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Shane Beschen  

In 1986, at the U.S. Surfing Championships at Sebastian Inlet, Florida, in a close Boys final, Slater finished first, Beschen second.

 In 1986, at the U.S. Surfing Championships at Sebastian Inlet, Florida, in a close Boys final, Slater finished first, Beschen second. And nothing has changed since. For Slater, six world titles, fame, fortune and happiness. For Beschen, bitterness, financial burdens and an ongoing search overshadow moments of satisfying brilliance. Either by choice or as the result of the media's needs, the two have emerged in the classic good guy/bad guy scenario.

San Clemente is a rebel breeding ground. Matt Archbold, Christian Fletcher, Chris Ward, Crazy Randall -- not exactly your Richie Cunningham types. The bouncy beachbreaks and nonconformist subculture produce surfers who aren't afraid to color outside the lines. Which is fine if your goal is getting a few shots in the magazine, then fading into the cracks. Beschen was groomed in this environment, but early on it appeared he would shirk the trend.

His rise, like his style, was methodical -- success at the amateur level followed by domination on the minor league circuit. In 1991, after being dropped by his sponsors, he blitzed the Bud Tour, qualifying for the next year's WCT. He periodically made comments on the staleness of it all, but it just seemed like a kid spouting off.

By 1994, he was ready to challenge for the title. After dumping Slater in the final of the megalithic US Open at Huntington, he smelled blood.

But it was not to be. Beschen spent the next several years wrestling with the system, earning the occasional victory, but not winning the favor of the judges. In close battles, he lost by the slightest of margins. All the while, he grumbled about changing the system. The "three-to-the-beach" mentality, he contended, should be dismissed. With all the groundbreaking surfing happening down the street from his house, he wasn't seeing the tour evolving. Beschen skipped events in apparent protest, incurred hefty fines and generally bit the hand that fed him.

Whenever the spirit hits him, however, the results are magical. In 1996, Beschen's runner-up season, he recorded the only perfect heat in ASP history by pulling through three flawless Kirra cylinders. Not even Slater, who previously held the heat record, could match that feat. The same year, Beschen again hit top form, taking out Japan's Marui Pro and the Quiksilver Pro in the dreamlike lefts of G-Land for back-to-back victories. But in the end, he couldn't keep the champ at bay. Slater's seven wins for the season kept him from winning his first title.

Beschen hasn't been in winning form since. With talk of a rival tour that was tailor-made for his personal views and abilities, he slipped into the middle ranks of the WCT, where he has remained ever since. Still a vastly popular surfer, he typically ranks within the top 10 of the Surfer Poll.

Even with Slater out of picture, Beschen has not found the inspiration or luck to break free. He now resides in Hawaii with his wife Sophia and young son Noah.


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