by Austin Andrews

Following tradition, the 2005 NSSA National Championships were held at Salt Creek from June 16th through June 18th, and at Lower Trestles from June 21st through June 25th, but the contest itself was anything but traditional. Lowers offered 3-5 foot glassy waves for the preliminary heats on Tuesday and Wednesday, and while the waves did drop for the final days of the event, lowers still offered the kids enough juice to put on the most advanced showing of progressive youth surfing to date. Over 1,000 contestants surfed 310 heats and absolutely blew up, the level of surfing was at an all time high and the competition from Hawai'i has never been stronger. In fact, Hawaiian surfers completely dominated the event, lead by Maui's Clay Marzo and Oahu's Carissa Moore. Four out of the seven open divisions were won by Hawaiians, and twenty Hawaiians placed in the top six in the seven open divisions. Names like Kai Barger, John John Florence, Koa Smith, and Bethany Hamilton lined the results page and affirmed the notion that Hawai'i is a force to be reckoned with.
Clay's performance was on par with WCT heats, and his perfect score in the Open Mens final was only icing on the cake. Clay has been touted as a future world champion, and all eyes were on the 15 year old from Lahaina as he surfed his way to the finals. Clay's win was almost not to be as he found himself in need of a wave in the last fifteen seconds of his preliminary heat. Not to be defeated, Clay caught an inside nugget and milked it for all it was worth, earning him a score of 8 and a miraculous advancement to the next round. After near elimination, Clay found himself focused and intent on victory, defeat was not a possibility. In the Open Mens final Clay scored two 10s and a throw away score of 9.5 making him the Open Mens champion with a perfect score. For his efforts, Clay was not only awarded the Governor's Cup, he also won a new Toyota Matrix provided by Hurley, but 15 year old Clay will have to wait until his 16th birthday to drive it home. Clay will be a surfer to keep an eye on in the upcoming years, his free surfing is just as strong as his competitive surfing, on a recent QuikSilver trip to the Mentawiis Clay was caught on video pulling into some serious pits. With an NSSA National title under his belt, who knows where Clay will go next.
Carissa Moore is gnarley, Carissa surfs like a guy, in fact she surfs better then most guys, and probably better then you. For the second year in a row Carissa won the NSSA Triple Crown, which means she won titles in the National Interscholastics, Explorer and Open divisions. The only other surfer to have accomplished the same feat was Nea Post in 1990. Carissa is so successful in a heat because she absolutely rips. Carissa doesn't win because of hype, Carissa doesn't win because she is 12, she wins because she can boost airs, do layback tailslides, throw 360 reverses and get shacked all before the other girls can even paddle out. Why Carissa shreds so hard is a mystery but maybe it has something to do will all those Jamba Juice smoothies she's been drinking.
Aside from the phenomenal surfing performance going on out in the water, the scene on the beach was equally astounding. For five days, Lowers was transformed into Pipeline, not because the waves were particularly hollow, but because of how many cameras were scattered across the beach. This year's NSSA Nationals looked more like the Pipe Masters, with photogs lining the beach, and cruising around in the lineup with fisheyes in tow. The water was uncharacteristically cold for summer, due to a record breaking red tide. While most years find competitors sporting boardshorts and wetsuit tops, this year found competitors wrapped in neoprene. Every sponsor worth their salt was on the beach hanging out under their tent, chatting it up with marketing directors, team managers, and head honchos from the surf industries top companies. FreeStyle and BodyGlove were throwing down, offering free watches and $20 to any surfer who got a 9 or better in a heat. Sponsors were also grilling up barbequed madness all day long, giving the kids an opportunity to take a break from shredding and to enjoy the vibe on the beach. Beanbag chairs were set up in front of big screen TVs with playstations ready for grom domination. Some would say that the competition on Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer was just as heated as the battle going on out in the water at Lowers. Despite the fact that the NSSA Nationals is the most competitive event in youth surfing, the atmosphere on the beach helped the kids take a break and relax.
Aside from the Hawaiian contingencies' competitive prowess, and the madness on shore, some San Diegans were ripping too. Ricky Whitlock took 6th place in a wave starved Open Mens Final, if another set would have rolled through, who knows how he would have placed. Encinitas' Christian Clark took 1st place in Open Longboard defeating logging powerhouse Christian Wach and making TenOver Longboards proud. Lauren Sweeny claimed victory for Mira Costa College and Rat Surfboards in the College Women division while Rusty Phillipy took 4th in Explorer Masters.
After the event cooled down, after the trophies were given away, after the banquet finished and the was scaffolding torn down, and all the Hawaiians went home, Lowers returned to normal, that is until next year's NSSA Nationals once again take hold of the famed cobblestone reef.

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