Point Lookout native and Quiksilver Pro contender Balaram Stack said he's been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support he's seen from the Long Beach community as he rides through the world class competition.
Tuesday night, the encouragement continued. Unsound Surf Shop and Skullcandy, a high-end headphones and earphones company, teamed up to throw a birthday bash at Paddy McGee's in Island for the now 20-year-old who was set to compete against his surfing idol, Australia's Mick Fanning, the next morning.
Since he was 12, Stack has been surfing professionally and has competed in local contests such as the Unsound Pro, hosted by his sponsor Unsound Surf Shop.
"The support is crazy," said Stack. "I never would have thought this would actually happen, and everybody's been here to cheer me on. It's great."
The party in Stack's honor featured two live DJs — DJ Deff of Virginia Beach and DJ Spencer Regan of California — along with free giveaways from Skullcandy. Hours before his birthday celebration, Stack faced off in a battle against 10-time ASP World Champion surfer Kelly Slater, where the hometown hero earned a 6.07 against Slater's 14.20.
"It was really fun," Stack, whose been surfing since age 3, told Patch of the once-in-a-lifetime heat. "Not everyone can say they've been smoked by Slater."
During Wednesday's first heat, Stack faced off against Fanning where the Point Lookout competitor was eliminated 15.20-7.06.
Vic Alarcon, manager at Unsound Surf and sales representative for Skullcandy, said he is proud of the fellow Long Beach waverider and felt Tuesday's event would amp up the surf crowd while honoring Stack.
"I don't think anything else could be better than this competition in Long Beach," Alarcon said of the Quiksilver event. "This is like the U.S. Open for surfing, and everyone’s been there to support Balaram."
Will Skudin, vice president of Skudin Surf and longtime Long Beach resident, came out Tuesday to support his friend and former student.
"I grew up with Balaram," Skudin said. "I took him out surfing since he was 4-years-old. I just wish him a lot of luck."
As a lifelong surfer, Skudin also expressed his appreciation for such a big event coming to his hometown.
"I think that this competition opens up a lot of minds that surfing is a real sport and not a bunch of knuckleheads," he said. "I think it's opening up a lot of older people's eyes that surfing is healthy and is a sport that builds self-confidence."