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Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis falls shy of title at USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane

Santa Cruz Sentinel logo Santa Cruz Sentinel 1/17/2022 Jim Seimas

SANTA CRUZ — It, quite literally, rained on Max St. Denis’ parade Monday morning. He but he was still a happy, little shredder.

St. Denis, 13, an eighth grader at Aptos Junior High, was poised to upset three more accomplished surfers in the boys’ U14 final at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane event. He led with two minutes remaining in the 20-minute final. But, with a light rain falling, some solid sets came pumping through and St. Denis didn’t have wave priority.

San Juan Capistrano’s Lucas Senkbeil-Cassity, a U16 Junior National Team member, caught the wave of the heat and scored a 9.5 to jump into the lead. And seconds later, Huntington Beach’s Petey Romaniuk, a member of the USA Surfing Youth Olympic Development Team, scored a 6.53 to overtake Senkbeil-Cassity and St. Denis and win the title in thrilling fashion.

St. Denis didn’t hang his head. That’s surfing.

“The goal was to make a few heats,” said St. Denis, after winning his semifinal heat with a 12.50 total. “I didn’t expect to make it to the final, but, of course I wanted to. I’m super stoked that I made it there.”

  • © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis slides ahead of a glassy wall as he surfs to a first place finish in his boys’ U14 semifinal heat at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane Monday morning. (Shmuel Thaler - Santa Cruz Sentinel)

  • © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Aptos’ Kainoa Queenan slices through the water has he competes in the boys’ U14 semifinals at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane on Monday. (Shmuel Thaler - Santa Cruz Sentinel)

  • © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis competes in a boys’ U14 semifinal heat at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane on Monday morning. (Shmuel Thaler - Santa Cruz Sentinel)

  • © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis carves a wave on Monday during the boys' U14 semifinals at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler - Santa Cruz Sentinel)

  • © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Brody Price of Santa Cruz tames a wave during the boys' U14 semifinals at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane on Monday. (Shmuel Thaler - Santa Cruz Sentinel)

  • © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel

    Santa Cruz's Max St. Denis placed third in the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane U14 final on Monday. (Kurt Steinmetz - USA Surfing)

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Romaniuk finished with a two-wave score of 12.36 for the win. Senkbeil-Cassity scored 12.03 for second. St. Denis (8.57) finished in third and Huntington Beach’s Quaid Fahrion, also a member of the Youth Olympic Development Team, took fourth with a 5.84 total.

“I just went on a bad one and the other guy (Senkbeil-Cassity) got a good score,” said St. Denis, noting he’ll ride a wave of confidence into future competitions. “Even though I didn’t win, I have the ability to.”

Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis competes in a boys’ U14 semifinal heat at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane on Monday morning. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel) © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis competes in a boys’ U14 semifinal heat at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane on Monday morning. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Romaniuk put himself in the right place at the right time.

“With 10 seconds left, a bomb came and I got it, and I got the score,” he said of his win. “I’m super stoked. I came all the way up here to win, so I’m stoked.”

The Steamer Lane competition is one of six on USA Surfing Prime’s season schedule. Surfers will count their top four finishes in the chase for the season title.

The next event is slated for Jan. 29-30 at Howard Futch Beach Park in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Action returns to the West Coast on Feb. 12-13 for an event at Huntington Beach Pier.

St. Denis was the only local to reach the finals. Santa Cruz’s Adam Bartlett, a member of the USA Surfing Youth Olympic Development Team, and St. Denis were ousted in the boys’ U16 semifinals. Aptos’ Kainoa Queenan and Santa Cruz’s Brody Price were eliminated in the boys’ U14 semifinals.

Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis carves a wave on Monday during the boys’ U14 semifinals at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel) © Provided by Santa Cruz Sentinel Santa Cruz’s Max St. Denis carves a wave on Monday during the boys’ U14 semifinals at the USA Surfing Prime Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Price said he was on edge after spotting an elephant seal in the lineup during his semifinal heat.

“That just made everyone get out of their head, just really scared of the elephant seal,” Price said. “The seal was bigger than the waves out there. It was huge. … I love sea life, but when I was sitting out there, like a stick touched me and I was like, ‘Oh, no!’ ”

Price, 13, jumped out to an early lead in his semifinal heat, but two other competitors posted slightly higher scores before conditions temporarily slowed down.

“You don’t win them all,” said Price, who won the Open Mini Groms final at the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championships in November. “It’s just practice for more. Besides, this is an older division for me.”

Waves were in the 4- to 5-foot range for much of the finals, which made for overhead conditions for some of the younger entrants.

A pair of surfers, Malibu’s Talia Swindal and Manhattan Beach’s Kai Kushner, reached finals in two events. Swindal won the girls’ U16 title with an 11.23 total and took second in the girls’ 18 final with a 11.66 total, finishing behind Los Angeles’ Lilie Kulber (12.26).

Half Moon Bay’s Zoe Chait (8.50) took second to Swindal in the U16 final. Chait held the lead, but dropped to second after she was penalized for priority interference.

Oceanside’s Lucas Owston produced the highest two-wave score (15.66) in the finals and won the boys’ U18 title and San Clemente’s Cannon Carr (15.10) won the boys’ U16 title.

Kushner took third in the boys’ U16 final and fourth in the boys’ U18 final.

The competition had a rare Monday finish due to a tsunami that pelted the coast Saturday, forcing the postponement of the first day of competition. Action began and peaked Sunday with 8- to 10-foot waves. There was still some debris floating in the lineup Monday, including driftwood.

THE FINALS

Boys U18: 1. Lucas Owston, Oceanside, 15.66; 2. Kyan Yang, Encinitas, 13.30; 3. David Okeefe, Newport Beach, 13.10; 4. Kai Kushner, Manhattan Beach, 10.56.

Boys’ U16: 1. Cannon Carr, San Clemente, 15.10; 2. Rex Hennings, San Clemente, 13.14; 3. Kai Kushner, Manhattan Beach, 11.10; 4. Gavin Lusby, Huntington Beach, 10.56.

Boys’ U14: 1. Petey Romaniuk, Huntington Beach, 12.36; 2. Lucas Senkbeil-Cassity, San Juan Capistrano, 12.03; 3. Max St. Denis, Santa Cruz, 8.57; 4. Quaid Fahrion, Huntington Beach, 5.84.

Girls’ U18: 1. Lilie Kulber, Los Angeles, 12.26; 2. Talia Swindal, Malibu, 11.66; 3. Sara Freyre, Newport Beach, 8.87; 4. Sierra Downer, San Clemente, 4.23.

Girls’ U16: 1. Talia Swindal, Malibu, 11.23; 2. Zoe Chait, Half Moon Bay, 8.50; 3. Addison Mcphillips, San Clemente, 7.30; 4. Reid Van Wagoner, Carlsbad, 4.63.

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