Easterns History

1967: ESA officially forms when NJ’s Cecil Lear, CT’s Rudy Huber and USSA Director Hoppy Swartz of CA organize the loose bands of contest organizers into a single association, placing seven districts from New England to Alabama. Gary Propper named champ based on prior results.

1968: ESA’s first competitive season. After six contests – Wrightsville Beach, NC, Newport, RI, Gilgo Beach, NY, Seaside Heights, NJ, Virginia Beach, VA, and Cocoa Beach, FL – Joe Roland and Janice Domorski are named champions based on accumulated points.

1969: Claude Codgen and Barbara Bellyea emerge victorious in a carbon copy of ’68’s contest circuit.

1970: First The Easterns® at Hatteras is denied by the National Park Service. The event runs in Cocoa Beach where for the only time in ESA history no champions are crowned due to lack of surf.

1971: Park service greenlights The Easterns® just three weeks before the contest. Charley Baldwin and Linda Davoli are the first champions crowned in Hatteras, beginning a 30-year-plus tradition.

1972: Davoli takes her second crown and Carmen Irving beats Men’s favorites Jeff Crawford, Dick Catri, Mike Tabeling and Greg Loehr; first year with ESA patron saint Colin ‘Doc’ Couture as executive director.

1973: NY’s Mike “Oppy” Oppenheimer steals the championship from Greg Loehr in a tube-laden final courtesy of Tropical Storm Christine. Tony Bryant wins the Women’s title. Competitor Marc Rhodes immediately bolts event for U.S. Champs in Malibu – makes the trip in only 48 hours.

1974: Blown conditions move the contest south to Frisco before coming back to the Lighthouse where Greg Loehr takes down Jim Cartland in flawless conditions. The ESA is now considered the most efficient surfing organization in the world.

1975: Hurricane Doris pumps overhead peaks toward the Lighthouse. More than 250 competitors watch Oppenheimer become the first two-time The Easterns® champ in much worse conditions. Brenda Vendeventer wins Women’s.

1976: Annette Frasure and Joe Grottola work their way through crap waves and heat postponements to win Women and Junior Men, respectively. NY’s Ricky Rasmussen wins the Men’s title and Surfing’s “Best Tube Ride” award over Barry Wolfe. ESA standout Jeff Crawford finishes in the top-16 of the burgeoning International Pro Surfing circuit.

1977: Maury McCoy out-feuds Mike Grassley for the Men’s title while Mary Ann Hayes wins Women’s; two-time The Easterns champion Linda Davoli goes pro and finishes fifth in the world.

1978: Maury McCoy and Mary Ann Hayes are the first dual, back-to-back The Easterns champs; future star Wes Laine steals the Juniors.

1979: Hurricane David joins David Nuckles to nab the Men’s crown as Susan Hogan grabs Women’s; Greg Loehr wins the Lacanau Pro, the first East Coast pro victory on foreign soil.

1980: Bill Curry becomes NC’s first Men’s champion as Adele Faba wins the first of two Women’s titles.

1981: Jimbo Samson takes the Men’s; Matt Kechele and fellow ESA product Pat Mulhern signal the age of money surfing, finishing first and second at the star-studded Stubbies Pro.

1982: Future heroes Charlie Kuhn and Rich Rudolph win Men’s and Juniors, respectively, two-time U.S. Champion Sharon Wolfe takes the Women’s crown and a young Kelly Slater marks his first of four Menehune mantles.

1983: With the Women’s division split in two, Christel Roever takes the first of three Junior Women’s titles as Charlie Hajek becomes Men’s champion. Wes Laine enjoys his first year as an ASP top-16 standard.

1984: The Park Service refuses access to the Lighthouse forcing the contest north of Buxton and, for the first time, competitors earn a lot at The Easterns® through regional events. Still, 450 surfers compete with Rudolph winning Men’s while Bill Johnson earns the Junior Men’s title. Frieda Zamba nails the first of four world championships.

1985: With the aid of Bob Holland, Sr. the event returns to the Lighthouse in ’85. Labeled the Barrels of Fun Championships, Bill Johnson repeats his Men’s victory in classic Hatteras 4- to 6-foot barrels while Sean Mattison follows up in Juniors. Charlie Kuhn makes his ASP top-16 debut.

1986: The first of many star-studded events: Menehune champion is VB’s Drew Todd; Jr. Men’s winner is Sean Slater, Bill Johnson takes Men’s; Lisa Carulli claims Junior Women’s, and Boys winner Kelly Slater is now a five-time East Coast champ, and a two-time U.S. Boys champ. ESA vet Bruce Walker coaches Kelly and Sean Slater, Christel Roever, Tom Kirk, Lisa Andersen and others to victory at the World Games in Newquay, England.

1987: The Easterns®’ 20th anniversary sees all-time competition as Shea Lopez wins Menehune, Kelly Slater takes Boys for his sixth Easterns® crown and Justin Carver denies Sean Slater the Junior Men’s trophy. Chris Makris is Men’s champion and Randi Borrack rips Junior Women. Surfing Magazine gives Kelly Slater his first cover shot at 15 years old.

1988: The Great Lakes’ first The Easterns® appearance via Menehune competitor Tanner Williams and father/judge Larry Williams. Scott Bouchard bags the Men’s crown, Terri Tanner takes Junior Women and Danny Melhado wins Junior Men.

