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Monday, July 19, 2004
Game Time with Gerr

By Alyssa Roenigk

At last year's X Games, surfing made its debut as a team sport. The riders wore NBA-style jerseys complete with their names and numbers on the back and chilled on team benches between heats. Neither Game naysayers nor optimists knew what to think. Even more importantly, neither did the surfers.

This year, the mystery is gone. After the 2003 X Games, the first real test of The Game, Brad Gerlach's revolutionary surf contest format, there were many details left to perfect. The surfers and coaches had a lot to learn about being a team, and only a year to study.

But this May, The Game was put to a second test, the first season of the California Cup. The Cup divided the state into four teams: San Diego, Santa Cruz, Orange County and Ventura, and the teams competed in 12 Games over a month-long season. The Orange County team captured the Cup, but it's Brad who feels like the winner.
Brad Gerlach, inventor of The Game format, creates a whitestorm amid the big blue.
We caught up with Brad at the Queen of Surf contest in San Diego, CA, where he was scoping out the ladies, preparing for X2 and basking in the success of the first season of The Game.

The California Cup was the first true test of the Game. How did the season go?
It went really well. We accomplished everything we set out to do, which was to put together four teams of the best surfers in California and see if they would bring their A game and really care.

What was your biggest challenge?
California is the hardest place in the world to do the Game because there are so many things to do here, so people are spoiled. We wanted to see if we put these teams out in the water, would that draw a crowd, and would that crowd participate and care about what was going on. And they did.

Did you do anything to make the Game more spectator-friendly?
By the end, we had all the bells and whistles and eventually had the scoreboard. Imagine if you were watching a surf contest and could look up at a scoreboard and know exactly what was going on. You'd be able to follow the action better, be able to see who is doing well and who is under pressure to perform. To me, that is the most important component to watch.

Did anything surprise you?
The thing that worked great was all the teams understood how to play the game and how much pressure there was to play the right game, when to call the time outs and when not to. The all made mistakes, but it was good because they didn't have just one game. It was 12 games over a month in various conditions, so they had the chance to learn and improve.

Aaron Cormican was named MVP for the East Coast during their 209.06 to 188.20 victory over the West Coast in surfing's debut at X Games IX.
Was there a home-team advantage during the Cup?
When somebody stood up on a wave, and ripped, people cheered. The opposing team cheered when the surfer fell and the home teams fans cheered when they ripped. It's a no-lose situation.

If you look at the record, almost every team won their games at home. There was a big advantage to playing at home.

Did the guys adapt well to this new style of surfing?
It was very difficult to get a high score in the California Cup, so the guys upped their performance level and did well under pressure. It was really exciting to see these guys raising the level of the sport. Dane Reynolds left right after the California Cup, went straight to Fiji and won the trials with like a 9.9 and 9.8 and Timmy Curran got third in Fiji, so it was a great testimony that the Game helped up their level of performance. The Game is all about performance. It's not about defense, it's about finding the right way to win.

Is there anything you wish you could change about the first season?
It would've been interesting to see what would have happened if the California Cup was just a preseason, after the teams had a chance to gel. All the coaches got to know their players and where their strengths and weaknesses were. If you look at basketball, coaches don't even worry about the team until midway through the season.

Did the guys warm up to team surfing?
The indications were that they were really into it because it's a positive competitive atmosphere. Nobody really loses. And if you lose, your whole team loses and you go back and talk about it. And that's cool. It's not just a solo feel.
Brad plays host to the first X Games surf competition held at Huntington Beach in 2003.
What's next for The Game?
Id like to take it to the east coast and then internationally.

Can we expect any changes at the X Games this year?
This year, the X Games will be pretty much the same as last year. But the teams will be much better.

Any chance for a women's Game in the Games?
I'm actually here scouting women for a women's Game, to see what the talent level would be. I pitched a women's game for this year, but they weren't into it. It was a bummer, but there's always next year.