Photo: Zach Williams, Oceanside Pier. S.B.N.
Under sunny skies and light offshore winds, a group of young Laguna surfers ventured south this weekend for a day of surf competition and shenanigans.
The south side of the Oceanside pier was the scene, which I liken to a melting pot of California culture. Tattoo aficionados, street peddlers, military folks and many others are all looking for fun in the surf and sun.
Our Soul team consisted of Porter Hogan, Zack Williams, Adam Mejia and myself as board caddy and coach.
Hogan at 19 is the oldest and the clear-cut alpha male among the teenage crew. His dedicated work ethic over the years coupled with his natural surfing talent has led to numerous contest victories throughout California, including several at Laguna's prestigious Brooks Street Classic.
He has also earned the respect of the younger guys. He uses his sway in a positive way, encouraging the groms to stay on solid ground while pursuing their goals, mainly by avoiding drugs and alcohol.
Watching Hogan surf is like watching other highly skilled athletes perform: Everything seems to flow perfectly, with nary a drop of water out of place.
All of the early round heats went well for our squad, and by the afternoon each had booked a spot in the division finals.
Zach was first up and paddled out into the hotly contested juniors division finals, looking to vanquish the other young shredders.
These 17-year-olds are all about futuristic maneuvers and pushing the limits with what's possible on a surfboard. From huge aerials above the wave to lip slides across it, these big groms are re-inventing radical with seemingly every session.
When the dust settled, Zach nabbed a respectable fifth place.
Next up was Adam and Hogan's final: the men's open division. Adam flew out of the gates quick with a clean left-hander that allowed for several razor sharp snaps into the pier. With a good score in the books, Adam would be on the prowl for a backup score, which proved elusive.
Meanwhile, Hogan was busy battling with Team USA star Trevor Thornton from San Clemente. The two were furiously trading waves like prize fighters exchanging blows late in a fight. Trevor has every trick in the book and executes them with power and flow.
Hogan was game and the final had the peanut gallery on the edge of our collective sandy seats, hooting and hollering with every radical blast of the guys' boards.
When it was over, the boys made their way to the stage for the awards presentation and just before stepping up we all huddled together and took a moment to shoot up a prayer of thankfulness for a wonderful day.
Adam locked in fifth place, Hogan got second and Trevor came in first by a hair.