1989: Champs signal the oncoming youth movement: Cory Lopez (Menehune), Shea Lopez (Boys), Danny Melhado (Junior Men), Justin Carver (Men), Randi Borrack (Junior Women) and Falina Spires (Girls). Doc Couture sadly makes his last visit to Hatteras. Future Executive Director Kathy Phillips serves as the contest director.

1990: Paul “Rhino” Reinecke rules the Men’s division, Shea Lopez steps into the Junior Men’s crown and Gina Geiselman tops the Junior Women. The Op Pro in Huntington Beach gets ambushed by ESA products Todd Holland (Men’s Champion) Frieda Zamba (Women’s Champion) and Danny Melhado (Junior Champion).

1991: Future world champ CJ Hobgood tastes victory in Menehunes, Peter Mendia snatches the Junior Men’s crown, Eddie Crawford wins the Men’s division and Carmel Tanner takes Junior Women.

1992: Consistent, 2- to 4-footers peel across the first groin to commemorate The 25th Annual Easterns® where Damien Hobgood steals Menehune honors, Reid Cox earns the Jr. Men’s mantle, John Schmidt wins Men’s, and Patti McDonald-Craft claims Junior Women. ESA celebrates as world champ Kelly Slater fulfills his destiny – and mourns the loss of matriarch Bette Marsh.

1993: Three weeks before opening day, Hurricane Emily obliterates Buxton, leaving 600 families homeless, but Competition Director Paul West pulls off a difficult first The Easterns® with incredible success. Contest moves to Salvo where organizers raise $2,145 for to the Cape Hatteras High School and competitors help repair roofs between heats. Likewise, the competitors shine with Ben Bourgeois winning Boys, Cam Anderson taking the first of Junior Men’s titles, Dawn Ahlert acing Junior Women’s and Chad Hopkins becomes Ocean City, MD’s first Men’s champ. The year finishes tragically when former Gulf Coast-competitor-turned-big-wave-rider Mark Foo dies at Maverick’s.

1994: After a long drought, NJ’s wins two titles – Matt Keenan in Men’s title and George Gerlach in Legends. NC’s Mindy Ballou wins her first of two Junior Women crowns. Lisa Andersen snags one of four ASP world titles.

1995: World champ Kelly Slater returns to a king’s welcome as swell pours in from Hurricane Luis. Asher Nolan nails the Jr. Men’s final over future title threats Asher Nolan, Ben Bourgeois, Frank Walsh, CJ Hobgood, Sam Hammer and Damien Hobgood, while Brian Hewitson pushes past Jeremy Saukel for the Men’s title. The ESA pro surfer conveyor belt is now in full swing as Shea Lopez makes the WCT.

1996: Surfing Editor Nick Carroll travels East to provide the biggest The Easterns® coverage to date as Kyle McCarthy and Jennifer Pulaski take the Men’s and Women’s crowns, respectively. Junior Men’s winner Ben Bourgeois also helps lead the Hobgoods, Hewitson, Saukel, Kyle McCarthy, Eric Thomas, Craig Carroll and other U.S. Teamers toward World Games gold under the coaching tutelage of ESA vets Bruce Walker and Kevin Grondin, and Sean Slater. NJ gets it’s first ‘CT surfer – Dean Randazzo.

1997: Asher Nolan braves Hurricane Erika-induced waves and rain to take the Men’s title, followed by St. Augustine’s Gabe Kling in Jr. Men’s, as Junior Women’s victor Tammy Kennedy confirms Southern NC as the new epicenter of female talent.

1998: Gabe Kling seals his second Junior Men’s title and earns a wildcard slot into the Rip Curl Pro at Sunset, along with Men’s winner Eric Hatton, before a record 500 competitors. Erin Hazelroth steals Junior Women’s. Troy Hoffheimer wins the first Surfing Airshow. Kelly Slater rewrites the record books again with a sixth world title.

1999: Local Jimmy Blumenfeld wins the Men’s before Cat-5 Hurricane Floyd postpones The Easterns® for the first time in 32 years. Come October, NC’s Sarah Willis upsets Jamie Dewitt in Girls, and fellow tarheel MJ Marsh masters Jonathon Flick in the Junior Men’s. Florida answers via Junior Women’s champ Kelly Hutchinson and airshow winner Robbie Blevins. Cory Lopez immortalizes Teahupo’o with a single tube ride.

2000: It’s a year of changes as The Easterns® doesn’t make it to Buxton and the recently moved Lighthouse now lives a few hundred yards south and inland. In front of a banner-laden Avon pier, NC Junior Richard Gilligan falls to Florida’s Gary Wheeler. David Awbrey, Jr. wins the Boys, Menehune Longboard, and Opens for a grand slam (while dad takes the Senior Men’s crown). Jeff Crego is the Men’s winner while J. Lee Driskell drilled the Junior Women’s crown. Damien Hobgood follows his brother on to the WCT.

2001: The millennium’s first The Easterns holds the future. East Coast terror Eric Taylor wins five consecutive heats to go pro with a fourth The Easterns® title and Florida’s power base moves north with Jax wins by Jason Venn in Men’s and Eric Rheaume wins Boys, plus a Smyrna title for Menehune Eric Geiselman. Sarah Willis wins her first year in Junior Women. And CJ Hobgood earns a 15 title for the East Coast, proving there’s no signs of ESA talent tapering for at least another 35 years.