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ON THE BEACH / ERIK HAMILTON and WENDY WITHERSPOON

He Sees a Lot of World on His Surfboard

March 17, 1997|ERIK HAMILTON and WENDY WITHERSPOON

Don't be fooled by his age, or lack of it. Micah Byrne, a freshman at Huntington Beach High, is only 15, but he's a seasoned veteran when it comes to competitive surfing and traveling the globe in search of waves.

Byrne, who recently returned from a surfing excursion to Australia, has been called one of the sport's brightest prospects by his high school coach, Andy Verdone.

In January, Byrne traveled to Australia with his dad, Ralph, to compete in one of surfing's most prestigious amateur events, the Ocean Earth Pro Junior.

At last year's event, Byrne was unable to advance past the opening rounds. This year, he reached the quarterfinals and was the only surfer from the U.S. mainland to advance that far.

"The Australians always dominate," Byrne said, noting that an Australian won the contest. "But it was cool. The waves were great and I love going on trips like that."

Byrne already has been to places most people only dream about: Hawaii, Japan, Costa Rica and Indonesia. And next month, he and some high school buddies will head to Tahiti for some noncompetitive surfing.

"My mom will be going, so it won't be completely crazy. But I love to be on my own, without parents," Byrne said. "I really want to surf Tavarua [near Figi]. But it's all cool, to surf these places you read about."

Since he was 5, when his dad put him on a short board, Byrne has been surfing his home break by the Huntington Beach Pier.

"I guess I was running the moment I hit the water," Byrne said. "Tom Curren was my hero. His power was incredible. And when I turn pro when I finish high school, I hope I'm half as good."

Byrne has been surfing with his high school team, getting ready for the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. Championships in June at Lower Trestles.

"Micah will be a big asset for our team," Verdone said. "He's a very competitive surfer and he's one of the best I've had. And I've seen my share [of good surfers]."

Said Byrne: "I've been working out with my high school team five days a week early in the morning, because Huntington is going to win again."

Last year, Byrne won the Explorer boys' division (ages 13-14). This year at the NSSA championships, Byrne will compete in the Juniors and the Open Juniors.

"San Clemente and Carlsbad will give us some competition, but we'll win," Byrne said.

*

Pat O'Connell of Laguna Niguel enjoyed his best start in three years on the World Championship Tour. O'Connell advanced to the quarterfinals of the Coke Surf Classic, the first stop of the World Tour, at North Narrabeen Beach, Australia.

O'Connell, who was 30th in the preseason World Tour rankings, has jumped to sixth. He was defeated by Sunny Garcia of Hawaii, 24.50 to 18 in the quarterfinals. Garcia advanced to the finals, where he lost to World Champion Kelly Slater, 30.05 to 23.50.

San Clemente's Shane Beschen, who finished the World Tour last year ranked second behind Slater, stumbled in the third round in Australia. He was defeated by Australian Simon Law. Beschen is ranked 16th on the World Tour.

Australian Kylie Webb beat countryman Layne Beachley, 25 to 21.80, to win the women's event.

The second leg of the World Tour started last week at Kira Point, Australia. Competition concludes March 22.

*

Some familiar names will swing through Huntington Beach this summer when the four-man Bud Light Pro Beach Volleyball League makes a tour stop Aug. 9-10.

Laguna Beach resident Scott Fortune, who played with the U.S. Olympic indoor team last summer, returns for his sixth season in the league as captain of Team Inglenook. Joining Fortune will be former Fountain Valley High player Carlos Briceno, a 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, and former Long Beach State player Tom Hoff.

Dan Hanan of Edison High returns to serve as captain for Outdoor Products. Former Long Beach State star Bob Ctvrtlik and Laguna Beach resident Dusty Dvorak will play together on Team Bud Light.

On the women's side, former Mission Viejo High player Stephanie Cox will play on Gabrielle Reece's Team Nike this season. Former Irvine High star Kim Oden will serve as captain of Team Discus and will play alongside former Long Beach State setter Joy McKienzie.

Tammy Liley from Westminster returns from last summer's Olympic indoor appearance to play with Team Norelco along with former Long Beach State star Danielle Scott.

*

The WPVA will hold its U.S. Open at Huntington Beach, June 28-29, the tour announced earlier this month.

Last summer, Huntington Beach hosted the WPVA National Championships in August, when Lisa Arce and Holly McPeak won the event. Barbra Fontana-Harris of Laguna Beach and partner Linda Hanley won last year's U.S. Open in Ocean City, Md.

This summer, the National Championships will be Aug. 9-10 at Hermosa Beach. The only other Southern California WPVA stop this summer will be May 31-June 1 at San Diego.

The U.S. Open at Huntington Beach will be one of four WPVA "grand slam" events this summer. The other three are: the Evian Invitational, Aug. 2-3, at New York; the National Championships at Hermosa Beach; and The Best of the Beach, Sept. 27-28, at Kauai, Hawaii.

*

An offshore cruising class for women will be offered this spring, beginning April 5, by Orange Coast College's Sailing Program. The class will be taught aboard OCC'S Cal-36, Calico. Cost is $198. For information, call (714) 645-9412.

On the Beach runs monthly during the school year. Witherspoon and Hamilton may be reached by calling (714) 966-5904.

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