Flagler Beach surfers Eric Worley and Haley Watson are beginning to make things look easy.
For the second straight year, the two captured their respective division titles at the Eastern Surfing Association’s Eastern Surfing Championships Sept. 15-21, 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.
Watson captured the women’s short board division this year. She has been competing at Easterns every year since she was 14, and this was her third straight year taking home a first-place finish.
Worley took first place in the master’s short board — the same division he won last year.
There were other Flagler County surfers at the competition, too.
Steven Tyson took third place in the master’s short board, Jonathan Eden competed in junior mens, and Hannah Blevins, Olivia Beaven and Jillian Bontempo all competed in both girl’s short board and long board divisions.
Watson said the waves were calm the early part of the week, but as the finals rolled around, the wind began to blow hard out of the north, which made the waves large, challenging and choppy.
“The current was so strong that after you caught a wave, you would have to exit the water and run back up the beach to paddle out again,” Watson said.
To qualify for Easterns, surfers must win their district and then regional competitions before advancing.
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.
Watson said Easterns is different than most competitions because it lasts a week, not just a weekend.
In the end, she said, it turns out to be like a surfing vacation.
“Good friends, good waves, good times — it doesn't get much better than that,” she said.