In terms of pro surfing, the East Coast has been through some lean times as of late. Not because of the actual surf -- everyone north of Jacksonville is pretty fat and happy after a summer of hurricane and non-tropical swells. But rooting for East Coast brethren in the elite ranks of the World Surfing Tour has been like being a die-hard hoops fan in Charlotte: Nothing to cheer about.
In 2013, East Coaster Damo Hobgood left the tour, leaving Right Siders just his brother CJ and Kelly Slater to cheer for. And Slater hasn't pulled a World Title out of his pocket in three years. Given these circumstances, you start to look to the future, with your eyes scanning for the next guy between Miami and Maine who might qualify for the WCT.
There's this East Coaster sitting in the illustrious No. 18 on the WQS -- a skinny guy who's ahead of Davey Cathels, Jack Freestone, and a bunch of other kids who we were told were destined for greatness. His name is Michael Dunphy, from Virginia Beach. Dunphy comes home this week to surf the 4-star Vans Pro at the Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships, which go down Aug. 17-24.
Though it's a long shot, he's going to be making a run at qualification in front of his hometown crowd. Yes! Cue the dramatic music.
Actually, with the number of 6-star and Prime events Dunphy has done around the world already, the ECSC likely won't fit into his best eight results at the end of the year. No matter how well he does, this event is probably a throw away.
That doesn't mean you can't back the kid anyway.
"It's kind of cool coming in ranked higher because this event won't really factor into my main goal for the year," admits Dunphy. "There's no pressure. I can just surf and hang with the friends and fam that I haven't seen all year."
Dunphy's best result at previous ECSCs was a quarterfinal finish in 2012, but this event, which turns 52 this year, is a favorite of Dunphy's. Since Vans came onboard as a sponsor a few years ago, it has become the biggest event on the East Coast, and it's critical for any shred kid trying to climb a few 'QS rungs.
"I've been watching the East Coast Surfing Championships since I was about five years old, so it's pretty awesome to see Vans come in and make it such a big event. It's always cool to see everyone come from all over and watch them surf the wave I grew up on."
The other potential East Coast hope is Evan Geiselman, who will be surfing alongside Keanu Asing, Tanner Gudauskas and the rest of the usual North American, Hawaiian and Brazilian contingent.
Letting history be our guide, the real surfer to watch is former World Tour guard, Patrick Gudauskas. He's having a very good year and is currently ranked No. 16 on the WQS. He also won the ECSC Vans Pro last year.
In addition to the Vans Pro and 2-star Vans Pro Junior, Vans brings a skate and BMX ramp, Joel Tudor, the East Coast premiere of the fun-loving "Get-N-Classic Volume 3" film and live bands, including the Plain White T's.
But this history-filled event is especially unique because it also includes 30 amateur divisions, from groms to Women's Masters, as well as events like the Viridian Womens Pro, skimboarding, Miss ECSC pageant, 5K, and even "Surf Warriors," a "Wounded Warriors Project" surf comp for injured vets.
As of now, the forecast for the event looks pretty challenging: flat with a chance of a pulse late in the event period. But then again, every year the forecast looks dismal, and every year something shows up off the 1st Street Jetty.
Either way, there will be plenty to do. And you can always give Dunphy some support...