As high school graduation gifts go, Mike Losness couldn't have asked for a better one.
No, he didn't get a car or a pen and pencil set. Instead, Losness and his seven teammates at San Clemente High received a rare thrill: They defeated perennial power Huntington Beach this week in the National Scholastic Surfing Assn.'s team finals at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.
"It was the raddest thing . . . to beat them," Losness said. "Ever since I was a freshman, it's always been Huntington Beach. But we changed that. It was perfect timing. It was the perfect gift."
The Tritons edged Huntington Beach, 91-81.
The last time Huntington Beach lost a national championship final in surfing was in 1992. And in the last 20 years, the Oilers have won 17 national titles.
The title was only the second for San Clemente; the Tritons' also won in 1982. And for Losness, it was another first: his first high school individual title.
"It's a rad way to close out my high school career," Losness said. "It's taken a lot of hard work to get this far. It's been exciting to watch my teammates step up and beat Huntington."
EYE OF THE TIGER
Bill Hartman started San Clemente's surf team in 1977. In his 31 years at the school, he said he has coached every sport imaginable, so he knew his team was ready for Huntington Beach.
"You could see it in their eyes," Hartman said. "It doesn't matter what sport it is, football, basketball, baseball, when it's in their eyes, you just know things will happen."
Hartman said it was the surfing of Losness and Rusty Long that sealed the victory.
"In the final heat, Mike and Rusty each caught two waves right off before any of the other [competitors] could," Hartman said. "So, with a little luck from mother nature, they were able to win the heat and give us the win."
Besides Losness and Long, Rusty's younger brother, Greg,Shelly Appleby, Chris Falk, Nate Yeomans, Matt Gahan and Eric Mehlberg (longboard) made up San Clemente's team.
CLASS OF '99
A lot of folks believe Losness, along with other Class of '99 graduates Bobby Martinez of Santa Barbara and Mike Todd of Laguna Beach, will be future forces among U.S. professional surfers. Losness' first pro contest will be the Panasonic Shock Wave Beach Games, starting July 19 in Huntington Beach.
Janice Aragon, NSSA executive director, has seen her share of good surfers come through the NSSA ranks, from Kelly Slater to Jeff Booth to Taylor Knox to Jeff Deffenbaugh.
"Surfing, just like everything else, goes through peaks and valleys," Aragon said. "Right now, we're in a peak. In the last few years, there was usually one superstar out of the group of high school surfers. But this year, there's a few. And that's a good sign for surfing."
Losness, Martinez and Todd will compete today in the men's open at Lower Trestles. The finals are Saturday.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Huntington Beach lost the national high school team title, but Dwyer Middle School of Huntington Beach won its third consecutive NSSA middle school title. Sower Middle School, also in Huntington Beach, finished second. Chris Schinvone of Dwyer was the middle school national champion.
ON THE TOUR
Shane Beschen, from San Clemente, was eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the Quicksilver Pro Fiji in Cloudbreak, Tavarua Island this month.
Beschen, who is tied for ninth on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' World Championship Tour, was defeated by Australian Jake Paterson.
Top-ranked Mark Occhilupo of Australia defeated Brazil's Victor Ribas to win the contest. Pat O'Connell, from Laguna Niguel, was knocked out in the fourth round. He is ranked 15th on the WCT.
Next up for the WCT is the Billabong/Mitchell Surfing Pro, July 1-11 at Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa. Then, its the ShockWave U.S. Open, July 19-25 in Huntington Beach.
The Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tour is in Belmar, N.J., this weekend, where San Clemente's Karch Kiraly will try to win a record 140th title. Kiraly and Adam Johnson (Laguna Beach High) finished fourth in the Toronto FIVB tournament last weekend.
Dain Blanton (Laguna Beach High) and Eric Fonoimoana finished 17th in Toronto.
The FIVB tour is in Russia this weekend.
The Oldsmobile Alero Series is in Virginia Beach this weekend with its second of three women's events this season. Lisa Arce and Barbra Fontana won the first event in Huntington Beach last month.
Elaine Youngs (El Toro High) and Liz Masakayan won the AVP tournament in Hermosa Beach two weeks ago.
Staff writer Michael Itagaki contributed to this story.