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SURFING

Nothing Amateur About Level of Talent at Oceanside Contest

August 05, 1993|Rick Fignetti and David Reyes | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil. and

With the U.S. Championships being held this week in Oceanside, it's psyche time for the Rockin' Fig.

At 35, Fig is the No. 1 rated surfer in Senior Men's division. He runs in the mornings and surfs daily--all to protect his top rating.

I've got a new board too, Figgy said. I'm gonna have a friend of mine hold one while I surf my heats. If I feel one board is not happening or something happens to it, I'm coming in to shore for the big switch.

That's pretty intense strategy, Fig.

Well, it's really not so much worrying about how a board is riding, but if something happens to it, I'm ready.

Two boards? Like what's going to happen out there?

Hey, I've broken a nose in a heat before. The board doesn't perform; it just soaks up water and it's hard to paddle. I've also buckled boards in heats, too.

But if these are the AMATEUR U.S. Championships, Figgy, why go through all this trouble?

Because of the talent. It's the best and the brightest.

You mean of those surfers who remain pure? Unfazed by the lure of greenbacks?

Yup. It's the major showcase for the up-and-coming amateur talent. All the new hotties will be surfing in it. There will be the top menehunes, boys, juniors, men's, seniors, grand masters, women, and bodyboarders. These people have worked all year.

What does it mean to score a victory here, Fig?

It means you are the top person in the United States; you're the U.S. Champion. It means you're the new guy who everybody else is going to have to deal with.

In the old days, wasn't it held at Huntington Beach?

Yup. In those days you had people like Corky Carroll and David Nuuhiwa battling it out when the championships were held at the pier. It was and still is a big deal.

OK. So through Saturday, Oceanside Jetty is the place then, huh?

Yup, it's the 33rd U.S. Championships, and they're sanctioned by the U.S. Surfing Federation. The finals are Saturday, and they start at 7 a.m.

What kind of spectators are going to be there, Fig?

A lot of the team managers from all the big companies like Op, Body Glove and Quiksilver will be there scouting the up-and-coming grommets.

They looking for new riders to help endorse their products?

Right. They're doing major league scouting of the hot little rippers who might score a new wet suit or a surfboard for riding for a particular manufacturer's team.

It's all legal, Figgy? I mean they can endorse products and retain their amateur standing?

Yup, as long as they're not on the payroll.

It sounds like we could be seeing some future pros among the younger ranks.

It's a stepping stone for guys and women who want to be known. And, it's a fun thing, too. Many of these amateurs have qualified throughout the year to be the top competitors in their regions, which includes the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast and Hawaii.

In fact, last year they were held in Hawaii, at Al Moana in three- to five-foot surf.

So tell me about your new board.

Well, it's a 6-foot-5, and kind of wider than my regular board, which is a 6-5 1/2. I rode it today and it feels slower than my regular board, so the new one will be the backup.

How much wider?

My old board is 18 1/2-inches wide. The new one is 18 3/4.

You mean we're talking about a QUARTER OF AN INCH! Can it make that much of a difference?

Oh yeah. The new board has a wider nose too, and it feels like it could be good in waves only up to waist high. Whereas, the other board is much thinner and can be good in bigger surf.

I hear you're taking the exercise routine pretty serious these days. What are you doing?

Surfing every day and trying to stay in shape. I'm running too.

You still playing basketball at the park?

Nah. As a matter of fact, I've been trying to hair myself away from doing anything that might injure me.

Better to hurt yourself in the water where it counts?

Zactly.

Figgy, I remember last year you were talking big before several contests. You're kind of quiet. Any predictions for some up-and-coming surfers?

Well, Eric Diaz from Hawaii in menehune (under age 13) division should come in high and Kalani Robb of Hawaii, who did real well in juniors (15-17) at the National Scholastic Surfing Assn., championships should do well. He and Chis Strother of Carlsbad, in the men's (18-24) divisions, too.

Ahem, and yourself?

Well, I'm not making any predictions. Just being mellow.

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