Sam Stinnett Wins At Aliso – UST Stop #4
By Aaron Peluso
Skimboarders from around the United States and the world traveled to Laguna Beach this past weekend for the 38th Annual Victoria Contest held at Aliso Beach. “The Vic” is the longest running skimboarding event in the world and one of the most prestigious skimboard contests for any competitor to place well in. This year 41 male professionals and 12 female professionals battled it out, hoping to be able to add their name to the short list of people who have won this event.
Competition was difficult as the predicted 2-3′ south swell looked a look more like 0-1′ with the rising tide, and a serious trough made wave judgement difficult. Still, the best riders in the world were able to impress on many occasions often finding a ramp to loft a big air or lip to duck under (see pics from day one). On Sunday we were all pleasantly surprised as conditions were looking up quite a bit! The swell had picked up considerably and this was making the trough less of a factor as waves were big enough to break through it, and you can bet the pros were all over those waves when they did!
The Sunday morning heats were a whole different animal as compared to Saturday. There were 18 mens pros remaining in the event Sunday morning and with some bigger waves and even a hint of sunshine, they were all over it.
The women were also charging hard. This was the first event for the Women’s 2014 UST tour and the girls have clearly been practicing. Of particular note to this viewer was a backside bash on an overhead wave by Tia D’Ambrosio that looked like it would have been a scoring wave in the men’s division. The progression is unmistakable in Women’s pro, and its very cool to see.
By mid morning there were only 8 men’s pro contestants remaining and it was down to man on man heats. With the high tide pushing in, the contest organizers made the smart move to wait until afternoon to run the remaining pro heats. That gave the pros plenty of time to think about their match-ups: Austin Keen vs Jake Stinnett, Bill Bryan vs Tyler Stanaland, Sam Stinnett vs Blair Conklin and Teddy Vlasis vs Johnny Salta. There were no easy ones.
From a UST perspective, the most notable matchups were Austin vs Jake and Sam vs Blair. Austin, Sam and Blair made up the current top 3 UST and each one of them wanted nothing short of the win. First up was Austin and Jake. Sam was no doubt rooting for his brother Jake as (a) Jake is his brother and (b) if Austin were to get knocked out at this stage he would have an opportunity to pick up significant ground in the UST points. Austin came out swinging, skimming fast and confident like he always does but Jake answered back almost immediately getting multiple big backside wraps, one of which won him ‘best barrel’ of the contest. As the minutes wore down however both riders needed a strong frontside and those were in short supply. Austin was able to find one but Jake could not, which likely gave Austin the edge on the judges scorecards pushing him to the next round.
In the Sam vs Blair heat, Blair opened up with a nearly flawless 360 wrap down the beach, immediately seizing control of the heat. Both riders got numerous quality waves as the heat wore on but generally one got the sense that ‘Sam was catching up’. As the final minutes counted down Sam continued to rack up potentially scoring waves, importantly again, getting a solid frontside cover up. In my estimation, Blair’s lack of a similar quality frontside may have cost him the round.
This left Autin to take on Bill in semi #1 while Sam took on Teddy in semi #2. As if it was pre-destined to wind up as a Sam vs Austin final, Bill and Teddy who had both skimmed phenomenal throughout the contest came up a little short in their semi final heats.
So the field was set. It would be Sam vs Austin. The 2011/2012 UST Champ vs the 2013 UST champ. The current number 1 vs the current number 2 UST competitors. Sam who has won this event twice before vs Austin who really wanted to add this one to his belt. Somehow, it just seemed right…
Austin earned his place in the final with confidence, winning every single heat thus far in the event. Sam, took the longer more difficult road getting second place in not one but two of the preliminary rounds. But that was all in the past. All that mattered now was the next 12 minutes.
As the heat started the ocean went flat. For what seemed like ages (1-2 minutes) it looked as if this final would go by without a wave being ridden. But then on the horizon Sam and Austin saw the smallest bump, and then it was off to the races. Both riders got some good waves in the final. Austin got perhaps the wave of the heat with a solid backside wrap. But Sam had strength in numbers skimming all over the beach and getting solid waves far in excess of the number he needed. I kept expecting Austin to answer back as did many on the beach but unlike his prior heats over the weekend it just didn’t seem to be happening for him in the final, at least not at the level he would need to beat Sam in top form… and that is really the way Sam was skimming; in top form. He was pulling out every trick in the book to skim a textbook heat and hence earned his third win at ‘the Vic’.
Despite the narrow loss, Austin will remain in the lead in the 2014 UST tour heading into the 5th event, with just a little less breathing room than he had before. All eyes will be on the east coast for the next two events!
You can view video recap of the live event here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/8919988/events/3135906
- Sam Stinnett
- Austin Keen
- Teddy Vlasis
- Bill Bryan
- Blair Conklin
- Jake Stinnett
- Tyler Stanaland
- Johnny Salta
- Casey Kiernan
- Tia D’Ambrosio
- Erin Carpenter
- Keiao Bucasas
Photo care of Taylor Osborn