Surfin' F-L-A

A group of intrepid wahines is trying to take charge of its sport

She halted at a double page of surf photos. The friends commented on them one by one:

Layne Beachley: "She rips." "She's awesome." "Oh, I like her." "She's just insane."

Rochelle Ballard: "She's just awesome in Blue Crush." "I just watched that last night." "Blue Crush is awesome."

Clockwise from left: Kristy Murphy, Lauren Hill, and Jenni Flanigan cut up at the Queen of the Peak contest for the amusement of Lauren's mom, Megan (in sunglasses); world surfing pro Falina Spires earned second place in shortboard and fourth in longboard at the Queen of the Peak; Parya Jatala applies wax before hitting the water
Clockwise from left: Kristy Murphy, Lauren Hill, and Jenni Flanigan cut up at the Queen of the Peak contest for the amusement of Lauren's mom, Megan (in sunglasses); world surfing pro Falina Spires earned second place in shortboard and fourth in longboard at the Queen of the Peak; Parya Jatala applies wax before hitting the water
Top: Parya Jatala and Jenni Flanigan hope to convert their surfing addiction into money. Bottom: Parya slices through the surf on her shortboard.
Top: Parya Jatala and Jenni Flanigan hope to convert their surfing addiction into money. Bottom: Parya slices through the surf on her shortboard.

They made a wall of sound, a kinetic whir of nonstop talk. Taken in bits, their patter seemed trivial, but as they piled on adjectives and affirmatives, they created an electric hum, flipping through subjects in a way reminiscent of early films, still photos riffling to form a moving picture.

Kristy tossed the magazine to the ground when the song "Shine" by Collective Soul blared from 101.1's loudspeakers. She played air guitar and sang, "Love is in the water, love is in the air/Show me where to go/Tell me will love be there." Lauren grabbed the sleeve of Kristy's wet suit for a microphone and both sang at the top of their lungs along with the chorus, "Oh heaven, let your light shine on."

"Now that's real entertainment," one of the DJ's quipped from the loudspeakers as the song finished.


Finally, late in the afternoon, Joslin calls Lauren for the first longboard heat -- under-35 amateurs. The 16-year-old has been making a name for herself as a pro-am surfer, racking up impressive victories and garnering the attention of surfing companies looking for girls to sponsor. With her tall, slim physique and waist-length thick blond hair, she has also attracted the attention of a few overzealous fans. Earlier in the day, one of them handed Lauren a book about the Beatles (he knew she liked the band) with a candid photograph of Lauren in street clothes tucked inside. "It gives me the creeps," said her mother, Megan.

A few minutes later, on a wave, Lauren shows a precise, contemplative style. As she stands hunched over on the board in a bright orange jersey, you can see her mind calculating what is happening with a wave before she gracefully scampers into position to ride it. Her board moves smoothly rather than sharply in the water, sweeping into the wave. Jenni, Kristy, and Megan watch from the shoreline as Lauren catches ride after ride, clearly outsurfing and outmaneuvering the competition.

Toward the end of the heat, while Lauren straddles her surfboard awaiting a final wave, Joslin notices a large mass darkening the water about 100 feet from shore. He tells the crowd it is a 30-foot whale. As the spectators look on, the giant creature rolls, becoming a huge gray hump as it breaches the surface.

"Oh my god," Kristy says as she watches the whale repeat the maneuver. "Dude, I want to go," she says to Jenni. "Let's go out there. Whales are so cool."

The friends remain glued to the sand, though, tracking the whale as it moves between two fishing boats. Ever-positive, Kristy takes it as a confirmation. "This is wonderful!" she says. "Do you know what a good sign that is?"

But the whale wasn't an omen of how Kristy would fare in the contest. In the last heat of the day on that first day of the two-day event, Kristy's main competitor was her friend Falina Spires, an Ormond Beach surfer currently on the world pro tour. Falina, who ranked 26th last year, is a short girl who uses her low center of gravity to glue herself to a board. In the Queen of the Peak, she dressed like a refugee from the '80s grunge scene -- a multicolored knit stocking cap on her windblown dark-brown hair and a gray hooded sweatshirt pulled up over the stocking cap. Falina competed in both the shortboard and longboard competitions that day, using the old longboard she surfed on while growing up.

As Kristy and Falina waited for their turns, the surf began forming some nice peaks. It was so inviting that they stripped down to their wet suits and took to the water just north of the contest, almost missing the announcer's call.

Once the horn blew for their heat, they paddled out together. Falina caught a wave first. She crouched low on the longboard and rode it tight to the wave, speeding like a warrior. A short time later, Kristy caught a left-break and played it with a more graceful action, getting inside the lip of the break, twisting the surfboard into the wave to ride it close, then moving out over the foam to ride the top as the wave closed out.

Surfers are judged on the style of their maneuvers, the length of their rides, and the way they respond to the wave with the board. Watching onshore, Lauren and Jenni were sure Kristy had placed either first or second in that first heat, thereby guaranteeing her a spot in the second round the following day.

At the end of the day, the judges had Kristy in second place behind Falina. But by the next morning, the organizers had changed their minds. The contest's format required surfers to indicate which wave they wanted scored, and Kristy had neglected to call her best ride. She was in third place and out of the competition. Kristy questioned the change and was told her scores had been tabulated incorrectly. "I don't know how that could happen, since we were only scored on one ride," she says. "What was there to tabulate?"

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