By JIM RUTENBERG ~ The New York Times ~ SPORTS
The teenager from Long Island was so comfortably gliding through the barreling waves of G-Land, the storied Indonesian surf break, promoters on hand from Quiksilver came to a realization: there must be waves — real, contest-worthy, maybe even tubing waves — just beyond the flat, gritty concrete jungle of the big city.
Surfing New York’s Shores & Surf Stars of New York
The talent of Long Island surfers like Balaram Stack helped persuade Quiksilver to sponsor an Association of Surfing Professionals event in Long Beach, with a record purse of $1 million. More Photos »
“He was riding the barrel so well, and we were like, ‘How did this kid get so good coming from New York?’ ” said Rod Brooks, Quiksilver’s director of contests, referring to the surf prodigy Balaram Stack. Describing the scene that day last year when Stack and other young surfers were attacking the surf for a video shoot, he added, “Everybody was pretty impressed.”
And so began Quiksilver’s unlikely quest to stage one of the riskier gambits of modern professional surfing history, a full-on, world tour contest in the waters of New York — an incongruous stop on an annual surf odyssey that otherwise includes breaks of world renown along the Gold Coast of Australia, at Teahupoo in Tahiti and at Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii.
That contest starts Sunday off Long Beach, N.Y., Stack’s hometown, under the auspices of the Association of Surfing Professionals, and with Quiksilver as its main sponsor. It is one of 11 competitions that determine this year’s world champion.
The top professionals in the world, including the reigning champion, Kelly Slater, and his leading challengers, Joel Parkinson and Jordy Smith, will be competing not only for their place in the standings but also for a record $1 million purse. Thrown into the mix will be Stack, 19, and two other Long Islanders trying to win a wild-card entry during Sunday’s trials: Leif Engstrom, 23, of Montauk, and T. J. Gumiela, 21, of Long Beach.
Set to take place during a nearly two-week window, the contest is a major coming-out for the burgeoning New York surf scene after years of being the butt of jokes like, “Where do you surf, the Sound?” The Long Beach-based surfers Mike Nelson and Dave Juan, who have taken a lead role in nurturing local talent, heard that one so many times that they named their surf shop UnSound when it opened in 1997, Juan said.