Worley, Watson claim top surfing honors

Eric Worley (left) and Haley Watson both won their respective divisions at the ESA Eastern Surfing Championships this week, in North Carolina.
Eric Worley (left) and Haley Watson both won their respective divisions at the ESA Eastern Surfing Championships this week, in North Carolina.
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There is a lot more to surfing than just laying on a board and catching waves.

Just ask Eric Worley and Haley Watson, who each competed at the Eastern Surfing Association Eastern Surfing Championships this week at Jennette’s Pier, in Nags Head, N.C.

The competition, commonly known as the Easterns, features the best surfers from all over the United States' east coast, including the entire Eastern Seaboard, as well as Alabama.

Worley, 32, won the master’s division — male surfers ages 25 to 34.

Watson, 20, defended her title from last year, and is now a two-time Easterns champion for the women’s division — female surfers 18 to 29.

To qualify for Easterns, surfers must win their district and then regional competitions before advancing. Worley was able to win both, but Watson had a free pass to this year’s competition since she won last year.

ESA is the largest amateur surfing association in the world, with a current membership of more than 7,000 surfers. ESA's activities are organized into a total of 26 districts, which extend along nearly 2,000 miles of coastline, from Main through the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama and the Great Lakes.

It also reaches across to the Atlantic, to the Caribbean..

Worley and Watson both live in Flagler Beach. And although both surf practically every day, there is a lot more to the sport than people may think, Watson said.

Watson has been surfing since she was about 13 years old. Two years after starting, she competed in her first Easterns.

“I grew up in Flagler County, and I’ve lived in the same house my entire life. Most of my life is spent at the beach,” she said.

But surfing also has a lot to do with luck.

“Sometimes the waves just come to you and sometimes you won’t get that many waves,” she said. “That’s where practice and experience comes in. If you practice ever yday, you have enough knowledge of how to get in position for the best waves and how to look out on the horizon (to see what waves are developing).”

Worley, who also made it to the quarterfinals of the men’s open division, said this has been a successful surfing year for him.

“This year has been the pinnacle so far,” Worley said Wednesday. “Of my surfing career, this is probably my biggest win.”

Worley moved to Flagler Beach when he was 13. Two years later, he began surfing.

He says that it’s a way for him to take a break from everyday life.

“Whatever is happening in the world, as long as you’re on that wave, nothing else matters at the moment,” Worley said.

Watson agrees.

“It's great exercise, and when you're out in the water, you're not worried about anything except having fun and catching waves,” she said. “And you get to hang out with your friends.”

Later this year, Worley and his wife, Jackie, are expecting their first child — a boy. Worley also recently started his own tile business.

But if things get stressful, he knows he still has an outlet: the sand and the water.

“I’m a competitor, and I’m going to keep surfing,” he said.



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