Haakenson: Newport Harbor takes top spot in Surf Team Challenge

Ten high school surf teams. One winner.

They held the Oakley High School Surf Team Challenge last Saturday at 54th Street in Newport Beach, a new aspect of Oakley's Surf Shop Challenge series, featuring Orange County's top high school surfers.

The event was a smashing success, particularly for Newport Harbor High, which beat the other nine high school teams to take home the West Region crown. Besides bragging rights, Newport Harbor gets $5,000 (split between the athletic and science departments), as well as an additional $1,500 from one of the sponsors, Muscle Milk.

What made this event so fun had to do with the team aspect of the competition. There were no individual winners, only team winners.

Besides Newport Harbor, the other schools with teams competing were San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Edison, Long Beach Wilson, Dana Hills, Corona del Mar, Tesoro, Aliso Niguel and Santa Margarita.

The format featured two five-team heats that lasted an hour each. Each team would have one hour to send out all four surfers, one at a time. Each surfer would try to get three waves to score, counting each surfer's top score.

The top four teams from the two heats went to the final heat, and that's where Newport Harbor overcame San Clemente (second place), Huntington Beach (third) and Dana Hills (fourth).

"It was super exciting," Newport Harbor coach Matt Burns said. "The way the format plays out, it's so team-oriented and the intensity is pretty high because you're trying to get that score and you only have three ways to work with."

Newport Harbor's winning team featured No. 1 Colin Moran, No. 2 Blake Davis, No. 3 Ryan Croteau and No. 4 Will Laidlaw. Burns said there was certainly a method to the madness when it came to sending his surfers out.

"You have to strategize when you want your guys to go," Burns said. "We sent Will out first. I knew he'd get a solid score for us to start with, and he tends to stress a little bit, so to get him out first I thought it would be a good thing to get the butterflies out."

All four killed it in their opening heat.

"We were done with 15 minutes to go," Burns said. "We did great; it was textbook."

It didn't go quite as smoothly in the final heat.

"We had the nerves a little bit with Will, and there was Mother Nature too," Burns said. "The waves were kind of on and off, and Will took about 20 minutes to finally get the right wave. He got a good score and we went about our business."

Another twist to the scoring rules was that each team could determine one of its surfers as the "Whammy" surfer. That meant his score would be doubled. Burns went with Moran, and the decision paid off.

"He had a really solid vertical, 12 o'clock turn on his last turn and ended up with an 8.1, which became a 16.2 for us," Burns said. "Colin, he's on the U.S. National Team. He's pretty ridiculous."

Davis recently took fifth place at the Ghetto Juice Airshow, which Burns said featured the top aerialists in the world. Croteau moved out here a couple years ago and joined the team at the urging of Laidlaw, who is only a junior and will be Newport Harbor's top surfer next year.

"It's a huge deal," Burns said of the team's victory. "To be honest, it's like winning the state championship. All the schools that were there are the top schools in the state, and with (NSSA) nationals coming up in two weeks at Salt Creek, it gives us a bit of momentum going into that. Any time you beat San Clemente, it's a good day. They have a good program down there."


The Oakley Surf Shop Challenge also took place at 54th Street during the weekend, and Jack's Surfboards in Huntington won the West Region title. That earned them a trip to Bali in October to compete with the other six regional winners for the Surf Shop National Championship. Sounds to me like they've already won.


Did I say to keep an eye on Courtney Conlogue or what? She did it again.

Conlogue won another Assn. of Surfing Professionals 6-Star women's event, capturing the title at the Swiss Girls Pro France in Hossegor, Landes, France, on Sunday.

It was the second consecutive 6-Star event crown for Conlogue, who took home $8,000 in prize money. She also won the Telstra Drug Aware Pro in Australia in March, winning $8,000 in that one too.

In April, she won the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic in Australia — part of the ASP Women's World Championship Tour — with a $30,000 first-place prize. She currently sits in fourth place in the women's WCT with two events to go: The Roxy Pro in France on July 10 to 14, followed by the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington from July 30 to Aug. 5.

JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at joe@juvecreative.com.

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