Hampton hosts surfing competition : Waters busy at regional board event

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By Matthew Tetrault

Hampton Union, May 15, 2007

[The following articles are courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]

Bo Hickey goes into a barrel roll during the Eastern Surfing Association's Northeast Regional Open Bodyboard Semi-finals in Hampton Beach. Don Clark photo / SMG

HAMPTON — Along the strip, business owners started pulling the boards off their storefronts this weekend, but on the rocky shores of North Beach, the warm weather also gave surfers a chance to take out a few boards of their own.

Hampton Beach hosted the Eastern Surfing Association's Northeast Surfing Championship over the weekend, the first time in 10 years the town has been chosen as the site of the three-day competition.

An estimated 350 surfers from around New England qualified to compete in this year's event, with 30 surfers from the Seacoast invited to attend. The location of the competition is rotated among several cities in the Northeast.

Shortboarders, longboarders and bodyboarders locked horns in a series of timed heats with a set quota of waves competitors were allowed to ride. Each competitor was judged on the tricks they attempted, and points were awarded based on the degree of difficulty and variety of maneuvers.

Many found it difficult to even get up onto their boards. Organizers said, although the waves along the span known as "The Wall" at North Beach are usually around a head high, they'd been considerably smaller throughout the weekend. Thunderstorms Friday forced riders out of the water for a three-hour span, throwing other heats off schedule.

"The waves just haven't cooperated," said Debbie Hodges, executive director for the ESA.

Organizers adapted to the conditions by switching to a double-beach format, moving locations for several heats to find waves where surfers could pull off their maneuvers.

Despite the trouble, Hodges and Lenny Nichols, ESA district director for the North-Northeast, said Hampton is a hidden jewel for surfers. This year's competitors were just thankful for the chance to get outside and enjoy the weather.

"The waves are a little small, but the atmosphere around here is nice and chill. It's not uptight like some of the other competitions I've been in," said Rory Rosenberg, a 16-year-old in the bodyboard competition.

Winners from each age bracket are invited to compete in the ESA's main event, the Eastern Surfing Championships, to be held this September in North Carolina.

LOCAL champs

Surfers placed well in the North-Northeast division, which includes Hampton.

  • Garrett Krapf, first place in the men's division
  • Nohea Nichols, second place, women's longboard
  • Jared Veltsos, third place in the age 11 and under longboard division
  • Julia Nichols, third place in the women's shortboard division

Hangin' ten in Hampton

by Mike Bisceglia Jr.

Hampton Union, May 15, 2007

Three months after the death of Captain Cook in 1779, Captain King wrote, "Whenever, from stormy weather, or any extraordinary swell at sea, the impetuosity of the surf is increased to its utmost heights, they choose that time for this amusement: twenty or thirty of the natives, taking each a long narrow board, rounded at the ends, set out together from the shore."

King was writing of Hawaii, but he could very well have been writing about the natives of Hampton some two hundred years later. The surf is up off the coast of New Hampshire, and locals and tourists alike are up for the challenge of the waves.

The Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Shop, which is located at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and High Street, was established in 1983. The name came from an idyllic surfing spot in Carribean. The shop stocked about a dozen boards and catered mainly to a very small contingent of thrill seekers. Today, the shop boasts of having some 500 boards in stock, and is one jammin' place. In 1989, Dave Cropper took over the shop, and about that time great innovations were being made in boards and wet suits. From that moment on, the secret was out. The Hampton area has arguably the best surf on the East Coast.

Today's wet suits keep the surfers comfortably warm on even the coldest winter days, yet they are pliable enough to move easily in the North Atlantic waters.

The boards are streamlined and designed to catch and hold the surf rolling into shore.

Beyond the surfing innovations, what makes the waters off Hampton attractive to surfers is that they are virtually pollution-free and, at least so far, devoid of aggressive fish. Further, the area boasts the kind of action of which surfers thrive. There are both beach breaks where the waves break over the sand, and point breaks in which the surf breaks on rocks and reefs.

Surfing Hampton is no longer a fad; it's a lifestyle.

Folks of all ages and occupations move here to catch the ocean motion. The age range on this year-round activity is anywhere from four to well into retirement. There is a group of seventy-plus surfers who have added life to their years by pounding the waves.

Cropper says the surfing community is a close one with great camaraderie, but it's not without its characters. "Jack O" Keefe and Steve Clark are just a few. Other locals committed to the call of the action include Kevin Grondin, winner of several surfing championships, and Lenny Nichols, the host of the Eastern Surfing Association championships.

Kevin Rafferty, one of the managers of the Cinnamon Rainbows, says that the Hampton surfing community has a passion for the surfing, but there is a definite pecking order to riding the waves. The older, more experienced, riders get first crack at the incoming rollers, while those of less status follow. It is all part of the etiquette and safety of the surfers. The surfers respect one another and are very concerned for each other's well-being.

Another reason why surfing has blossomed in the region is the advent of the X games and the success of snow boarding. Surfing is a year round challenge, but the best conditions for optimal waves is during the winter months.

Hampton surfers have gone "high tech" in their quest.

Many hit the internet before they hit the beach.

Both the U.S. Navy at FNMOC.NAVY.MIL and the Cinnamon Rainbows at info@cinnamonrainbows.com offer up to the minute surf reports, including actual live shots of the wave action at the coast.

Those new to surfing will find out everything they need to know about the Hampton surf scene and more at Cinnamon Rainbows. Right now, the surf is rolling in, so I'm rolling out!

Special Thanks to Dave Cropper and the great crew at Cinnamon Rainbows.

Mike Bisceglia Jr. is a freelance writer who lives in Hampton.

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