Recently, the WindanSea Surf Club played host to over 260 kids, aged 3-16, for the annual Menehune/Junior Surf Contest at La Jolla Shores. Mother Nature delivered the goods with a rousing, overhead windswell Saturday and calmer, albeit smaller surf on Sunday.
The three-day event opened Friday evening with a pizza party at the La Jolla Rec. The young competitors had a chance to mingle with their fellow surfers, size up the competition, and preview the astonishing number of goodies donated for the weekend raffle. Competitors came from a wide variety of locales, including Hawaii, Santa Cruz, Mammoth Lakes, Los Angeles and Orange counties and San Diego.
As Heat Director for the event the past nine years, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of outrageous behavior from both competitors and parents alike. Years ago, we realized that the ugly side of competitive sports had indeed permeated the world of amateur surfing. This year was striking in its near-absence of anything but aloha, good vibes and incredible sportsmanship.
However, there were three instances of surfers not advancing to the next round that stick out in my mind, each handled very differently.
In instance number one, a very young competitor, filled with the anticipation of moving forward with his buddy, burst into tears upon learning he would not be advancing. The father immediately tells his son how proud he is that he made it as far as he did, and is a winner just for surfing in very advanced conditions. Within five minutes, said child was running around the beach, laughing, playing and feeling pretty good about himself.
In instance number two, an older competitor realized that due to an addition error, he in fact did not advance, as he originally believed. A harsh call for anyone to endure. However, unlike his parents who were vocally and visually upset over the perceived injustice, this competitor stood tall, exhibiting grace and sportsmanship, accepting that mistakes happen. The judge who delivered the unfortunate news was so impressed by this surfer’s maturity, he happily rewarded him with a little surfing swag.
Finally, an amazingly talented surfer just didn’t deliver in his semi-final heat. He and his parents were vocally outraged, critical of the judging, the tallying, the other surfers who, in their mind, were in no way more deserving than he.
It’s important to remember, especially in the more competitive groups, all the surfers are talented and equally capable of winning. While great surfing is certainly needed to progress, luck and timing are also essential.
Stand out surfers from La Jolla included Sebastian Becerra, winning the 14-16 Boys Longboard division. Patrick Cairncross consistently out-surfed 63 of his peers to capture the 14-16 Boys Shortboard title. Kelsey Dowdy won her division, Girls 14-16 Shortboard, with Gina Anderson winning the same title in Girls 12-13. Michael Campagna, Jr. won in Boys Longboard, 6-7 and Chance Thompson won the 8-9 Longboard Division.
Outstanding surfers of the weekend included Jacob Halstead, making the finals not only in 12-13 Shortboard, but surfing up a division, maintaining a strong showing in the Boys 14-16 final as well. Lucas Dirkse surfed flawlessly, attesting to his diversity in the water, and managed to defeat his competition in both Shortboard and Longboard, capturing both titles in the 12-13 age category. Miss Tiare Thompson, at 6 years of age, won four divisions, besting her competitors in both shortboard and longboard in ages 6-7 and 8-9. This young lady is showing incredible promise as a competitive surfer; not only because she is capable of winning heats, but also her innate surfing talent.
Finally, winning the inaugural airshow event was recent Hawaiian transplant, Shade Hurdman. Judged by a panel of “air” experts, 13-year-old Shade bested 37 other surfers by generating enough speed on a wave to launch his board into the air, land and continue to ride successfully. Congratulations to all competitors, parents, sponsors and volunteers who made this year’s event manageable, memorable and most importantly, fun.