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Grommets, grab your boards: Menehune surf contest is here

The WindanSea Surf Club will host its annual Menehune/Junior Surf Contest at the Shores on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8. The contest, which has been a WindanSea Surf Club tradition since the early 1960s, will this year feature more than 300 contestants in what is billed as the largest youth surf contest in the United States.

The Menehune contest is the largest fund-raiser of the year for the WindanSea Surf Club, which in turn supports other charitable groups in San Diego. Much of the proceeds from each surfer’s $50 entry fee will go to support events, including the St. Vincent de Paul’s Kids Day at the Beach and the Special Olympics Day at the Beach. The competitors stand to reap other rewards in addition to the satisfaction of supporting good causes.

“One of the biggest benefits is that kids can have the bragging rights for the whole year and say, ‘I won the Menehune contest,’ ” said WindanSea Surf Club President Gordon Dunfee.

Past Menehune competitors include Michael Ho, a Hawaiian who went on to win professional surfing world championships and who became known as one of the greatest masters of the legendary surf at Pipeline, on Oahu’s North Shore.

Surfers ages 2 to 16 will compete in 20 divisions that will be divided by age, gender and longboard and shortboard competitions. One of the most popular parts of the event is an unofficial division featuring “super grommets,” which is surf-speak for a very young surfer. The division features kids between 1 and 2 years old, accompanied by their parents, surfing in a non-judged heat.

“We’ll have kids from all over the country,” Dunfee said. “It’s mostly about having fun, getting the kids together and having a great weekend. We do it because we love to surf, and this is our way of giving back.”

A team of four surfers from Hawaii will come to La Jolla as part of a joint sponsorship between the WindanSea Surf Club and Rell Sunn’s Menehune Surfing Championship, a contest for young surfers held each year at Makaha on Oahu. The Hawaiian team will be coached by Bonga Perkins, a former world champion longboarder.

“We sponsor the four competitors and a coach as a way to extend the aloha spirit between California and Hawaii,” Dunfee said.

Perkins said the trip to the mainland will provide his team with invaluable experience not only in surfing, but life in general.

“We want to introduce some of the Hawaiian kids to their counterparts, because a lot of kids in Hawaii don’t get a chance to mingle with other kids,” Perkins said. “They’ll get introduced to a different climate. The water is a little colder and the waves break a little different. But it’s more about a head start in life.”

The Hawaiian team will stay with volunteer families while in La Jolla rather than shacking up at a hotel.

“The San Diego area is pretty much the best part of Southern California,” Perkins said. “We’re going to enjoy it for sure.”

As part of the joint sponsorship, four surfers from the mainland will be chosen to take a trip to Hawaii this November for the Rell Sunn Menehune Surfing Championship. Perkins and the Hawaiian surfers will work with the WindanSea Surf Club to choose the lucky four.

Dunfee said it’s not necessarily the best surfers who are chosen.

“It’s who has the best spirit and attitude and will best represent Southern California in Hawaii,” Dunfee said. “An average surfer with a great attitude might prevail over a phenomenal surfer with a bad attitude.”

Perkins said he would be on the lookout for surfers who might not otherwise get the chance to travel to Hawaii.

The kids who are chosen will have the chance to compete at Makaha, another famous wave steeped in surfing history.

Dunfee said that last year’s team, which was the first to travel to Makaha under the joint sponsorship, acquitted themselves well in the heavy Hawaiian surf.

“The kids were awesome,” he said. “They went out in some pretty gnarly conditions and did pretty well.”

For information and entry forms, visit www.windansea.org.