The competition, which includes surfers from throughout the NSSA’s conferences on the East Coast, West Coast and Hawaii, featured preliminary heats in the high school varsity and JV division on Tuesday, with surfers enjoying the two- to four-foot high surf.
Traditional power San Clemente High School, nearly four months removed from winning the California state title, led the way with 81 points.
“I wouldn’t quite say we were dominant today, but the kids just had an incredible showing,” San Clemente coach John Dowell said. “We came in with a lot of confidence and really wanted to win this one, and it paid off today.”
Dowell’s team got a boost in the varsity men’s longboard semifinals, which Dennis White won with waves of 5.75 and 6.25 to move on to Saturday’s finals.
“I tried to focus on having longer rides with lots of turns,” White said. “It feels great to get the win and help widen that gap for the team.”
Just up the road from Huntington Beach, Newport Harbor High School is one of the few teams with a chance of preventing San Clemente from claiming its eighth NSSA national title.
Newport stands in second place with 68 points, hoping to duplicate their success in winning the Interscholastic Surfing Federation state title early this spring.
Longboarder Aaron Cervantes was one of the bright spots for Newport, as he won his semifinal heat of the varsity longboard division, opening with a 7.15 wave score.
“Coach gave me a good gameplan to look for the medium sized waves, and stay on my feet,” Cervantes said. “It helps because we were pretty far down, but I think we can close the gap. It would mean a lot to me to win this.”
Along with Laguna Beach’s Taylor Pitz and Edison’s Anise Guzman, San Clemente and Newport Harbor are both well represented in the women’s varsity side, with Newport Harbor’s Kaleigh Gilchrist and Shelby Detmers joining San Clemente’s Emmy Merrill and Melisa Shaw in Saturday’s finals.
Of course, the majority of the attention of the thousands that will make the trek to Huntington on Saturday will likely be drawn to the shortboarders.
In that division, Newport Harbor’s Colin Moran advanced to the finals by winning the repercharge of the men’s varsity division.
Meanwhile, Huntington Beach’s Christian Saenz maintained hope of pulling off the hat trick by winning the Open Men’s, Explorer Men’s and High School Varsity titles when he advanced to the finals with a third place finish in the varsity repercharge.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking there for a minute because I was in second and everyone was catching so many waves. I didn’t know if I would hold on,” Saenz said. “I’m stoked to get to the finals though. It should be a psycho day on Saturday.”
The competition will continue at 7 a.m. Wednesday, with the first round of the Open Juniors division. The Open Men’s will begin at 7 a.m. Thursday, with the finals for each division being held on Saturday.