Owen Wright, 21, wins the Quiksilver Pro NYC. Photo by Kristin/ASP.

It was a first for New York City to have its very own 6-star Association of Surfing Professional (ASP) event held in Long Beach, NY last week, and it’ll go down in history as the first surfing event with a $1 million purse.

While there was speculation about the World Dream Tour coming through Long Beach, a location that is not necessarily known for its picturesque surf scene like Teahupo’o two weeks previous, it marks a change in direction for surfing competitions to actually be in locations where people can attend. Similar to the U.S. Open in Hungtington Beach, CA held each summer, and now sponsored by Nike, this was an opportunity for the kingpin of surfing, Quiksilver, to have their own big-audience event on the mainland -and to top it, the largest purse in history.

Of course, if there was a women’s competition at Long Beach too, that would be made the event more glorious, but that’s another story.

Crowd at Long Beach, NY–reached 100,000 over the course of the event. Photo by Kristin/ASP.

The area clearly had its challenges, coming days after Hurricane Irene struck the east coast. It forced the event to cancel its “festival” music portion as Long Beach was still trying to unbury itself from the storm.

Then came new swells from Hurricane Katia creeping up the coast -which can be great news for surfers, but sucks for locals. Still, some 100,000 fans from New York came out to see top surfers compete over the week and it was interesting to see the dramatic changes in styles this wave demanded compared to the competition 2 weeks ago in Tahiti and the thick , legendary big wave of Teahupo’o. In Long Beach, the surfing styles were back to looking like skateboarding tricks with loads of aerials -which is where surfing is heading when it comes to small to medium waves.

10-Time World Champion Kelly Slater is probably the most versatile when it comes to having to change up surf styles based on the location. However, it was 21-year-old Aussie, Owen Wright, that took the lead and $300,000 oversized check for the win, and Slater in second.

Slater does a huge aerial. Photo by Rowland/ASP.

Here’s more from the event:

The Quiksilver Pro New York Final marked a rematch between the pair from the previous stop on the ASP World Title Series in Tahiti. But today belonged to Wright and the monumental nature of the moment was not lost on the New York crowd who passionately rooted on a kid they’d never heard of before this week.
Wright wasted no time in the Final, belting a 7.00, a 9.23, and an 8.00 in the opening minutes of the heat against Slater with a savage forehand attack on the clean left-hand walls. Slater never made it off the ropes, unable to tap back into the brilliance that blinded opponents Josh Kerr (Australia) and Taj Burrow (Australia) in his quarter- and semi-final heats – heats that were worthy of being finals in themselves.

As the clock counted down, Slater made one last push, throwing everything he had into a last ditch effort that ended in a broken board.

“Firstly all my friends and family came to mind,” said Wright. “I’m just as stoked as they are. It just overwhelmed me thinking of them.

“The conditions were perfect for me. I knew I’d do everything I could to get to the final with Kelly and I knew he’d be there anyway. Once I got the final I went, no, this is payback for last week! But I’ve watched Kelly my whole life. He’s been a huge inspiration to me.

“I walked for six hours one day in the city just looking around. I’ve seen nothing like it before. I went to the top of the Empire State building and looked down and I was thinking Central Park was just some small park, but it’s like central forest! It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen. But that’s just New York. Everything’s huge. Huge prize money, hell trophy and perfect surf.”

Owen and Kelly on the podium at the inaugural Quiksilver Pro NYC. Photo by Rowland/ASP.

“Owen’s first win – this is going to be a memory for his whole life and I’m stoked to be in that final with him. I’m a hundred per cent confident that he’s going to at least one world title. He’s basically still a rookie and in my opinion he’s probably the most well-rounded guy on tour.

“I felt off from wave one. I took off on the first wave and just misread it.”

On his heat with Taj: “It’s funny, because I get nervous until somebody gets a good ride and then I know what I need to do. I almost enjoy it more when somebody gets a big score because it brings you to a level. It opens the flood-gates for you.”

In his semi-final heat against Burrow, Slater was in need of a near-perfect ride in the dying minutes. Of course, he rose to the occasion like no-one else could, launching the event’s only perfect 10-point ride with a gigantic frontside full-rotation slob grab on a closeout section. It was a hard defeat for Burrow, who had the crowd in his corner with a ballistic display of both tail-busting power turns and sky-scraper aerials.

“Even with my 9 and a 7.8, I still didn’t feel safe because Kelly’s capable of (a perfect 10) and he did it,” said Burrow. “He tried lots of wild airs and the wind wasn’t cooperating with him… and I was like, I hope he doesn’t stick one of these things. But sure enough, he gets a big wedge and I let him have it. It looked too big and dumpy. But he did the best air of his life! I don’t know how he does it. It won’t even do it justice explaining how freakish that actually is, what he just did. That’s the best air he’s ever done in his life and he did it when he needed, with a minute to go, and it had to be against me. It hurts. It’s awful.”

Alejo Muniz (BRA), 22, currently competing in his rookie year on the ASP World Title Series, was in impressive form throughout the entirety of Quiksilver Pro New York competition, but was unable to trump Wright in their Semifinals heat. Muniz’s equal 3rd place finish marks his career-best result.

“This is the best result of my career,” Muniz said. “The waves have been really fun and I’ve just been focusing on working through my heats. This is my first time to New York and I have had a great trip. I’m very excited to move to the next event. Thanks to all the people here who have been so nice.”