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Losness Relies on Local Knowledge

Surfing: San Clemente resident benefits from familiarity with breaks in winning national scholastic event.

June 28, 1998|ERIK HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

San Clemente's Michael Losness was a prime example of "locals rule," winning the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. men's open Saturday at Lower Trestles.

Losness used his knowledge of the breaks to beat the other five competitors in the championship heat.

Macy Mullen of Haleiwa, Hawaii, finished second and Ryan Turner of Huntington Beach was third. Tory Barron of Haleiwa, Hawaii, and Roy Powers of Honolulu finished fourth and fifth and Gabe Kline of St. Augustine, Fla., was sixth.

Losness, 17, a senior at San Clemente High this fall, made good wave selections to score big points on his six rides. Losness won the boys' junior championship last year.

"I think it helped a lot [that this is my home break]," Losness said. "I felt comfortable out there and I wasn't worried at all about not catching the waves I needed."

While the other five finalists were pacing before the start of the heat, Losness was relaxed as he talked to his dad.

"I know some of these guys were nervous. Especially when it was getting near the end of the heat and they still needed to catch a wave. But hey, I wasn't about to let this get to me. If I don't win, it's no big deal," Losness said.

Losness' victory snaps a two-year hold Hawaiian surfers had on the contest. Bruce Irons won it last year, and his brother, Andy, was the 1996 champion.

The 20-minute final heat started slowly because of flat conditions. But after a couple of minutes, a set of five- to six-foot waves came through, providing some excellent lefts and rights.

Turner, who just graduated from Huntington Beach High and was among the favorites, came out strong and took the early lead. Turner, who came close to winning the contest, just missed taking the lead on his final wave.

With less than 35 seconds left in the heat, Turner caught a potential high-scoring wave to the left. But a fall after one maneuver killed any chance he had to take the lead.

"I just messed up at the end and didn't finish it out. I don't know. I thought I was doing pretty good until then," Turner said.

Andy Verdone, who coached Turner at Huntington Beach High, said before the heat he was advising his surfer to be patient.

"He said that's what's going to win this event," Turner said.

But Losness had his own plan and said he wasn't about to let himself sit out there and wait for a wave.

"Maybe that's where my local knowledge helped," Losness said. "It didn't look like it was going to be the type of day where there would be lots of waves to pick from. I tried to catch what ever came my way."

Losness said he looks forward to surfing one more year as an amateur and hopes to come back next year and defend his title.

"This is really cool," he said, "to win like this. And even though I wasn't nervous or anything, I'm stoked about winning. I'm going to party tonight."

Winners in the women's open, junior, explorer, longboard and bodyboarding divisions will be announced today at a NSSA awards banquet in Huntington Beach.

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