By ALEX SPONSELLER Like most other sports, surfing had a wild ride in 2020. Local surfer Chris Herbert was looking forward to another season of action in 2020, but things got turned upside down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in the spring. As
By ALEX SPONSELLER Like most other sports, surfing had a wild ride in 2020.
Local surfer Chris Herbert was looking forward to another season of action in 2020, but things got turned upside down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in the spring.
As Herbert began preparing for the annual Northeast Regional Championships in New Jersey, which is the qualifying event for the Eastern Surfing Association’s Eastern Finals competition, things took a turn for the worse and the regionals were cancelled.
Despite the cancellation, the ESA would maintain its schedule the rest of the way and made some adjustments in the qualifying process, and Herbert hopped on his board and made the most of it as he qualified for nationals for the third straight year.
“The restrictions and pandemic started during my training period for the Northeast Regionals. I wasn’t able to get out and surf as much as I would like and they eventually had to cancel the regional events. Summer came and we were able to resume our local Southern New England district contests,” said Herbert, who then had to qualify in a new way. “They would go back to each surfer's local district results and allow entry based on highest finishers and larger districts. It’s all based on membership numbers. Totally fair, but makes it hard for us to compete for one or two slots. Luckily I qualified.”
Herbert was coming off of his best performance ever last year, as he qualified for four different events and reached the finals in the stand up paddleboard competition.
He competed in the same four events this time around - stand up paddleboard, bodyboard, longboard and shortboard - and enjoyed an even more successful outing. He reached the finals in the shortboard event with a third-place performance which was his highest ever, and also reached the finals in the stand up paddleboard competition and placed fifth overall. He went on to the semifinals for the other two events as well.
Herbert was proud of his performance, especially considering the tough weather conditions that he and others faced throughout the week in North Carolina.
“Every year it seems a hurricane is offshore causing some swell and action in time for the event. Wave forecasts were predicting all-time conditions all week long. I was scheduled to surf that Sunday morning but it was postponed due to high winds. They couldn’t even set up the scaffolding needed to accurately judge. Monday and Tuesday were also called off due to weather. So each morning I would have to wake up and check the surf and look for any updates on the schedule. Finally it would start Wednesday morning. This is a six-day contest and they had to hustle to get it all in,” said Herbert. “I was met Wednesday morning with 10-foot waves and an ocean that looked more like a washing machine. I just stayed calm and paddled out. Shortboard and longboard were both held Wednesday. I saw many boards and leashes break from the massive waves.”
Despite the circumstances both in and out of the water, Herbert was excited to get another season of competition in and looks forward to an even better 2021.
“This year I made it to two finals and two semifinals. Great improvement and great to see a reward for all the hard work and dedication throughout the year-long, grueling qualification process. The endurance and cardio needed to pull it off almost broke me, but I came through,” said Herbert. “A lot of people didn’t get to make the trip so I had to push myself and give it my all. There is never a guarantee to qualify again. Overall it was a good experience. I think the Eastern Surfing Association did a great job putting on the event and sticking to guidelines.”