SEASIDE HEIGHTS - The Heritage Surf Shop surf team is creating something of a legacy.
The shop squad, drawing riders from its Margate, Ocean City and Sea Isle City stores, won its fourth Oakley Surf Shop Challenge Northeast Regional qualifier Tuesday. It will compete for the national title in California in September.
"This was one of our most stressful victories," said Andrew Gesler of Ocean City. "There were waves, but you really had to pick and choose. I thought I was going to blow it."
Tuesday's surf was in the 3- to 4-foot range, easily surpassing last year's one-footers. However, the north wind and low tide Tuesday made for very challenging conditions throughout.
Eight teams from New Jersey and one from Rhode Island participated. Each squad consisted of a four-man team with one surfer chosen as the "Double Whammy." During the heat, he decides which of his waves will be counted for double points.
Four teams surfed each one-hour heat of the first round. One surfer from each team is in the water at any given time. Surfers must run back to their teams'
"box" and tag their teammate to make a switch. The top four teams go on to the final.
The Heritage team included Zach Humphreys of Margate, Jamie Moran of Ocean City, Ian Bloch of Margate and Gesler.
Heritage actually had two teams, an A Team and B Team.
"(Owner) Brian Heritage does a great job of building teams. There's so much talent that we can build a second team and bring the young guys into the fold," Humphreys said.
The Heritage A Team dominated the first heat of Round One, outscoring their closest opponent, Ship Bottom's Farias Surf and Sport, 23.66-13.97. The Farias Team consisted of Royce Webber of Surf City, Nick Rossi of Cedar Run, Tanner Panetta of Ship Bottom, and Brian Bowker of Holgate.
The Heritage B team,bolstered by Chris Eaves of Cape May Court House, won Heat 2. Heritage B bested 7th Street Surf Shop by eight points. Both Heritage teams, 7th Street, and Bare Wire Surf Skate, of Long Branch, went on to the final.
The final turned into a showdown between Heritage A and 7th Street, two shops with long histories of competitive success in New Jersey. The entire Heritage team surfed well, with Gesler putting up a 6.6 that counted as a double whammy. The winning total was 27.87.
7th Street Surf Shop's Rob Kelly, coming back from a shoulder injury last winter, had the highest score of the event, with an 8.0 for three strong backside turns.
"That was the wave of the day and he killed it," said Joe Mata, Oakley's Northeast representative. "That turn was the most progressive move of the event. If he hadn't come unglued at the end, today would have seen a different outcome."
7th Street's squad of Kelly, Josh Wilson, Brian Williams, and Jim Gray was a replacement team for members who were traveling or still in high school. But they finished second with 25 points. Bare Wires took third with 23.26.
Heritage has been to the national finals several times but is not happy with past results. In 2009, they had a conflict with the Belmar Pro event and several missed their flights. Last year, the high tide killed the swell during its heat. Team Sweetwater, from Wrightsville Beach, N.C., won $10,000 and a trip to Hawaii. This September, the Heritage surfers are determined to put in a solid effort in Huntington Beach, Calif.
Fourth through ninth place finished as follows: Heritage B Team, Farias, Elemental Surf (Newport, R.I.) Inlet Outlet, (Manasquan), Ocean Hut (Lavallette), Eastern Lines (Belmar).