Surf’s Up!

One of La Jolla’s biggest surf contests is no longer just for the shredders.

The La Jolla Shores Surfing Association will host its seventh annual Menehune Surf Contest on Saturday, April 28. More than 130 kids will compete in shortboard, longboard and novice divisions in the water, while on the beach, the crowd will be rocking and the barbeque will be sizzling.

The novice division is a new addition this year to the contest, which since its inception has been recognized as part of a rite of passage for skilled young surfers in La Jolla. The Shores contest is often one of the first competitions a young surfers enters, and can serve as preparation for the more competitive WindanSea Surf Club menehune contest held in the fall.

“The Shores contest is more down to Earth,” said La Jolla surfboard shaper Tim Bessell. “It’s meant to be fun, to get the kids out there.”

The addition this year of the novice division is intended to get even more young surfers in on the fun.

“We want to show kids that it’s not about being an accomplished surfer, it’s about competing and having fun,” said Lorraine Schmalenberger of the La Jolla Shores Surfing Association. “A lot of the kids in the contest are on surf teams and have been surfing since they were 3 years old, and some kids might like to try the contest without competing against these professional groms.”

Bessell sponsors a team of some of the hottest “groms” - surf-speak for the eager and skilled young surfers who seemingly never leave the water - in La Jolla. He will be at the contest cheering on his riders, including Matt Taylor, Nick Hastings, John Paul Engh and Hunter Robinson. But he agreed that the La Jolla Shores Surfing Association’s contest is more about coming together as a community than it is about competing.

“It’s just a fun time and a good excuse for everyone to get together,” Bessell said. “It’s a really important event for the people of La Jolla to get more involved in surfing and pay tribute to the kids. A good time had by all.”

The day begins with the first heat at 7 a.m. Competitors from 7 to 18 years old are divided into four age groups, as well as boys and girls divisions. Longboarders and shortboarders are also separated into their own divisions. The novice competition will include some combined divisions. The competition continues until the awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m.

The Shores Surfing Association will do its best to match the action in the water with excitement on land. A raffle and silent auction will be held with prizes including surfboards by Rusty and skateboards by Sector 9, both local companies.

The event is also a major fund-raiser for the La Jolla Shores Surfing Association, which donates proceeds to charitable organizations that benefit the ocean, including the Surfrider Foundation, the “Map” project at La Jolla Shores, Scripps Institution Environmental Advocates, SurfAid International and the Interscholastic Surfing Federation. Last year, the event raised $4,000.

“We would be happy to match that - to raise $4,000 from a surf contest is pretty amazing,” Schmalenberger said. “It will depend on getting people to the beach and getting good weather.”

The title sponsors for the event include Reef, Rusty, PB Surf Shop, Surf Diva, Point Conception, Sector 9, Sea Brothers Surfboards, Hike Bike Kayak, Surfshot, Excel Fitness and The Wavehouse. For more information about the contest, visit

Bessell encouraged all La Jollan’s to come watch the event because it’s always possible that there will be a future world-champion surfer in the water at the Shores.

“Come on down and see our boys and girls rip,” he said. “La Jolla’s got some great surfers and a great history of producing world champs. Debbie Beacham was a world champion in the 80s, Mike Hynson, Mike Doyle, Butch Van Artsdalen, Pat Curren lived here. Skip Frye, Peter King, Jon Roseman ... I’m forgetting so many. La Jolla just has so many great surfers.”