Lowers on a perfect Saturday afternoon, and all that sits against the clear background are four jersey-clad surfers on the horizon. A small tent village sits on the shore, where some of the world’s best amateur surfers stand camouflaged within the crowd. These competitors don’t sit perched on a limited access deck looking down on the crowd, quarantined within an entourage, ears plugged with headphones. Instead of the typical ‘heads dropped down in the rabbit hole’ endlessly scrolling photos on an iPhone, they’re one-uping each other in the Japanese hand-held ball-and-stick game of Kendama, and playing ping pong under a shaded tent, always engaged in some playful and perpetual competition. Or they’re catching up with their peers from across the country, most of whom they only see at this annual reunion. Unlike most pro comps, the shore isn’t riddled with bikini-clad beach bunnies and Don Juans in boardshorts more interested in the scene than in any of the action in the water. Instead, close friends and family gather under umbrellas and on beach towels. And whether sitting or standing, everyone is facing the water and its because they’re all there for the same reason; they are an integral part of the country’s best amateur surfers competing at the 2014 Surfing America Championships, driven by an intense desire to win most prestigious crown of their amateur careers and to earn a spot on the USA Surf Team.
Carver is a proud sponsor of Surfing America, and thanks to our collaboration with these talented individuals we make the official training surfskates for the USA Surf Team. So at an event like this we couldn’t help but feel a bit like proud parents on the shore too. Riders like Jake Davis, who grew up riding his Carver, attributes increased power in his carves to training on his Carver. And Kanoa Igarashi, another phenom shredder who’s been practicing his flow on a Carver for many years. And 12-year old Caroline Marks, busting fins through lips and blowing everyone’s minds, who lights up when she talks about how much she loves to train on her Carver.
It was almost impossible not to feel the contrast between this event and a typical professional contest, or almost any other sports competition for that matter. Generally, competitors stay within their arena as spectators look in on the goldfish tank. But here competitors go freely in and out of the water, merely removing or donning their jerseys as the they transformed from casual onlooker downing an acai bowl to fierce competitor who refuses to shy away from wrangling and dissecting the aqueous ramps rolling in. As impressive as their performances were, the entire experience was also refreshing. Truth be told, for many of this kids all the hours of travel, the cost, the mental and physical strain will eventually go towards something other than a career in professional surfing. So what impressed us the most was their ability to bring on first-class surfing, all while looking like fun-loving kids. But as care-free as they look, you can tell they know this is an experience of a lifetime. It goes without saying that not many people will ever get the opportunity to surf Lowers with only three other people, much less have an experience like Caroline’s, who, in winning the Under 12, Under 14 and Under 16 titles, had more waves to herself at Lowers during this one event than some locals will have in a lifetime. And those deserving few who won their division’s crown were carried in on the shoulders of their friends and families, Kelly Slater-style, with board hoisted behind them to perfectly frame their shot at glory. When the finalists finally climbed on stage to accept their awards, the champions weren’t rattling off a list of sponsors (even though their decal-plastered boards tells you them definitely got ’em), but were instead talking about how much fun they had surfing Lowers with three other guys out, and in Caroline’s case, about life in braces. But not even a mouthful of hardware could dim that glowing champion’s smile.
After five days of competition, where 250 surfers battled their hearts out, until only 6 Division Champions were left. Shortly after the awards were presented, 29 individuals were named to the 2014-2015 USA Surf Team, and each and every one of them had a brand new USA Surf Team Pro Carver model in their hands. That moment was probably the pinnacle of our experience at this year’s championships, seeing all those stoked faces and knowing that we were helping to spread that stoke. We’re especially proud to be a part of their advancement because these are the future trailblazers of professional surfing, and it’s a pretty special thing to be able to contribute to that. Congrats to all of the champions and competitors, and thank you!
Words: Lauren Hawthorne
Video: Guiggo Foggiatto
Photos: Lance Dalgart