The winner never had competed before, and the second-place finisher really is a skateboard expert. But what do you expect when surfing competition is held in a pool at an amusement park?
Winner Scott Gregory described it as being "like surfing a storm," and that's just what the competition in the Capital Area Amateur Athletic Union Games was like yesterday at Wild World Amusement Park.
Rain was pouring as 16 local surfers showed up at 7 a.m. to try their luck on computerized waves. By the time it was down to the two finalists at 11, the storm had ended but there was another problem: the man-made waves, produced by eight 60-horsepower fans, were inexplicably much smaller, hardly resembling competitors' ideals of Hawaiian surf.
"It's hard -- it's real small and real slow waves," said Gregory, 22.
The surfing competition was one of 24 events scheduled for the two-day Capital Games. The competition marked the first time the Wild World pool has been used for surfing, and experience hardly was the key. Gregory has surfed for only three years and said he had not competed before.
The highest-ranked surfer in the event, Bruce Gabrielson, 39, an experienced West Coast surfer who now lives in this area, placed third in the U.S. masters championships in 1979. Yesterday, he came in third, behind Gregory and Eric Thomas, 19, of Largo.
Thomas, 5 feet 6 and 130 pounds, credited his good showing to his light weight, especially helpful with such slow, late-breaking waves. Thomas, a member of the Black Eastern Surfing Association, is a skateboard competitor.
Each surfer had 10 minutes to ride as many waves as possible. The highest scorers not only caught more waves but also performed certain tricks on the board.
The pool water was difficult to surf in because it was shallow and it was less buoyant than saltwater.
But there were some pluses.
With preprogrammed wave synchronization and the cement floor, waves were consistent. "It was different to have freshwater instead of saltwater," Gregory said. "You don't have to worry about jellyfish."
In another event, two-time national masters sombo wrestling champion Josh Henson, from Falls Church, won the 149.5-pound divisions of Greco-Roman and sombo wrestling. Today's events include basketball, tennis, and a boxing training session, all at Prince George's Community College.