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PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERI CRUMMER, WSA
Kevin Schultz, of San Clemente, won the Open Men's division at the Western Surfing Association contest held Feb. 16 and 17 in Huntington Beach on the south side of the pier.
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Surf contest draws best in the west

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The waves were challenging for the young surfers battling at the Western Surfing Association as strong winds hit, but the tough conditions put the athletes to the test.

About 360 surfers of all ages showed up on the south side of the Huntington Beach pier over two days last weekend for the 7th stop of the WSA tour.

"We were stoked we got waves, it was probably the only place on the coast that had decent waves over the weekend," said Greg Cruse, board member for the WSA. "The ratings races have tightened up at the last two events. The competition gets more intense as the season finishes up."

There are nine events this year before the championships determines the Best in the West, a title that holds prestige and bragging rights for the amateur surfers. The next event will be held at Salt Creek in March, then Oceanside in April before the championships are held at the end of April at Church at Trestles.

Surfers with strong results also get a chance to surf in the Surfing America Prime series next season or the USA Championships in June.

Several Orange County surfers did well, many making it to the finals and winning their divisions, including Kevin Schultz, of San Clemente, who won his division in the open men's shortboard division, Capo Beach's Rachael Tilly winning the under 18 girls longboard division, and Newport Beach's Meah Collins winning both the girls under 18 and open women's shortboard division.

Cruse said he's seen much progress in the WSA, with the organization becoming more like Little League or AYSO. In recent years, the organization has made sure the contests are run professionally and with good judging to impress the parents, including those who have never surfed before.

For the younger kids, it's become a serious sport.

"It's still surfing and it's fun," Cruise said. "But they hire coaches, they are working out. They're stretching and doing cardio and weight training.

"At a fairly young age, as kids show a little promise, they get coaching and support from the parents at levels that never existed before. It's becoming more like a regular youth sport, rather than something kids did on their own with little support from their parents. It's showing up in the performances."

The Western Surfing Association – which has been around since 1961 and is the oldest amateur surfing association in the country – isn't just for the kids. Surfers of all ages are looking for West Coast titles, hoping to get to the finals at Trestles, and have a chance to surf on the PacSun USA Surf Team's master's division against international competitors.

"It's super important – those guys are the gnarliest competitors," Cruse said of the older divisions. "It's a huge accomplishment when they are beating out of their peers. They have some serious bragging rights. There's a lot of camaraderie among a great group of guys who are all competing, it's a lot of fun for them."

More info: www.surfwsa.org

WSA SURF CONTEST WINNERS:

MICRO GROM BOYS/GIRLS SB U9: Bane Corbett, San Clemente

BOYS/GIRLS U10: Jett Schilling, San Clemente

BOYS U12: Griffin Foy, Fullerton

BOYS U14: Griffin Foy, Fullerton

BOYS U16: Kirk Weissinger, Seal Beach

BOYS U18: Cam Richards, Myrtle Beach, SC

GIRLS U12: Tiare Thompson, La Jolla

GIRLS U14: Tiare Thompson, La Jolla

GIRLS U16: Rachel Tominaga, Manhattan Beach

GIRLS U18: Meah Collins, Newport Beach

BOYS LONGBOARD U14: Koby Gilchrist, Encinitas

JR. LONGBOARD U18: Austin Sonnier, San Diego

GIRLS LONGBOARD U14: Malia Mauch, San Clemente

GIRLS LONGBOARD U18: Rachael Tilly, Capistrano Beach

MEN 18 – 29: Sean Johnson, Canyon Country

MASTERS 30 – 39: Sean O'Toole, Ventura

SENIOR MEN 40 – 49: Scott Whitmer, Gardena

LEGENDS 50 & OLDER: Dave Hansberry, Los Alamitos

OPEN MEN SHORTBOARD: Kevin Schulz, San Clemente

OPEN WOMEN SHORTBOARD: Meah Collins, Newport Beach

OPEN MEN LONGBOARD: Nick Anderberg, Encinitas

OPEN WOMEN'S LONGBOARD - ALL AGES: Tory Gilkerson, San Clemente

SR. MEN LONGBOARD 40 & OLDER: Lance Albright, Huntington Beach

ADAPTIVE SURFERS: Chris Oberle, Los Angeles

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com


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