with a combo of el rollos and el barrels. And Amy Nichol picked off three solid set waves to keep Christa Alves at bay and swoop her first Girls title.
Girls favorite Ashley Francis going down in Round One of divisions long and short; Open Men’s finalist Eddie Guilbeau and New Smyrna standout Jesse Heilman suffering early exits in the Juniors, 3-time Easterns champ Eric Geiselman and National champ Evan Geiselman suffering second place results . . there’s always a few. But nothing sent aftershocks through amateur surfing’s largest organization more than Kathy Phillips announcing she will be stepping down as Executive Director. That’s right, come next year, at the 2005 pre-Easterns directors’ meeting, Phillips will officially hand the baton to a yet undetermined person who will lead the ESA into the future. After 14 years at the helm, what’s Kathy’s reason for moving on? “Basically, it’s that 14 years. When I came in I was energized and enthused and ready to make changes and I think we’ve done that. Now it’s time for someone else to come in who is equally energized; it’s time for some new blood.”
“They can’t say it, they can’t spell it, but they fear it.” St Augustine shopowner Clint Richardson on the name of his top teamrider Andy Karabinichak,3rd place Boys.
“That’s a she?” Boys runner up Sean Poynter on Keenan Lineback surfing the Menehune final.
“I told him: this time you stay in the water!” Greg Geiselman on son Eric’s double elimination flights of fancy.
“Yeah, they like to make it rough on you.” Masters’ competitor Pat Emery on the Easterns’ week of windy waves, long days and tough heats. — Matt Walker