Reef team rider Tonino Benson is on his way home to Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i today with the title of 2007 NSSA Open Men’s National Champion under his belt. The 17-year-old ripper nabbed the championship last weekend at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California.
In the first half of the final heat, it looked as though Benson had it locked up with a 7.25 and an 8. Cory Arrambide (CA) put forth his best effort, dropping into one of the biggest waves of the heat with less than 5 minutes and surfed it cleanly. However, with only 50 seconds remaining, Benson grabbed the final wave of the set and some last minute airtime.
NSSA rules prohibit judges from announcing scores in the last 5 minutes of a heat, so the young surfers were forced to wait patiently for the winner to be announced at Sunday night’s award banquet.
“That night I could not even sleep because I was thinking about who won. I just watched the waves on Surfline.com and kept comparing my wave to Cory’s,” says Bensen. “I tried to do a little sports psychology with myself and I just kept thinking that it does not matter if I win the competition, it just matters how I performed.”
Tonino also claimed the NSSA Air Show National Champion and pocketed $1,000 at Lower Trestles during the contest with a front-side air 360 along with a 5th in the Explorer Juniors division after interference.
Jeremy Saukel, Reef Domestic Team Manager says: “We are so proud of how well Tonino performed during the entire week. To make three finals and win two of them is something that very few have accomplished. This is by far the biggest domestic amateur title you can win and it will be an amazing stepping stone toward his professional career.”
Benson’s win this weekend makes him the second surfer, after Kalani Robb, to win both the ISA World Championships (Junior Men’s division in 2005) and the NSSA Open Men’s National Championship title (2007).