The second attempt at holding the 2014 Southeast Oakley Surf Shop Challenge at Ponce Inlet proved fruitless last week, with no contestable waves on tap. Fortunately organizers got creative and relocated the sixth of seven Regional Qualifiers to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, giving 40 of Florida’s best surfers from 10 different shops the chance to get their freshwater shred on.
With consistent waves barreling across the manmade concrete sandbar, Heat One set the pace for the rest of the day with the top three teams (Sunrise, IWS and Rip Curl) standing out as clear frontrunners to win the event. The relocation required some format changes, though, which made for an interesting challenge: only 150 waves could be ridden, each team would be split into two heats of five, and the top five teams would go on to the Final.
Watching the final was like watching a roller coaster with highs and lows for each shop as they jockeyed for the lead to hold the top points. Red Dog opened strongly with Noah Schweizer achieving a mid-range 7 on his second wave. But without the help from double whammy surfer, Eric Geiselman, the team fell short. This was also the case for Surf Station, who changed out their double whammy surfer from Dustin Richardson to hometown hero Gabe Kling. In heat one, Gabe dropped an 8.03, but was unable to match that result in the Final.
Rip Curl had a strong campaign throughout the event, but due to some unfortunate breaks and an early double whammy claim from Jeremy Johnston, the team ended their night in the 3rd-place position. The real battle came when Tanner Strohmenger from IWS upped his score by two points, totaling 6.67. This put the pressure back on defending champs Sunrise, who had won this contest six times in a row, with a couple of national championships thrown in for good measure. Final Sunrise surfer Dane Jefferys needed a 4.12 to take the lead and give Sunrise the win, and he ultimately delivered, sending on an all-expenses-paid trip to Central America to vie for the National Championship.
After spending four months traversing the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea working on yacht, Tanner Strohmenger was no doubt ready to reassert him self in the surf world. He and his IWS teammates definitely thought they had it after his second wave in the final. But Sunrise somehow pulled out just enough to win by less than a half a point total.
Sunrise claimed its seventh consecutive OSSC Southeast title, and ninth overall, meaning they are pretty much The Men forever. Here’s what Tristan Thompson, Evan Thompson, Ryan Briggs, and Jefferys had to say about their strategy: “The pool definitely added some nerves in the beginning, but we eventually got used to it and got the chainsaw effect going. Also, it’s important to have the shop guys on a good wave, and out here tonight we didn’t have to worry about that, so the pool definitely made for an even playing field. Special thanks to Oakley, SURFER Magazine, New Era, Futures Fins, Watermans Sunscreen, and Banzai Bowls for putting this event on. We’ve won it now seven times and we couldn’t be more thankful for the support of everyone!”
FINAL RESULTS OF THE 2014 OAKLEY SURF SHOP CHALLENGE SOUTHEAST QUALIFIER:
1. Sunrise Surf Shop, 34.03
2. Island Water Sports, 33.76
3. Rip Curl New Smyrna, 33.06
4. Red Dog Surf Shop, 25.70
5. Surf Station, 22.64