Surfers from around the Pacific Northwest gathered for surf, friendship, and top honors at the 3rd Annual Spring Surf Jam presented by local surf shops: Ossies, Moment Surf Co., Zuhg Life, Gorge Performance and industry sponsors including Leus Beach Towels, Hippy Tree Apparel, Dakine Surfing Accessories, FCS Fin Systems, Long Lefts Clothing, Rock Star Energy Drinks, Cafe Mundo, and the Tap House @ Nye Creek. The surfers competed at Agate Beach Sunday 28 May 2017. This year’s surfers competed not only for honors at this year’s event but also for the Pro/Am Series Championship.
The main attraction featured a field of professional and amateur-level surfers representing regions from all over the Pacific Northwest and some even traveled from as far south as Southern California to participate..
NME Surfboard and Moment Surf Co team rider, Jonathan Grubbs from Port Angeles, WA won the last Spring Surf Jam so everybody wanted a chance to dethrone him. Grubbs looked in-tune during his warm-up sessions and appeared like the man to beat leading into the competition.
Although the Port Angeles surfer entered the event as the reigning champ, Moment Surf Co. team rider and big wave expert, Tony Perez of Lincoln City, OR led the field of Pro/Am competitors from the top of the ratings leaderboard after the first two events, having earned consecutive second place finishes behind fellow Moment Surf Co. team rider and big wave surfing partner, Jeremy Rasmussen at South Beach and then barely missed a first place finish on a tiebreaker to Grubbs at Otter Rock for the second event of the series.
While the drama around the points leaderboard drew some interest from the competitors with Perez leading, Grubbs in second, Jeremy Rasmussen close behind in third, the race for the honor of top-rated Junior competing in all three of the events heated up as well.
Recent Newport High School graduate and Ocean Pulse surf shop team rider,Theo Hollen started the event tied with Taft High School student and Russo Surfboard team rider, Jonee Wright as the top-rated junior amongst a hotly-contested field of pro/am competitors. The two juniors needed to place one position higher than the other to claim the award. With eleventh rated surfer, Laird Tuel missing the event due to an injury and Mattie Starr missing his heat in the second round, either of these surfers had the opportunity to move up into the top ten in the overall ratings.
With the tide coming in, the conditions slowed down for an hour, which ended Hollen’s run when he failed to find a wave on the outside sandbar where he spent the entire heat waiting for a set wave that never came. This meant that all Wright needed to do to to claim the status of the top junior in the series was to place one position higher in his round two heat than Hollen did.
Wright not only secured his top junior status in the pro/am division by avoiding a tie with Hollen,he defeated big wave expert, and third-place finisher in the pro/am division from the Agate Beach Classic, George DeSoto to earn himself not only a top-ten finish in the overall pro/am ratings but also a spot in the quarterfinals, his third consecutive finals-round performance of the series.
When asked how it felt to finish the Surf Jam Pro/Am series as the Top-Rated Junior competing against pros like Rasmussen, Perez, and Grubbs, he said, “It is so cool to be ranked the number one junior. It's a huge blessing and such cool achievement. I'm so blessed to be able to surf with those guys and they are so supportive and nice.”
Wright’s mom, Angie has been a constant presences at the beach during free surf sessions and at regional events. As such, she has become the defacto photographer of the series. When asked about this influence, Wright responded, “My mom has followed me for the last 6 years taking photos of me surfing and she's an amazing photographer. She posts a lot of photos of me on social media and because of that so many people kinda just know my surfing life.”
While Wright secured top-honors for himself, Grubbs placed second in his quarterfinal heat, moving himself closer to his own leaderboard title race behind a very in-form Newport High School--State Champion--Varsity Soccer Coach, Ollie Richardson who continued to place himself in position for the best waves in every heat, which eventually led to his own victory in the longboard division and the honor of Best Tuberide award for a nice section he found in the early morning conditions.
Grubbs would eventually advance to the finals, taking it out in a narrow victory over the reigning Nelscott Unvitational Big Wave Competition, Jake Fishman, Travis Cockcroft of Seaside, and second place finisher in the pro/am series rankings, Rasmussen, who rounded out the final in fourth place, and also earned day’s award for Speed, Power, Flow to honor exemplary performances related to specific elements of the judging criteria.
Wright looks forward to extending his honor as a top-rated competitor in the upcoming 10th annual Otter Rock ‘n Roll presented by the Newport Chapter of the Surfrider foundation and Grubb said that he was looking forward to getting some nice tubes in the morning and was planning a surfing trip down to Chile to ride some of the perfect point breaks on the bucolic coastline of Patagonia.
Other noteworthy performances this weekend included reigning Agate Beach Classic Champion and Moment Surf Co. team rider, Amelia O'Connor who won her third consecutive Surf Jam over an in-form Charlene Mercer who earned second place and Sam Case Elementary teacher Olivia Schroeder who finished third place in the Women’s division.
Ossies Surf Shop team rider, Ollie Richardson claimed victory in the Longboard division over his brother, and champion surfer, Larz Richardson who came in second place, and ironman Matt Spencer representing Gorge Performance surf shop who, after missing the Pro/Am final by less than two points, blitzed the SUP final for a first place finish of his own followed by DeSoto in second place and local civil engineer Mike Field who finished third.
Moment Surf Co. team rider, Kai Huggins of Bend, OR claimed a victory in the Juniors Division in great form over a well-contested division, followed in second place by Ben Clark of Salem and Ossies Surf Shop team rider and Newport Middle School student, Trevor Tice who placed third in a tight heat.
Ossies Surf Shop and 3rd Ranked NSSA Northwest Region surfer, Taylor Tice, 9 of Newport won his second consecutive event at Agate, after claiming the Groms division (10 and under) at the Agate Beach Classic last October, by navigating himself onto some nice lefts in the glassy evening conditions, combining nice moves on his backside to claim a competitive victory over an energized Sam Case student and Agate Beach local, Layla Schroeder, 10 who found her way onto open faces on some of the longest rides of the heat and Fynn Dragan of Bend, OR earned a convincing place on the podium to round out the top three with a third place finish.
Jeff Mullins, whose son, Anders Mullins found some nice waves in the final round of the Groms division of competition, earned the Most Valuable Volunteer award contributing his craftsmanship to the construction of this year’s trophies.
The day ended with great food and friendship at the awards ceremony held on the recently completed patio deck at the Tap House @ Nye Creek in the heart of Newport.
Words by Kirk Tice. Photos by Kirk Tice, Angie Wright, and Amelia O'Connor