Surfing to Start Off X Games

Times Staff Writer

Though the X Games don't officially begin until Aug. 3 at Staples Center and the Home Depot Center in Carson, the first competition gets underway today -- in Mexico.

The surfing portion, pitting an East Coast team against a West Coast team, will be filmed today and Tuesday at Puerto Escondido on mainland Mexico. It will air Aug. 6 on Channel 7, along with live broadcasts of the super-moto and freestyle motocross finals.

Surfing was added to the X Games four years ago, but the first two competitions at Huntington Beach Pier were plagued by small, sloppy surf. Last year at Puerto Escondido, which is sometimes referred to as the Mexican Pipeline, competition played out in perfect six- to 10-foot waves, with the East squad prevailing for the third consecutive year.

Asked via e-mail for a swell forecast for this year's event, Sean Collins of replied, "We're expecting a southwest swell to provide hollow three- to five-foot waves with larger sets occasionally up to seven feet. This is a good wave size for the competitors to pick off great-shaped waves that will favor progressive maneuvers like aerials and barrel riding."

The X Games competition uses a format called "The Game," designed by renowned Carlsbad surfer Brad Gerlach. Teams trade time in the lineup, surfing in either the top or bottom halves of each quarter. There is a halftime, and coaches can call timeouts. Four players a quarter are judged on individual waves, their highest single scores counting toward the final score.

The score last year was 100.75-96.50 as the West's Dane Reynolds, needing only a decent ride in the final minutes to turn the tide, fell as the wave closed out. He caught another wave and got barreled, but it was moments after time had expired.

This year the West's lineup appears much stronger, with stars such as Reynolds, Rob Machado, Timmy Reyes, Pat O'Connell, Shane Beschen and Tom Curren. Jamie O'Brien and brothers Cory and Shea Lopez headline an East squad that also includes surfers with extensive experience at Puerto Escondido.

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