May 27th, 2009 | By | 1,263 Comments

Red Bull Riders Cup Serves To Fuel SCHS’ Fire

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The Orange County Regional Championships, the seventh stop of the 2009 Red Bull Riders Cup season, took place this week in sunny, albeit “small” conditions. This leg saw Orange County’s best high school surfers battle it out in a series of close games. Participating high schools included San Clemente High, Newport Harbor High, Edison High, and Huntington Beach High.

In 1- to 2-foot surf at best, the SCHS team fought fiercely in some of the worst conditions they’ve had to compete in the entire year. Surfing against the local favorites of Huntington Beach, the SCHS team was plagued with high tides and drastic lulls. The event did see some highlights for the team as Dane and Patrick Gudauskas, WQS warriors and SCHS alumni, came down to root the team on and make sure the boys were focused. Dane gave an incredible speech to the team leading into the third quarter of the game.

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With Huntington Beach High looking to secure its first trip to the national championships in two years and Newport Harbor High reaching the finals for the first time in four attempts, the pressure was on. In the strategic battle that ensued, Newport Harbor High out-played the home team and booked their first trip to the Red Bull Riders Cup National Championship, which will be held on June 6-7 at Upper Trestles in San Clemente. The series now moves south to San Diego’s Seaside Reef on May 26 – 28 for the eighth and final regional stop.

In the finals, with only one to two foot waves to work with, it was apparent that it would be a battle of the coaches’ strategy. Huntington Beach High won the coin toss and sent Newport Harbor High into the water to surf first. Newport Harbor posted a solid score of 19 points lead by Chase Wilson, who put 6.5 points on the board.

Huntington Beach High’s choice to surf second looked like a good one early on, as their first period produced a very strong score of 15 points with eight minutes still remaining. Even with plenty of time on the clock to overtake Newport Harbor, the waves wouldn’t cooperate, and Huntington Beach could only manage to put another 3.5 point on the scoreboard – leaving them trailing by 0.5 points.

Newport Harbor hit the water with authority in the second period, with Chase Wilson posting a game high 8.5 ride and Victor Done not far behind with a 7.5. This gave Newport Harbor 19 points before their fourth surfer had even posted a score. The scoring streak stalled until Erik Heimstaeedt was substituted in with one minute remaining and boosted the period two total to 25.5, leaving Huntington Beach High a massive task in quickly declining waves.

In what turned out to be one of the strangest periods in Red Bull Riders Cup history, Huntington High tried everything to claw away at their 26 point deficit. With six minutes to go and still 6 points behind, they took an unprecedented three timeouts in a row waiting for any hope of a rideable wave. With just two and a half minutes left, they finally caught a wave and managed to improve their score to 22.5. In last ditch effort to catch up, Huntington Beach took their fourth timeout for the period with one second remaining. As the time out ended, two surfers managed to get on waves but weren’t able to improve the score, and Huntington Beach’s valiant effort in very tough conditions still left them trailing by 3.5 points.

In the final period, Newport Harbor played a strategic game and posted 19.5 points, for a final overall score of 64 points. This left Huntington Beach hoping for decent waves and solid scores to try and post the 23.5 points needed to win the game. With only one timeout remaining, they got off to the start they needed when Derek Peters and Shane Nelson split an early peak to kick off the chase. When Christian Saenz posted a 6.5 with 45 seconds remaining to bridge the gap to 2.5 points, Huntington Beach took their last timeout with 40 seconds to go. When the timeout ended, both teams were waiting anxiously to see if the home team would be able to snatch the win in the dying seconds, but it wasn’t to be. Newport Harbor High celebrated their first ever regional win as the buzzer sounded to end the game.

A very happy coach Ryan Simmons had commented, “We had a tough opponent in Huntington Beach but we’ve trained really hard this year, really improving every student’s surfing. The combination of our training and the deep talent pool of twelve great really helped us win today.”

MVP honors went to a deserving Chase Wilson, who said, “We’re stoked! We haven’t really done well before – we lost first round every year, so it was a good thing to come out and win both of our games this week. We’re so stoked for the finals.”

Newport Harbor High will now move on to The Red Bull Riders Cup National Championships on June 6-7 .

(Special thanks to Eric Mehlberg and Red Bull for event coverage and photos.)
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