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THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | MIGRATIONS

Surfing without free throws

August 03, 2004|Mary Forgione and Bonnie Obremski

What if surfing were more like basketball? That was the thinking behind the X Games debut matchup in Huntington Beach last year -- and 25,500 fans jammed the beach to watch. "If you're at a regular surfing competition, it's hard to understand what's going on," says Melissa Gullotti of ESPN's extreme-a-thon, now in its 10th year. "This makes it easier for fans and athletes." Eight pros (including a "wild card" pick) from the East take on a team from the West again on Saturday in a game with four quarters, timeouts and coaches. In each quarter, four team members show off for the judges, who rank them on a scale of 1 to 10 for technique and creativity. Each of the athletes' top two scores add up to the team total. West Coast team member Rob Machado, 30, of Cardiff, Calif., below, likes toying with NBA-type tactics. "Now we can look over at other team and go, 'What's up?' " he says. "And we're all trying to talk trash." At 5 feet 10 and 145 pounds, Machado plans on scoring by dominating the smaller waves. "For years we were sitting on sidelines, wondering how to get into the X Games," he says. Local surfer Gordon LaBedz, a 57-year-old doctor who hits the waves every morning, feels the game destroys what surfing is all about. "It's stupid. Surfing is not a competitive sport," LaBedz says. "I don't even like to call it a sport. In sports you have scores, and tallies at the end and a winner and a loser. Surfing is inherently noncompetitive; it's just you and the ocean. And that's the magic of it."

-- Mary Forgione and Bonnie Obremski

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