It was a perfect combination of great waves, perfect beach weather, and outstanding surfing performances. That is the best way to describe the 6th Annual “Battle of the Beach,” held at Matunuck Point, on September 23rd, 2017. Contest organizer and director, Conrad Ferla outdid himself this year, amassing thousands of dollars in prize merchandise, including a stash of new surfboards. The spoils were evenly distributed among the top 4 finalists in each division.
Unidentified from Final. Photo: Lisa Haase.
“We had a tremendous turnout this year,” said Ferla. “More entries and more prizes,” he continued. “The lure of the big money prizes does it every time.” Ferla, whose grandfather owned and operated the world famous Rocky Point Park in Warwick, is no stranger to working the crowds, and hustling to get things done right. This contest was his most successful venue thus far. With live music, good food and drink, courtesy of the Ocean Mist Bar and Grille, the throngs of spectators enjoyed a great show.
The contest was intense, with 41 heats that ran from 9 AM to 7 PM, and up to 8 contestants in each heat. The good thing was that there were plenty of waves to be had, thanks to swells from Hurricane Jose and Maria.
Photo: Lisa Haase.
Competitors could spread out among the perfect chest to shoulder high peaks at the point, the inside reef, and the “Mary’s Bar” break closest to the judges stand. Surfers from as far away as Florida and Canada came to compete, hoping to bring home some of the big prizes.
In the end, after numerous rounds of quarter finals, semi-finals, and finals, it was veteran competitors of the Eastern Surfing Association that dominated in almost every division. Braydon Bennett had been riding Matunuck Point all week, tuning up for the event. He picked off the two best peaks of the final, to top another ESA ripper, Northeast Regionals finalist Sophia Martino, for the Grom Shortboard title.
Photo: Lisa Haase.
Noah Gartner rode the tip on a screaming left inside wall that reeled off into the inner sandbar, to top a determined Page Hedde in the Grom Longboard Final. Hedde did catch the biggest wave of the final heat, but could not find another high point ride to catch Noah.
Maria Barend. Photo: Lisa Haase.
The big winner of the event, and outstanding surfer of the contest, was double winner, Maria Barend. Barend, and ESA All-Star and 2016 East Coast Girls Champion, wowed the crowds with her smooth surfing and fluid cutbacks on her favorite kinds of waves. She feasts on left point breaks and showed up the field by winning both the Open Twin Fin division and the Ladies Open Longboard finals.
The closest competition for her was her mother, Ana (7-time Ladies East Coast ESA Champion), who charged the lefts in the Ladies Longboard final, but could not catch her daughter in last few minutes of the final. “I guess I taught Maria well,” chuckled Ana, when they announced the results.
Matt Nota. Photo: Lisa Haase.
Maria wasn’t finished yet, as she nearly won her third title of the day, in the toughest division of all, the Open Shortboard. This was a tight final, with ESA South New England All-Star Josh Hedde and Barend trading perfect lefts on the outside point. Both goofy footers were tied on points until Hedde picked off a slightly overhead set wave and made the inside section that bowled up. Maria could not find a matching wave as time ran out, and Josh grabbed the title.
In the Men’s Longboard Final, it was another close call, as James Contreras edged out Matt Nota for the win on a great nose ride at “Mary’s Bar.”
James Contreras. Photo: Lisa Haase.
The last heat went out at dusk and finished in the dark. “I guess we will have to start earlier next year,” said Ferla.
Photo: Lisa Haase.
The next ESA rated contest scheduled is the Annual Northeast Championships, at the Narragansett Town Beach on October 21st. Interested surfers can find out more information by going to the ESA South New England Facebook page.
Final Results of the 6th Annual “Battle of the Beach,” held in perfect waist to shoulder high waves at Matunuck Point on September 23rd, 2017.
Ana Barend. Photo: Lisa Haase.
GROM SHORT FINAL-1.Braydon Bennett
GROM LONG FINAL-1.Noah Gartner
LADIES LONG FINAL-1.Maria Barend
MEN LONG FINAL-1.James Contreras
4.Joe Hedde Jr.
OPEN SHORT FINAL-1.Josh Hedde
5.Joe Hedde Jr.
TWIN FIN FINAL-1.Maria Barend