When longboards meet competition in the surf off Tourmaline Beach, it's PB's way of saying hello to summer. For the past 20 years, The PB Surf Club's Summer Longboard Classic has featured and entertained the faithful at the first surf park in America. This year's competition on Saturday, June 9, was graced with good weather and fabulous waves all day.
"So, so very grateful!" said PB Surf Club president Ron Greene. "And it happened during my watch!"
Greene had reason to be excited because the day went off without a hitch and provided the perfect environment for cool wave-riders to show off their skills. It was a surf competition, after all, and that means only the most agile surfers with styles all their own could set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.
More than 100 surfers cut through the Tourmo waves in almost 20 heats — all completed before noon. After a delicious lunch burrito (or acai bowl), the finalists took center stage.
The Summer Longboard Classic is a PB tradition whose shadow reaches back through the sands of time. Tourmo has been a surf spot since surfing found its way to mainland North America. For a decade shy of a century, the beach has been the playground of legends.
The next time you head there, take a look at some of the names etched in the Tourmaline Memorial, and you'll see among them the infamous surfboard shaper Skip Frye.
Frye, for those who don't know, is a San Diego native who went to school at Mission Bay High. He devoted his life to shaping boards of all types and influencing some of the best talent out there. He once told Surfer Magazine: "So much of my continued enthusiasm for surfing comes from building boards and trying to innovate and be creative."
That's the attitude Josh Hall, who was trained by Frye, brings to his designs. Hall crafted a triple stringer 9-foot, 6-inch square-tail nose-rider for a raffle at the Classic.
So talented is Hall that "he created a special quiver of wave tools renowned all over the world," Greene pointed out. While Hall brings his own elegant style to the boards he shapes, the nose-rider he provided was a work of art.
Beautiful surfboards were not the only form of artistic expression on display at the Classic, as the show definitely belonged to the ninjas of the sea. Returning champions such as Jessica Taft, who was the Women's Coalition Champion in 2017, repeated this year in the Super Woman Group.
James "Spinner Boy" Cameron won the Men's Seniors group, and dazzled the crowd by defying the laws of physics as he danced in circles up and down his longboard.
"In that group, I love to watch the agility, style and quickness," Greene quipped.
The Summer Longboard Classic is an inclusive event because it provides heats for surfers from menehune (kids) to seniors. Not many sports have 70 years separating the youngest and oldest athletes — and get away with it.
And even fewer sports also feature a heat for cats and dogs.
But at the Summer Longboard Classic, skilled masters shepherded their pets to catch the waves, and then set them free to ride the sets to the shore. (I can understand getting a dog to do such a thing, but it's beyond me how one convinces a cat to ride a flimsy board over moving ocean surface!)
The sights, sounds and smells of the event were in the air and everywhere along the sandy beach where spectators hung out to watch the show. DJ Bus Brothers were spinning vinyl all day long.
Since surfing is a significant part of the Pacific Beach community, the PB Surf Club delivers a check to the Mission Bay High School Surf Team that includes proceeds from the Summer Longboard Classic. It's a powerful gesture that recognizes and nurtures the next generation of surfers.
"The kind souls and legends who called this place their home and their spot, possessed the Aloha spirit and generated the tradition all these years," Greene noted.
Greene himself is a skilled surfer who competed in the Summer Longboard Classic Legends group. As a matter of fact, he won the group. He said he didn't start the surfing at Tourmaline, and he wasn't founder of the PB Surf Club, but the torch has been passed to him and he's continuing the traditions.
"It seems they transcend and have been passed on to the various crew(s) that come and go," Greene added.
He said he's been a part of the PB Surf Club since its second coming in 1994. He was a happy member of the WindanSea Surf Club until he took a trip to Fiji with Glenn Paculba, owner of Star Surfing, and was convinced to help revive the club in PB. Since then, Greene has served in just about every capacity to keep it running.
"The 20th annual Summer Longboard Classic lived up to its due and name," Greene proclaimed. "With the sun out, it was time to enjoy, schmooze, take some pics, compete, and schmooze some more."
And while the Classic affords such an opportunity, it's not a bad idea to engage in its spirit everyday in Pacific Beach.
• WHO WON WHAT? Find the Summer Longboard Classic results at pacificbeachsurfclub.com