Flashbulbs. Cheers. Screams of joy. Slugs of beer. Even in the pitch of dark on a deserted Hatteras highway, you can tell Virginia Beach surfers don't just know how to enjoy a win -- they know how to make those wins happen.
2010 marks the third straight year that the Old Dominion crew has trekked across the border to steal both victory and bragging rights in the Wave Riding Vehicles Battle of the Banks (if only for a single day of team-format competition.) The difference this time? Just that: the difference. 77 points to be exact. Compared with 2009's, 8-point slight, NC got trampled like so much S-Turns duneline -- violated as brazenly as the National Park Service laws against unpermitted contests. Which is exactly what went down to the tune of $125 fine for contest director Ian Parnell. (His take? "I'll turn off the microphone and pay the fine; still cheaper than a permit.") Goes to show: whether it's running comps or just surfing heats, VB surfers do whatever it takes to get the job done."I made it clear to every single competitor," says Team Captain and former finalist Brad Harrell. "I want nothing less than five points for every ride -- because 30 points a surfer adds up quick."
As a result, all day long the VB crew hustled up scores in and out of the tube, staging a death of 1000 cutties -- not to mention snaps, floaters and airs. The NC strategy? Go for broke, or go for nothing. And more often than not, that's what they got, leaving open faces untouched and cramped barrels wide open.
"I kept saying, 'Head dips may be lame but they still score,'" noted Brett Barley. "But you just can't convince these guys."
Especially after the morning's opening rounds, when local Seth Barrick racked up two long tubes (and $1000 for the Hurley Best Barrel of the Day) for the Main Rounds' highest point total of 53.5 and the $500 Best Barrel prize. Had conditions stayed hollow, we might have seen more than just a different result, but a whole 'nother final, as usual heavy hitters on both sides like Noah Snyder, Drew Meredith, Jason Borte and Andrew Meyer found themselves rooting for fresh faces -- including former Surfer Mag coverboy turned Euro-rocker Jason Griffith, who flew from Portugal to lead his VB boys into the final, and freesurfed non-stop between heats.
"Good to be here," Griffiths grinned in a rare dry moment. "I need to be here more."Actually, from Mike Dunphy in the water to Ben Bourgeois on the sidelines, this event saw the most committed crowd ever. But even more notable was who didn't show, including NC's Jeff Myers (who missed his post-King of the Peak flight from Florida) and former best-tube winner Jesse Hines had booked a guitar gig in South Carolina. At least Jesse knew to schedule a strong session man as his replacement; and he picked a guy who wasn't about to blow the opportunity. "I booked my ticket when I saw the swell," says Matt Beacham, who almost didn't make it because of an injury and barely being in the water for two weeks. "I didn't even know the contest was gonna go until I was halfway here, but I figured I could always see my family." And plenty of it. In an island filled with first-generation transplants, Beacham's that rarity among rarities: someone whose gene tree runs 100 percent through Outer Banks soil. The irony? He's also one of the few to leave home, turning that purty face into a Fuel TV staple and a San Diego address. And while NC was happy to see him back, they were even happier he left once he hit the water. Because all that worldly experience paid off, pulling alley oops and threading tubes to fend-off an on-fire Lucas Rogers, who's aerial assault would've surely landed the individual championship in Virginia territory for the first time ever -- instead of handing Rogers his third straight runner-up spot. "I don't know what to do," Beacham humbly laughed, holding his only top trophy ever, a $1500 watch from Oakley -- and the days' highest total, 54.5. "I simply don't know what it means to win a surf contest." So he made goofy faces. Poked fun at himself for a few minutes. And then slipped away to more comfortable surroundings. But although Beacham won the battle, Virginia won the war (or technically the Battle.) They stood their ground, roared at the stars and embraced their moment of glory beneath a shower of suds and fluttering beach towels -- and that's exactly why they'll probably win next year, too. 2010 WRV Battle of the Banks Results
1. Virginia Beach: 1118 points
2. Team North Carolina: 1040 points
1. Matt Beacham (NC)
2. Lucas Rogers (VB)
3. Alex Burdette (VB)
4. Seth Barrick (NC)
5. Jason Griffith (VB)
6. Sean Martin (NC)