Never let it be said that Huntington Beach High surfing coach Andy Verdone isn’t willing to pull out all the stops when trying to get his team to the top.
For instance, take Verdone’s strategy at last weekend’s National Scholastic Surfing Assn. Interscholastic State Championships at Seaside Reef in Cardiff.
Huntington Beach finished in second place behind powerhouse San Clemente, but it was all part of the master plan. With the NSSA Nationals coming up in a few months, Verdone was thinking big.
“We’re trying to build up (San Clemente’s) over-confidence right now,” Verdone joked.
All kidding aside, Verdone was quick to credit a San Clemente squad that has won two state titles in a row and had four of the six surfers in the boys’ shortboard final.
“They obviously had a great showing,” Verdone said. “You got to give your respect to that program. But we’ll be there for nationals. The dynamic of nationals is that Hawaii will show up, Florida will show up, New Jersey will show up. They will bring a feel that is very competitive and it’s going to help knock out riders along the way, making it a much tougher road to the final. I still expect to see Huntington boys make the final. We have high expectations, always have.
“But State obviously went San Clemente’s way, you got to give them the respect that’s due to them.”
While San Clemente had four surfers in the final, allowing them to work together, Huntington Beach had one — junior Sage Guinaldo, who placed sixth.
“Sage has been steadily improving for two years, since he came here from Costa Rica,” Verdone said. “He’s had a quick learning curve, where they don’t have the competitive programs down in Costa Rica that we do. And he’s jumped right into the fire, right out of the frying pan, to develop what he is now — a competitive fireball, really. You don’t want Sage in your heat. And we expect him to get even better by June (for nationals).
“The waves were blown out (during the final heat) and tough to compete in. And the odds were that every time Sage turned during the final he had an opponent from San Clemente on his shoulder. So it was tough, but hopefully it’ll be a different scenario in nationals.”
Griffin Foy won the state title as a freshman two years ago, but came up short of reaching the final at Seaside Reef.
“Grif’s only surfed like one day in the past couple [of] months,” Verdone said. “He went snowboarding and snapped his arm in two. It’s just amazing that he could even surf. I [told] him, ‘You don’t have to do this, Grif.’ And he wanted to do it, he wanted to sacrifice for his team. And he did well, all things considered. His game’s a little off because of the broken arm.”
Verdone said a snowboarding accident also hampered longboarder Jovan Smith-Scott, who reached the six-man final and placed fifth.
“Jovan also went snowboarding a month ago and lacerated his skull, and his wrist has been in a cast for a month,” Verdone said. “So he too is just getting back into surfing. … Snowboarding is a great cross-training sport, but these kids, they go up there and think they’re Shaun White. I blame the Olympics.”
In girls’ shortboard, Huntington Beach had two reach the final heat — Chiasa Maruyama and Kristina Hehl. Maruyama placed fourth and Hehl fifth.
“Both won their first heats and dominated their heat and went right to the final in good quality Seaside Reef,” Verdone said. “Then they got into the final, they showed up on time, they did their homework and they studied the waves and … then (the wind) turned onshore. They’ve got to go to their backup plan and I think they waited way too long to change their strategies in the lineup.
“Kristina was leading the field at the beginning, then the girl who eventually won pulled out an 8 with a multiple-maneuver wave. The key was getting as many maneuvers as you could in these really blown-out choppy waves, and they didn’t make their adjustments. So we’ll work on it, we’ll talk about it and work our way towards nationals. I expect both of them to be in the final at Salt Creek.”
NSSA High School State championship results
Varsity team — 1. San Clemente 126; 2. Huntington Beach 86; 3. Laguna Beach 74; 4. San Dieguito 66; 5. Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 43; 6. Edison 33; 7. Redondo Union 30; 8. Newport Harbor 29; 9. Marina 24.
Varsity boys — 1. Liam Murray (San Clemente) 13.53; 2. Jackson Butler (San Dieguito) 13.27; 3. Davi Toledo (San Clemente) 12.74; 4. David Economos (San Clemente) 11.57; 5. Elijah Fox (San Clemente) 11.53; 6. Sage Guinaldo (Huntington Beach) 5.03.
Varsity girls — 1. Kiersten Noonan (San Dieguito) 10.94; 2. Kayla Coscino (Laguna Beach) 10.86; 3. Ella McCaffray (San Dieguito) 10.03; 4. Chiasa Maruyama (Huntington Beach) 7.60; 5. Kristina Hehl (Huntington Beach) 6.20; 6. Kyra Williams (Mira Costa) 2.90.
Varsity longboard — 1. Ryan Hughes (Redondo Union) 10.20; 2. Jameson Roller (Laguna Beach) 9.94; 3. Landon Southard (San Dieguito) 7.90; 4. Jared Bernier (San Clemente) 4.07; 5. Jovan Smith-Scott (Huntington Beach) 3.80; 6. Brent Overst (Newport Harbor) 3.47.
JV team — 1. San Clemente 137; 2. Mira Costa 58; 3. San Dieguito 57; 4. Huntington Beach 53; 5. Newport Harbor 45; 6. Marina 44; 7. Edison 39; 8. Redondo Union 18.
JV boys — 1. Ethan Mudge (San Clemente) 15.50; 2. Kai McPhillips (San Clemente) 13.00; 3. Hagan Johnson (San Clemente) 11.10; 4. Noah Hohenester (San Clemente) 8.07; 5. Max Beach (San Clemente) 7.05; 6. Noah Atwood (San Clemente) 4.40
JV girls — 1. Sophie McGovern (San Dieguito) 10.17; 2. Summer Balentine (Huntington Beach) 5.27; 3. Kayla Little (Huntington Beach) 5.20; 4. Shannon Graney (San Dieguito) 3.20; 5. Sophie Arky (Mira Costa) 3.10; 6. Lani Morales (Edison) 1.83.
JV longboard — 1. Ethan Mudge (San Clemente) 17.40; 2. Jack Butler (San Dieguito) 12.17; 3. Brayden Gratzer (Marina) 7.54; 4. Jake Rosenberg (Mira Costa) 4.77; 5. Zach Grove (Edison) 4.77; 6. Dana Hayes (Huntington Beach) 4.00.
In the Middle School division, Dwyer placed fourth and Sowers fifth in the team standings. Mara Morales of Sowers placed second in the girls’ shortboard and Max Lambert of Sowers placed fifth in the longboard.
Courtney Conlogue, a Sage Hill School graduate, broke a bone in her right foot while training in Australia and will have to miss the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, the first contest of the World Surf League’s Championship Tour that gets underway Sunday.
However, it’s a setback that Conlogue can overcome in her quest for a world title because the season point total is calculated by adding up the top eight finishes out of the 10 contests.
Conlogue, from Santa Ana, finished No. 4 in the world last year.