Laguna opens on strong note

Opening its season early Wednesday in surf that was fast, glassy, hollow and somewhat tricky to ride, the Laguna Beach High surf team rode the performance of its female surfers to a victory against Newport Harbor.

The South Coast League contest was held at 56th Street in Newport Beach.

The Breakers won both the girls' Longboard and Shortboard divisions and the Sailors won the boys' Longboard, Shortboard and Bodyboard events.

"We did pretty well overall, especially the girls," Laguna Coach Scott Finn said. "We showed a lot of curves and battled hard in a spot that was new to a lot of our guys."

The Laguna girls won both divisions behind the efforts of senior Taylor Pitz, junior Brenda Joseph and freshman Leah Pakpour. In shortboard, Pitz scored big with a first-place finish, with Joseph taking third and Pakpour fourth. In the Longboard division, Pakpour placed second, with Pitz and Joseph occupying the next two spots. Joseph, however, suffered an ankle injury in the Longboard heat but could be back for next week's contest against San Clemente.

The Breakers also were strong in the Boys' Longboard division. Senior Kris Williams took second place after leading throughout much of the heat and senior Travis Sampson was fourth. It was a busy contest for Sampson, who surfed longboard, shortboard and bodyboard to accumulate points for the Breakers.

In the Boys' Shortboard, senior Rex Strombotne hit some rights and junior Dane Zarinelli had a nice left barrel as both Breakers took second place in their respective heats. Laguna also received good surfing from sophomore Blair Conklin, who took third place in the morning's first heat at dawn, and Williams, who did double duty and was third in shortboard. Junior Adam Redding Kaufman also did double duty for the team and placed fourth in his shortboard and bodyboard heats.

Senior Andrew Congleton hit a nice barrel to take second in the Bodyboard division.

"We had a lot of good performances," Finn said. "I thought Taylor (Pitz) surfed well and Kris Williams, Rex (Strombotne) and Dane (Zarinelli) also surfed well."

Laguna has several returners back from a year ago. Pitz was all-league in the Girls' Shortboard and is a leader on the team. Joseph is another key returner and Pakpour, who won her division over the summer at the Brooks Street Classic, and sophomore Emily Layton are new additions.

On the boys' side, Williams is the U.S. Longboard champion and figures to be a key player in both the Longboard and Shortboard divisions this season. Sampson, who was the Brooks Street Classic longboard winner last summer, will compete in both Longboard and Shortboard. Laguna assistant coach Alisa Cairns said she is looking at seniors Strombotne and Andrew Palmer to do well. Cody Alter is another senior who will compete in Longboard.

A strong junior class includes Redding Kaufman, Adam Mejia, Zarinelli and Dane Doran, who competes part time in both Longboard and Shortboard. Expected to make contributions from the sophomore class is Austin Silvers, another Brooks Street Classic winner, Teague Hamilton, Blair Conklin, Tyler Cassill and Derek Strombotne.

"I think we'll be really competitive this year," Finn said. "We have a lot of experienced returners and some talented seniors. I'm looking forward to see what we can accomplish."

Laguna's next contest is 6:30 a.m. Wednesday against host San Clemente at T-Street.

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