Principal Photography By Daniel Pullen @danielpullenphotography, Story By Grace Souter

As tropical storm Ophelia fizzled into the north, Board Riders clubs from Wrightsville Beach, the Outer Banks, and Virginia gathered for Mid-Atlantic Qualifier #2, perfectly timed to give Ophelia a proper send-off and take advantage of yet another epic session at the Outer Banks’ Avon Pier.

Competitors arriving early were met with clean chest-to-overhead barrels, wrapping Avon Pier bowls, the earthy aroma of piping hot coffee and freshly baked donuts clinging to the soft autumn breeze. Ophelia’s dying offshore breaths pushed perfectly against the faces of the slowly fading swell, serving up over seven hours of truly incredible surf contest conditions for the Queen Anne’s Revenge Mid-Atlantic showdown. Photo by Jordan Williams

A tight and tense first Mid-Atlantic qualifier last April concluded with Wrightsville Beach atop the leaderboard, Outer Banks in the second spot, and Virginia in third. With 5 months to chew on that defeat, the Outer Banks team showed up Sunday thirsty for redemption and fired up for another shot on their home turf.

Buxton’s Brett Barley surfed in his first Board Riders event and was the Outer Banks’ double whammy for the 30s. Photo by Daniel Pullen

The OBX went on to win each of the first five divisions, with heat totals over 30 points in four of them. By the time the 15 to 19-year-olds hit the water, OBX had amassed a 35.5-point lead over Wrightsville Beach with two divisions left. But the Wrightsville team didn’t back down and put up their strongest performances in the back half of the competition.

With a fresh Easterns’ Jr. Men’s title in hand, Wrightsville Beach’s Matton Bain finished off the team’s 15-19 division with an 8.0 ride. Photo by Daniel Pullen

In a heat that, as announcer Phil Jackson acknowledged, “could have been a CT heat,” Wrightsville socked a 36.02 point punch, headlined by Fletcher Whittle’s massive 8.93 point double whammy.

If the trajectory of Fletcher Whittle’s surfing continues, MC Travis Ajay is going to be kicking himself someday for not biting on a for charity $500 custom FW board. The 15-year-old Wrightsville Beach phenom keeps turning heads on boards he hand-crafts for himself and keeps compiling amateur wins on. Photo by Daniel Pullen

In the final heat of the day, Wrightsville Beach’s 30s group closed the gap a little bit more, with a huge 35.28 total, edging out Virginia’s strongest division. Despite some incredible standout performances from surfers on all three teams throughout the day, the Outer Banks Boardriders came out on top with a whopping 218.16 total.

Virginia’s Lucas Rogers tears up a left during the 30s division. Photo by Daniel Pullen

Wrightsville Beach posted a strong 191.69 and  Virginia came in third with 154.83. Scheduling conflicts prevented some of Virginia’s strongest competitors from attending. Despite the handicap, Virginia still came close to or exceeded the 30-point mark in the 30s, 40s, and 50s divisions.

Michael Powell and his younger brother Ben led off the 30s division for Wrightsville Beach. Their dad Mike, who attended almost every NSSA and ESA contest when the boys were teenagers, made the trip to Avon to watch his grown sons compete. Photo by Daniel Pullen

Borte’s sentiments echo the overall mission of the boardriders organization. Through surfing, water safety education, beach clean-ups, and team functions, the Boardriders aim to have a positive impact on their communities.

Virginia Beach legend, team captain and East Coast Surfing Hall Of Famer, Jason Borte ( far left ) took the performance in stride and leaned into the success of the team’s overall mission. “As nice as it will be when we put it together and win one of these, I most look forward to the events to bring several generations together under a common cause. So many older surfers helped me along the way, and I enjoy doing the same for our groms”. Photo by Daniel Pullen

Wrightsville’s team captain Ben Bourgeois reflected on the opportunity to connect with the surfing community. “I look forward to seeing old friends that I used to compete with and I love to watch the younger kids surf. I wish the events were two days long and we had more time to catch up!”

Longtime working pro and top US Shredder Michael Dunphy helped lead his Virginia’s 30s division to a 31.97 heat total. Photo by Daniel Pullen

While the victory felt good for the Outer Banks team, the overall vibe of the day was gratitude, pride, and community. Per Jackson, “A surf contest is a great way to bring people together and one of the best ways to meet new friends.

Granger Clark signals for a teammate to double-whammy his wave for Virginia. Photo by Daniel Pullen

 The best part for me is seeing so many families from all over the globe get together just to hang out and get to know each other. Surfing is about community and we don’t ever want to forget that.”

Borte sees Boardriders as a way to give back to the sport. ”I’m hoping our club can provide surfing opportunities for kids who normally wouldn’t get the chance. I want our guys to realize how incredibly lucky they are, and to share it with those less fortunate.”

Will Forrest from the Outer Banks started off the 15-19 division with a 5.83. Photo by Daniel Pullen

The third and final Mid-Atlantic qualifier will be held in Wrightsville Beach later this fall. The overall season winner will represent the Mid-Atlantic region at the U.S. Board Riders Championships at Trestles next Spring. – Grace Souter –

Virginia’s Camden Hoover with a strong frontside turn in the Women’s division. Photo by Daniel Pullen

In the future, Bourgeois would like to see the Board Riders evolve into something more than a contest a few times per year. “In five years I would like to see our club having more events close to home on the weekends and a bigger budget for a surf trip out of the country to surf better waves. I’m happy with slowly building it up just like we have. Grassroots style all the way!” Photo by Daniel Pullen

Jonathan Mincher with a solid ride in the 30s division for Wrightsville Beach. At the inaugural Mid-Atlantic qualifier last September, Minch said that it was the first time he put on a jersey in 15 years. Photo by Daniel Pullen

In the first heat, the 20s Division, Bo Raynor set the tone for a day of Outer Banks dominance by getting spit out of a right-hand tube and stomping a huge frontside lipline for a 9.5 double whammy, the highest score of the day. Photo by Daniel Pullen

Masen Barley with a 6.5 in the 14 & Under division for the Outer Banks. Photo by Daniel Pullen

With a tagline of “The future is local,” it’s only fitting that all three team MPVs were groms: Wrightsville’s Fletcher Whittle, Virginia’s Story Martinez, and Annie Peters (pictured with trophy) of the Outer Banks. Photo by MABR

Outer Banks’ Jesse Hines whammied an 8.67 for a 17.34 wave score in the 40s division. Photo by Daniel Pullen

Collectively, the Mid-Atlantic Board Riders teams expressed gratitude to their sponsors: “A huge thank you to our event sponsors, without whom these events could not be possible. Thank you to Red Bull and Fat Tire, and an especially appreciative shout-out goes to WRV Surf Shop and 17th Street Surf Shop, who came together and embraced the spirit of our U.S. Board Riders community to support our endeavors. We couldn’t have done it without your support.” Photo by Jordan Williams