We had other potential titles for Noah “Waggy” Wegrich’s section — all of them bad. Excess Waggage. Waggrivated Assault. Productive Waggriculture. Waggregate Demand. Terrible, I know, but this is the kind of fun you get to have when you’re writing about someone new, when other media outlets haven’t already picked the low-hanging wordplays. We couldn’t very well write about Parker putting a nail in the Coffin, and jokes about Ian’s Crane are tired. But Noah’s new to the international surf scene, so I get to write things like Liquid Hot Waggma. Sorry. I’ll stop.

As with most stars that “came out of nowhere,” 22-year-old Noah came from somewhere, and that somewhere is Aptos, California, a town just south of Santa Cruz. He has been surfing at a world-class level for years; he’s just been doing it quietly in the nooks and crannies between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. A humble, small-town kid, surfing his brains out and expecting nothing. About to get something.

“When I got the call to come on this trip I was pretty baffled,” he says, his mop of hair still drying from his last session. “I was totally in the mindset of, ‘I’m just gonna chill at home and go longboarding all summer. Lay on the beach and meet girls.’ But this is the biggest opportunity I’ve had in my career. It’s a dream come true.”

But all dreams are reality checked and the truth is, for much of this trip, Waggy wasn’t stomping the stuff that he considers routine back home. His performance didn’t match his skill.

“I definitely botched a couple of crazy air ramps,” he says. “It’s tough, because you get so excited to finally have the chance to do something and it’s heartbreaking to miss it by a fraction of a second. I was definitely in my head going, ‘Do I even deserve to be here?’”

But what’s great about Waggy is that he doesn’t let this self-doubt overtake him. If he misses a section, he doesn’t slap the water or flip off the wave. After a rough session, he doesn’t pout or make excuses or vent his frustrations. He just shakes it off, throws some KC and the Sunshine Band on the car stereo and recalibrates. By the time we get to the bakery, and he saunters in with a no-time-to-hurry attitude and huge smile, the gorgeous girl behind the counter has no choice but to fall in love.

During the last two days of the trip, the waves switch on and so does Waggy. On the first day he drops hammers with powerful, stylish carves, and spins his airs with figure-skater-like speed. And on the second…well, on the second, he does something nobody quite expects: He owns a session at The Box. (With the exception of Yadin, who’s surfed it countless times and is on his forehand.) It’s like he’s possessed. Swinging on waves nobody wants, backdooring the peak, negotiating steps while pig-dogging.

“Thank God the waves were pumping,” Noah says afterward, relieved to have had a proper showing at The Factory. “It felt so good to get out there and get a couple of tubes.”

A couple of tubes? Please. That’s like saying Trump is “kinda controversial.” Yadin offers a more appropriate, concise summation: “Waggy blew me away out there. It’s so hard to do what he did on your backhand.”

So what changed? What made Waggy finally turn on?

“I think I just had to get out of my head,” he says. “Once you remember that you’re just out surfing with your friends, that’s when you start ripping…I feel a lot better after that session at The Box, and Yadin giving me a little pat on the back. Now I feel like, ‘All right, I can hang with these guys.’”

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