See more photos
from the Eastern Surfing Association championship
By Tim O’Meilia
North Atlantic Drive has earned a new name. Call it Pipeline Point or Cutback Court or, simply, Surfers Street. But never Wipeout Way.
The northern end of Hypoluxo Island juts into the Lake Worth Lagoon like one of those giant, foam “We’re #1” fingers. For good reason. Three of the best young surfers on the Eastern U.S. seaboard live within a long paddle of each other on North Atlantic Drive.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Christian Miller, 16, who finished second in the Junior Men’s division at the Eastern Surfing Association championships at Cape Hatteras, N.C., last month. The 42nd annual event attracted 500 of the East Coast’s best surfers.
“It’s just a lot of talent,” said 15-year-old Patrick Nichols without a trace of bravado. Facts are facts. Nichols won his longboard (9-foot surfboard) division.
“It’s kind of weird,” said Luke Marks, who finished second in the Menehune final (that’s the 11-and-under group for you Barneys). He turned 11 during the event.
Of 18 Palm Beach County surfers in the competition, only the Hypoluxo trio made the finals. Nichols and Marks were chosen for the ESA All-Star team, which will compete around the country in the next year. Miller has been on the all-stars for four years and decided against a fifth.
All three found wave riding the same way: Surfing runs in their families. Christian’s dad is Jim Miller, a well-known surfing name on the East Coast and still a competitive surfer. But young Miller didn’t take it up until he was about 9, after dabbling in baseball.
Nichols picked it up when he visited his New York uncles for the summer when he was 7. Marks was 5 when he and his dad, Darren, sampled the waves together.
“I loved it,” said Marks. “Having fun out in the water. Doing tricks. It’s just fun.” He is, he says, a better surfer than his father.
Miller and Nichols are good friends, hanging out at one another’s houses. Until this year, Marks tagged along. Although they still own their house on North Atlantic Drive, the family of seven moved to Melbourne Beach recently.
The trio have amassed chestfuls of medals and closets full of trophies traveling to Puerto Rico, Peru, Nicaragua, California, Hawaii and every surfing beach up the East Coast. All three have an array of surfboard, clothing, sandal and equipment sponsors to help pay their way to contests.
“I love the adrenaline you get from surfing,” Nichols said, “the feeling you get from nose riding — riding the waves.”
When they aren’t competing, they often surf where they started at Lantana and Lake Worth beaches. The younger boys have dreams of making a career of wave-riding.
Miller is taking a step back from competition. “Since I did so well (at Cape Hatteras), it’s kind of a farewell for me. I’m taking a new path in my life.
I want to get more serious with the Lord and with my girlfriend,” he said. But he’s not leaving surfing for fun. “I like how surfing can get your mind off all the stress in the world,” he said. “How relaxing it is.”
(For more information about the local ESA chapter, visit pbc.surfesa.org)