Round 5 of the IFWA World Championships was recently held in the beautiful little beach town of Pacific City Oregon. This event, known as Blowsion’s Surf Slam, is one that has yet to disappoint. For the eighth consecutive year, riders from all over the world came together for an epic show of athleticism on the pristine beaches of Tierra Del Mar beach. The weather was by far the best anyone can remember and the surf was big and gnarly, just as we have come to expect in the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Oregon. There were 3 classes in the tournament style, head to head competition along with the Salty Investments Blowsion big air contest. The tournament competition classes consisted of Rookies, Amateurs and Pros with the big air contest open to all that wanted to give it a go.
To get things started, Friday consisted of registration and pre qualifying rounds. Qualifying rounds went on for the whole day to seat everyone for the tournament that would continue the next day. The beach vibes were good all day and everyone was enjoying getting caught up with their freeride family. The turnout on Friday was also Huge with people lining the beach as far as the eye could see and hundreds of riders lining the beach to give the big surf a try outside of the competition area. The sunset on Friday was the most incredible sunset of the weekend with a yellow orange color array surrounding the sun over the ocean and zero clouds in the sky. It was an amazing cap to a great day.
Saturday began with the Rookie and Amateur Round 2, consisting of six head-to-head heats at 6 minutes each. Pro Freeride Round 1 was up next, followed by the freeride LCQ where we even saw two brothers, Brandon and Randy Lawlor, battle it out in one of the heats. After a short lunch break the riders were back out on the water for the 1/8 finals made up of 5 heats. This would bring us to the quarter finals that would be run the final day along with the big air showdown.
To cap of the day, in the early evening was the John Dady Tribute where riders as well as spectators and supporters of the event were given a chance to share their memories of Johnny via open mic. There was a lot of love shared about experiences and memories of John and hardly a dry eye on the beach. Once the open mic was finished On Course Event Director Carol Anne Justina gathered everyone and brought them down to the water’s edge to form a large circle and join hands. More kind words were spoken and our locked hands were raised toward the sky. We then proceeded as a group to the water’s edge to throw flowers into the breaking surf.
All of this was then followed by a jet ski paddle out. A hundred-plus stand ups rode out past the breaking waves to form a big circle where wreaths made of hopps were released into the center of the circle of riders and the riders began to splash and cheer in the water as to honor our fallen friend. In the surfing world there is no greater honor that you can give to a fallen friend than a memorial paddle out. It was only fitting to honor John Dady who unexpectedly passed away last month. Many described the experience as being emotional and almost surreal. His presence was felt throughout the beach that evening.
Sunday began with the Pro Quarter Finals consisting of four heats of 6 minutes, followed by the Rookie and Amateur Semi Finals made up of eight heats of 5 minutes each. Next was the Pro Semi Finals consisting of two heats of 8 minutes each followed by a lunch break. After lunch, all the final scores were tallied and the final rounds of competition decided in each respective class.
In the Rookie class it was Nick (Salty) Stipanovich pinned against Dustin Erickson for 3rd and 4th place, and the final it would be Balie Jones out Crescent City CA, up against Aaron Milstien of Oregon. Bailee and Aaron both were showing great surf riding skills with some reentries sprinkled in but about half-way through the round, her steering cable snapped. This took a lot of time out of her heat as a replacement ski from Pete McAfee was being brought out. She again had a mechanical issue which ended her heat. Meanwhile, during Bailee’s mechanical issues, Aaron was running a solid heat, tearing up the faces of the big waves that were firing all day. Making the podium for Rookie Class was Dustin Erickson in 4th place, Salty Stipanovich in third, Bailee Jones in second and in first place, Aaron Milstein.
The Amateur Class saw some really great competition and solid riding all day but the final heats had Oregonians Anthony Anderson up against Collin McLaughlin (Senci Sci). These two battled it out for 3rd and 4th place, both going huge and ripping throughout their heat. The final heat in the Amateur class ended up being TC Freeride team rider, Sean Star up against a fellow Californian, Bryan Bairassa. Both of these riders have exploded onto the freeride scene over the last 18 months and clearly are on their way to competing at the Pro level. Brian and Sean both were sending it to the moon with their own unique style and some great surf riding but ultimately the win would go the Sean. Amateur Class’ final standings were Collin McLaughlin (Scenci Sci) in 4th, Anthony Anderson in 3rd, Bryan Bairassa in second, and Sean Starr taking home the gold.
The Pro Class Finals would go down with Blowsion freerider and Oregon native “Air Darrin” Anderson up against new-to-the-Pro scene rider out of New York, Tom Scaccianoce. These two riders are both known for there big aerials so this was a heat full of bangers! Big aerials were coming consistently out of both riders but it was Darrin’s surf riding on a modified SuperJet that pulled out the win giving him podium finish for the contest.
The final heat was none other than 2015 World Champion, Mark Gomez out of Fullerton, CA riding against his TC Freeride teammate Abraham Hochstrasser. These two have been battling back and forth for the last two years on the IFWA tour and this final heat would be one more showdown. Conditions were big with not many separations so timing was everything. Both riders broke out all of the big tricks to try and best one another. Gomez, with what now are becoming his signature Superflips toward the end of the heat, and Abraham busting out his huge flips and 360 airs.
This was not a heat that anyone would have wanted to judge because both riders really put down a solid performance in both surf and air. All the finals were announced at the awards so no one really knew who was to be crowned the victor of Surf Slam until then. It was too close to call. When the announcement was made, the crowd erupted along with all of Abraham’s teammates (including Mark) in congratulatory applause for Abraham and all of his hardwork and stellar riding. Abraham has stepped up his game and his amplitude. It certainly showed at this year’s Surf Slam as he also won the Salty Dog Big Air Showdown with a monster backflip.
Congratulations to all of the competitors and a big thank you to all of the sponsors that supported this year’s Blowsion Surf Slam and made it possible in Johnny’s absence. Another special thanks goes out to the IFWA and staff, the freeride family, On Course Events and their team and to all of the Blowsion staff who stepped up and made this year’s Surf Slam one of the most memorable weekends that many people will ever experience in their lifetime. Cheers to you!