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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Smaller crowd, same great surf

By Jon Coen
ESPN.com

What a difference a year makes.

Balaram Stack
Last year, Balaram lost to Kelly Slater in round one and Mick Fanning in round two. This year, he went to the semifinals, sans Kelly and Mick.

Anyone remember droves of folks spilling out of New York City to see the best in the world electrify an East Coast beachbreak last September? Every major news outlet was buzzing around the Quik New York Pro. There were celebs, hob-nobbers, and a Nubster fin. Quiksilver had the five-star Allegria Hotel completely booked for half a month. And if a surfer like Florida's Blake Jones came up to watch the excitement, he would have been sleeping on a friends' floor.

And New York was absolutely bombing with Hurricane Katia In fact, I don't know that it broke like that again for the next six months, maybe longer. The late, great Sean Collins explained how the offshore bathymetry, specifically the Hudson Canyon, helped to magnify swells for Long Island.

If you remember, there were a lot of doubters before that event. The world wasn't sure that the East Coast was worthy of a World Tour event. As an East Coaster, I can say that most of the time, it isn't. Granted, the much smaller (used to be a 1-star or unsanctioned) Unsound Pro has run in Long Beach for over a decade in this window period and often scored. Collins had studied ten years of data before recommending to Quik that they sink untold millions into that event. He surmised that if you pick the right week, the odds were in favor of a hurricane swell.

Unsound Pro
After last year's hurrah (right), this event went back to its roots. Trip Patterson electifies the fans (both of them.)

This week proves to produce so well for New York you could set your clock by it. And when Hurricane Leslie swell pulsed into National Ave. for the second half of this week, Kelly Slater, Bob McKnigth and 40,000 New Yorkers were not there waiting for it. There were barely 40 people on the beach, but the waves were still ridden.

Quiksilver, Unsound Surf Shop and Eastern Surf Mag teamed up to bring the Right Coast Cup to the right beach, at the right time, and in the right swell. It was a quick skins event with a $20,000 purse, not bad by New York surfing standards, but not exactly the cool $1 million on offer last September. Ironically, it coincided with the US Open of Tennis at nearby Flushing Meadows, but no one seemed nearly as upset as last year.

Blake Jones
Florida's Blake Jones took home some skins as well as the Right Coast Cup.

Unsound Surf co-owner Mike Nelson thought it was great to have the Tour in town, but he was happy to see young New York kids now mixing it up on the pro level. This event featured most of the East Coast heavies plus the fellas who have been wearing a tool belt all summer. A few standout tube hunters and aeriaists included young Tanner Stohmenger, of Deerfield Beach, Florida, Long Island Inner Section star, Leif Engstrom, and darkhorse, Vince Boulanger of Maryland.

There were only two surfers who competed in the World Tour event last year -- 2011 local wildcard Balaram Stack and former World Tour surfer, Gabe Kling. Both made the semis. Stack lost to eventual winner, Blake Jones. Kling beat fellow Floridian Jeremy Johnston, who has won several Unsound Pros in the past. This set up a Kling vs. Jones final.

"I had a couple of heats where I couldn't finish a wave for my life, and I knew going into the final that I had to surf my best. I just got two lefts that lined up pretty good and I just did what I needed to do, I guess. I was freaking out every time Gabe dropped in on a wave though. The guy was dropping eights and nines the whole event," said Jones.

Down on the Outer Banks on Monday, Kling actually beat Jones in the final of the Bud Light Lime Surf Series Labor Day Cup. Jones got the better of him, however, in the Empire State.

"I was kind of surprised that the wave was so similar both years," admitted Kling, "Last year was a little bigger and perfect but it got really good this year too -- just so ripable. It could be one of my favorite breaks on the East Coast. And it was nice to be back on Long Island. I ate at a lot of the places. But it was a mellower scene this year."

Gabe Kling
Gabe Kling was one of only two surfers to surf the World Tour Quiksilver New York Pro in 2011 and the Quik Unsound Right Coast Cup in 2012.

Despite the big Balaram's Birthday Bash at the Allegria Pool Bar, that may have been an understatement.