Ocean City’s Brynn Gallagher, NSSA Explorer Women’s winner, is held up by her sister, Mia, (green wetsuit) and other friends. (Photo courtesy of NSSA) By MADDY VITALEOcean City sisters Mia and Brynn Gallagher had a memorable time with the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) at the East Coast Championships in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., earlier this month.The sisters took home trophies and also some experiences they will never forget, they said in an interview on Sunday.New Smyrna is known among surfers for its consistent waves. But it is also known as “the shark bite capital of the world.”The April 8-11 surfing competition was extended a day due to some shark encounters as well as some intense weather, according to a NSSA news release.Mia Gallagher, 15, the defending 2020 East Coast titleholder, missed the 2021 win by a narrow margin, finishing second in the Open Women’s final.But she also made the finals in Explorer Women’s with a fourth place finish.Brynn Gallagher, 13, finished with an extremely close second place in both Open Girls and then again in Open Super Girls and took first place in Explorer Women’s, according to the release.NSSA Executive Director Janice Aragon has watched Brynn develop over the last year.“There was just no way that Brynn Gallagher was leaving that beach without a title,” she said.The Gallagher sisters were not the only South Jersey surfers to make the podium.Callie Duff, of Margate, finished fourth overall in Explorer Longboard and Stephen Zakroff, of Ocean City, placed third in Explorer Men’s. Cooper Jewell, also from Ocean City, surfed in both the Explorer and Open Boys divisions and he made the semi-final in Open Boys.Mia Gallagher rides a wave in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (Photo courtesy of venspiration)For Mia, the weather left the most lasting impression of the contest.The surfer, who took up the sport at just 10, said, “The weather was definitely very crazy some of the days. But it wasn’t the craziest waves I have surfed. It was the weather with all of the lightning and the sharks that I will remember.”Mia described the darkness.“When we were coming down the beach, there were the darkest clouds I’ve ever seen,” she pointed out. “It was crazy. My sister’s heat was the last of the day. People started leaving.”Like Mia, Brynn didn’t let the weather stop her competitive nature or her enjoyment of surfing.She put together some solid surfing to make finals in three different divisions and had a close second in both Open Girls and then again in Open Super Girls.But finishing second seemed to give the start surfer more drive to win.Brynn won the Explorer Women’s final.Within two minutes of the start of the heat, Gallagher dropped a 9-point ride which set the pace for an aggressively surfed heat and her ultimate win, the news release stated.“The heat before my third final, I lost and I came in second. When my heat was coming up, I was so pumped up,” said Brynn, whose father, Chad Gallagher, is also a surfer. “I wanted to win so badly. My sister was in my heat and I said, ‘This is awesome.’”Lightning strikes extended the competition a day. (Photo provided by NSSA)Brynn’s advice to beginner surfers is to keep doing what you love and you will improve.“The main thing is to just have fun,” she said. “I just love it and love being out in the water. It is super fun to go out in the ocean with friends and my dad and sister.”Randy Townsend, the NSSA Northeast Conference director, traveled from his home in Long Beach Island to New Smyrna Beach like he does every year to watch his Northeast kids compete on the main stage.This year, though, Townsend said he was particularly excited to see the local surfers compete, commenting, “The level of surfing among the young girls that are coming up is getting really exciting to watch.”And the girls from South Jersey certainly delivered.In addition to Mia and Brynn Gallagher, Callie Duff, from Margate, surfed her way through many heats to make “Finals Day” on April 12.Mia and Brynn’s mom, Kristen Gallagher, said that there is more to the competitions than the titles.“It’s so great for the kids to make friends all over,” she said. “Win or lose, they can look back at their childhoods. They probably won’t remember where they placed, but they will remember all of those great life experiences.”Brynn Gallagher holds up her trophy in victory.