The 2023-24 National Scholastic Surfing Association is two weeks into the new season and a pattern is already emerging.
The cream is quickly rising to the top.
Of the nine divisions run at Salt Creek in the second stop of the Open season, four of them were a repeat winner from week 1 at Ventura.
One division that had a different winner come out on top, was the Men's Open.
Trailing in the final minute, Gavin Lusby needed a 7.50 to overtake leader Lucas Cassity, and his last-ditch effort garnered him a 7.70 to give him a 15.03 heat total and a win by 0.20.
" When I saw (the wave coming) I just wanted to surf it to the best of my ability and relax," Lusby said of the heat winner. "It felt good to get a win. I'm excited for the next event."
The dramatic win came in Lusby's first event back in the water since a last-minute loss in the NSSA Nationals in July.
In that one, Lusby put up high scores all event, and led late in the championship when a 9.00 by Cassity with one minute left, took the title, and left Lusby thinking what might have been.
" The result in nationals was just a learning experience on what to do for next time, " he said. "Every event, even if you lose, is a learning one. Anything can happen in that 20 minutes and I have to learn to adjust to whatever happens."
Lusby's coach, Orange County Surf Coaching's Christian Saenz took that thought it further.
" Gavin has showed great adversity and went right back to work like the champ he is. Gavin’s approach has been learning from the loss and coming back stronger by working on strategy, confidence, and form. We are looking at every detail to max his performance and he is putting in the work, day in and out."
So here are the champions of the first two weeks of the NSSA season;
Week 1 winner Luke MacBeth
MacBeth won the season opener, dropping a 13.87 final heat score to top runner-up Dylan Sloan. MacBeth had a huge 15.50 heat total in the semifinals (8.50 and 7.00 wave scores)
Week 2 winner Gavin Lusby
Lusby put up heat scores of 14.83, 14.33 and 16.83 making his way to the final and once there, won it with a 15.03 score. In his round two high of 16.83, he dropped back-to-back scores of 8.00 and 8.83.
Week 1 winner Eden Walla
Week 2 winner Eden Walla
Eden Walla solidified her spot at the top of the ladies' rankings by taking both titles. She also won the 16U in week 2.
Walla put up a 12.70 heat winning score in the finals in week 1 and had the highest heat score in the division with a 13.43 total in the semis.
Better waves in week 2 helped her to a solid run through the division that featured a 17.84 semifinal heat. It included scores of 9.17 and 8.67.
OPEN JUNIORS 16U
Week 1 winner Lucas Cassity
The division's top seed and 2023 Open Men's champion began his season in top form.
Cassity opened the year edging out Taro Matsuno by 0.33 in Ventura. The grindy conditions led to low scores, but he managed a 6.67 score in his heat winning 10.00 total. His 12.63 semifinal total was second high in the division (Tanner Sandvig's 13.33 was the highest).
Week 2 winner Makai Castle
In week 2, Castle, last year's 14U National Champion, kicked off his campaign in the 16U with a narrow win over Cassity.
Castle had a 6.77 and a 6.67 in a 13.44 heat total (topping Cassity's 13.07). His top heat score of the day came in round 1 with a 13.50.
OPEN GIRLS U16
Week 1 winner Marlo Harris
Defending Super Girls U14 National Champion Harris, opened the 16U season with a hard-fought win over runner-up Victoria Duprat, 11.17 to 11.14. Harris had a late 6.50 wave score that gave her the title.
Week 2 winner Eden Walla
Week 2 saw Eden Walla take her third title of the young season so far (she also has back-to-back Open Women's wins). She rolled in the final with a15.44 heat score that saw waves of 7.67 and 7.77. She also had a 15.00 heat total in the semifinals.
OPEN BOYS U14
Week 1 Zion Walla
Week 2 Zion Walla
Zion Walla has put on a show so far this season. He started the high scoring in Ventura, with a 16.37 final heat total with scores of 9.17 and 7.20 to beat Taro Matsuno (who was also runner up in the 16U division). Walla also put up a 14.66 score in round one.
In Week 2, his big numbers continued with a title winning 15.50 to narrowly beat Matsuno again. The latter had 15.20 score.
Matsuno has surfed well so far in his two weeks of competition with 4 second place finishes. He seems destined to break through soon.
OPEN SUPER GIRLS 14U
Week 1 winner Ruby Stringfellow
Week 2 winner Rudy Stringfellow
The defending National Champion in the 12U division, Stringfellow, made a smooth jump up to the 14U with back-to-back wins.
Her 10.96 finals heat total in Ventura, came on the heels of her semifinal score of 15.56 that featured an 8.43 high wave score. Isla Pinto had a solid second place finish.
In week 2, she turned on the jets and put up a huge 16.17 finals total with scores of 8.50 and 7.67. She got into the final with another big score in the semis,15.43. That one featured a high of 7.83.
Zoe Panetierre was the runner up.
OPEN MINI GROMS 12U
Week 1 winner Moses Hennings
Moses Hennings took the title in week 1 with a heat winning total of 11.26. He earned his berth in the finals with a semifinal heat score of 13.84. In that heat, his 7.17 wave score was a division best.
Week 2 winner Slater Van Bruggen
Week 2 marked the first NSSA win for Slater Van Bruggen.
He saved the best for last after trailing in the heat.
His last two scores were his best coming in at 6.67 and 6.53 for a title winning 13.20.
OPEN MINI GROM GIRLS 12U
Week 1 winner Teagan Sandvig
Week 1 saw the younger of the Sandvig siblings, Teagan, win her first NSSA title, dropping a high score of 6.23 in her 10.40 winning total. Isla Pinto had her second runner-up performance of the weekend.
Week 2 winner Teagan Meza
Week 2 saw Teagan Meza get back on track after a third-place finish in Ventura.
Meza dropped a 7.17 while winning the final with a 13.64 total. Sandvig was the runner up.
In the semifinal, Meza had an 8.17 while totaling 15.67 to advance.
OPEN BOYS 10U
Week 1 Zackery Taylor
Week 2 Zackery Taylor
Zackery Taylor has been putting up some big numbers the first two weeks and it started in Ventura when he tallied a 15.40 heat score with a high mark of 9.33.
Runner up Cash Schillmoeller had a good final, with a high score of 7.33 in his 13.90 total.
Week 1 was just a warmup for Taylor, as in week 2 he put up perfection, with a 10.00 ride in the 12U quarterfinals.
After losing in that division the next round, he came back to take the 10U with another stellar score, this time a 9.77 and it led him to an 18.70 score.
Brett Gregorius was great in his second-place effort, dropping a 7.83 and an 8.50 in his 16.33.