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West Coast Can't Catch a Break

East Coast team prevails in the surf competition of the X Games after taking advantage of better waves at Huntington Beach.

August 08, 2004|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

As the West Coast team learned again Saturday afternoon at the X Games surf competition, home-break advantage is only valuable if the waves cooperate.

But the waves went silent at the wrong times, allowing the East Coast to win its second consecutive gold medal with a 97.03-90.02 victory at Huntington Beach.

"It's just a shame," said West team member Rob Machado of Cardiff. "You just sit there thinking waves are going to come in and when they don't, it's torture."

The most painful lull came in the last 10 minutes. Using a format in which each four-man side took turns competing in four 12-minute quarters, the West Coast crept within striking distance after the highest-scoring ride of the event by Dane Reynolds.

With two-time defending champion Andy Irons yet to get untracked in the final quarter, as well as fellow World Championship Tour veterans Pat O'Connell of Laguna Beach and Tim Curran of Oxnard, the chances looked good for a West Coast comeback.

But when the final decent set rolled through about halfway through the quarter, Curran and Irons crashed on consecutive waves.

"The heats are so short, you only have so many chances," said West Coast Coach Mike Parsons. "I think they out-surfed us a little bit."

The announced crowd of 25,000 mostly cheered the West Coast team, but it also inspired the visitors, including six-time world champion Kelly Slater and fellow World Championship Tour veterans C.J. and Damien Hobgood, Cory Lopez and Taj Burrow.

"They've got the bigger fan base, but our team feeds off being we're the underdog," said Lopez, a former San Clemente resident now living in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

Both sides agreed that the East Coast gained an advantage by winning the coin flip and choosing to surf first.

"That was huge," said Parsons, whose team surfed first in a practice game Friday and won by two points. "It's real simple to know that in Huntington Beach, the waves are going to get worse as the day goes on."

Wes Laine, an assistant coach for the East Coast, said he had been pushing to surf first all week. He said the final OK came from Slater.

"[Kelly] really loves to go last," Laine said. "He has spent his whole career thriving on competition and the pressure of the moment. Last night, though, he said, 'Let's go first.' "

The East picked a good time to get started. Damien Hobgood and Dean Randazzo took advantage of one of the biggest, most sustained sets two minutes into the competition and produced their best scores of the quarter. Lopez then earned a score of 7.5 out of 10 after completing a front-side floater with about four minutes left and Burrow, the team's lone wild-card entrant, scored a 6.55 with about 30 seconds remaining. The East produced a first-quarter score of 27.60, which turned out to be the highest-scoring quarter for either team.

"We really put it together right then," Lopez said. "That set the tone."

The West Coast trailed by 26.37 points heading into the bottom half of the fourth quarter and immediately got a big lift from Reynolds, an 18-year-old from Ventura. He cracked a hard backside turn off the lip and then completed a backside 360-degree spin. He earned a score of 8.30, the highest of the competition, pulling the West within 18.47 points with about 10 minutes remaining.

"It mathematically got close," Parsons said. "I said, 'This is looking good, we just need one 7 and two 6s.' I thought that was really, really possible."

Out in the water, however, the West Coast team could feel its chances slipping away.

"Since I've been competing in the game, it seems the team that would win would be the team that was in rhythm with the sets," Curran said.

Parsons had a suggestion.

"I would love to see this format at Lower Trestles on a six-foot day," he said.

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