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Saturday, August 9, 2003
Updated: March 26, 4:25 PM ET
East Takes Surf Gold

By Chris Cote
EXPN.com

On Saturday August 9th, the scene was set on the south side of Huntington Beach Pier. The beach was alive and packed by 8:00 a.m. with fans rocking face paint, carrying signs and shouting cheers for their favorite team and jeers for the competition.

Both teams showed up early for practice. The waves were about two to three feet with the occasional four-footer coming in, but they were wedging hard enough for the surfers to bust airs and big moves. What the waves lacked in size, they made up for in power and shape.

In practice, Kelly Slater made his intentions clear by ramping-out on a smaller inside wave into a textbook frontside 360 air. The growing crowd knew they were in for an amazing day of surfing within the first two minutes of practice.

Playing a captain's role on the East Coast team at XGIX, Kelly Slater powered through the little funsters when he wasn't trash talking his westside counterparts. Now, as a radio DJ on Sirius, he's getting paid to talk trash.
The East Coast - West Coast rivalry is alive and well and the trash talking started first thing in the morning with East Coast team member Slater asking the West's Rob Machado, "Hey Rob, do you guys just want to forfeit now and save yourselves the trouble?" Rob laughed, answering, "We'll see, bro."

The teams were announced by X Games mainstay Sal Masakela. It was classic to hear surfers announced like they were the L.A. Lakers coming out onto the floor of The Staples center; "Ladies and gentlemen. The West Coast team!"

Jason Belt of the band The Red West sang the Star Spangled Banner just before the referee blew his whistle and yelled, "Game on!"

The visiting East Coast team surfed first, with the formidable foursome of Shea Lopez, Aaron Cormican, Ben Bourgeois and Damien Hobgood posting a combined score of 46.04. The West Coach bench looked nervous, but the East Coast bench was screaming with every wave.

The West Coast surfed next. The scores were adding up slowly, but the waves just weren't cooperating, leaving the West Coast with a poor start.

The trash talk started getting louder as the two teams battled in the second quarter. "Why don't you put some rails on that board and do a turn," yelled Taylor Knox, as Damien Hobgood jogged by the West Coast bench.

Rob blasts a frontside air during the final heat of last year's X Games. This weekend, he hopes to blast his Cali Cup competition.
The second four-man team for the East Coast was the team to watch, with six-time world champ Kelly Slater, Cory Lopez, and two wildcards, Taj Burrow and Shane Dorian. Taj was on fire, blasting air after air on each wave.

The next four surfers for the West Coast were Rob Machado, Pat O'Connell, Tim Curran and wildcard Kalani Robb. Kalani started off the heat with a banger of a wave. He slashed it five times off the top and ended with a quick tailslide on the inside. Curran spun a huge frontside 360 air, landing perfectly.

In the second half, the East Coast team went to work, posting solid scores. Aaron Cormican blasted a big-ass frontside 360 air on a wave that allowed three more hits for him on the inside. He was awarded a 9.0 and put the East Coast in a comfortable lead.

The west Coast felt the pressure as the bottom of the third brought hardly any waves. They were stressing until a good set came in and each team member posted high scores including the highest score of the day by the youngest competitor, Dane Reynolds, who received a 9.07 for the biggest air of the day, a frontside grab five-foot air with a perfect landing.

The West Coast narrowed the gap to 40 points when the East came out for their final heat. Kelly Slater scored two 7's in the last few minutes of the heat and Taj Burrow proved to be the best wildcard draw the East Coast could've asked for. Cory Lopez, who won the U.S. Open last weekend, proved his worth by thrashing two lefts for a 7 and a 6.

At this point, the 25,000 plus in attendance were on their feet. The West Coast had one final chance to score. Their all-star team of Rob Machado, Tim Curran, Kalani Robb and Pat O'Connell hit the water with fire in their hearts. Once again, the ocean didn't quite cooperate until the last few minutes.

Taj Burrow, an international wildcard, was a secret weapon for the East Coast team. He was collecting points left and right with small-wave trickery and powerful frontside 180 airs.
Rob stood up and thrashed a wave. Pat slashed a small left on his backhand. And Tim Curran launched what would've been the air of the event, taking off on a chest-high left, fading off the bottom and blasting six feet into the air. He grabbed both his rails and rotated 360 degrees. As he landed, he just barley came undone. The crowd gasped as the clock ticked down to the final 30 seconds.

With five seconds remaining, the East Coast team dumped ice water on head coach Matt Kechele in true football team form. The clock hit 0 and the East Coast took the first X Games gold medal for surfing.

As the medals were handed out, the East Coast team raised their hands with pride. "We won! F*!k yeah!" screamed East Coast MVP Aaron Cormican.

The West Coast surfers shook hands and hugged the East Coast team. The Game was a complete success. As it stands now, the East Coast has the medals, the bragging rights and the pride of knowing they are the X Games champs.


Quotes:

  • "I'd feel a lot better if I was walking away with a f-king gold medal." — Kalani Robb, when asked how he felt after the game

  • "It's a chess game. If you blow a time out, it can cost you the whole game." — West Coast head coach Mike Parsons on the importance of time outs

  • "They just need to stop falling." — Aaron Cormican, when asked how the West Coast could catch up

  • "Pat O'Connell's so short he could get barreled on that wave." — Kelly Slater, while watching Pat ride a small wave

  • "This isn't a game, it's The Game!" — Brad Gerlach, on the format he invented with his dad, Joe Gerlach

  • "Yo Kelly, how's life on the Redneck Riviera?" — Tim Curran to Kelly Slater right before Kelly's final heat

  • "This was the best surf contest I've ever seen. And it wasn't even a contest!" — Rick Devoe, Tim Curran's manager, after the contest

  • "It looks like the West Coast needs to throw in the towel. Here, you want to borrow a towel?" — Kelly Slater to the West Coast bench after a high-scoring fourth quarter heat

  • "They had the rhythm of the ocean. You need waves to win, and they got the waves." — Shane Beschen, explaining the West's loss


    Notes:

  • During the second quarter, the East Coast team chomped on watermelon and started throwing rinds at the West Coast. One of the pieces almost hit Kalani Robb, who scowled at the East Coast. They stopped throwing stuff after that dirty look.

  • Pat O'Connell and Kalani Robb listened to tiny MP3 players while they waited for their turn to surf. Kalani was rocking hip-hop and Pat was listening to Jack Johnson.

  • The West Coast team made a stencil of the state of California. Each team member sprayed their boards with the Cali stencil and some even sprayed their wetsuits.

  • During the introduction of the teams, the West Coast team came out blasting Tupac's "California". The crowd was freaking out, singing all the words and doing the wave in the bleachers.

  • Most of the competitors ate from bowl-fulls of Sambazon Acai, which is a blended, smoothie-like energy food from South America. It tastes like a mix of raspberry and chocolate and the guys on both sides swear by the stuff.

  • Fans brought homemade signs to the beach. One side read, "Roots, Rock, Reggae. West Coat Rules!" Another read, "Kelly's going down." One kid wore a red wig, cowboy hat, and held a sign that said, "Rob Is the Best in the West!"