"Just like old times" -- 3/27/04

Three relics: Ben, Neal and the stinger board

Date: March 27, 2004
Time: 0630 -- 1500, not all the time
Spot(s): Sunset Point
Conditions: Firm offshores; contest crowd
Swell: Diminishing NNW swell with some windswell
Surf: 2-3' Haw'n

Words: "You can help me out little bit too, just like old times," said Reid Inouye. He had just told me that I was entered in his WRV Sunset Soul Surfing Classic at Sunset Beach, and asked for a little help with the contest.

From 1988 to 1994 I used to work with Reid in his amateur (and pro) surfing contests. Changing priorities in life made me stop entering and working these contests, but I still get the bug for competition once in a while. It just so happened the family was out of town and work did not beckon. Perfect opportunity.

The Soul Surfing Classic is not your typical surf contest. It's a fun event that's more a celebration of where we came from with respect to surf style. The judging criteria reflected that, with scoring being based on the surfing style of the 60s and 70s. The divisions followed suit, with Surf Execs, Relic Shortboard and even "You Somebody" for stars and the media.

On a lark, the day before the contest I decided to see if I could get an old shortboard (pre-80s) for the relic shortboard division. I went to Ben Aipa's shop to see if he had anything he'd be willing to lend out. Typical Ben generously offered an old shortboard, a 1974 stinger that was pretty bust up. I told Ben I would do some quick patches to at least make it watertight. "You break it, you buy it," he half-jokingly told me as I walked out the door. I shuddered thinking how much the board would be worth if it was fully restored.

So I had my little project for the evening. I ran over to Fiberglass Hawaii and got a ding repair kit and a skeg for the board. My goal was to make the board waterproof, but minimize the amount of repair, just in case someone wanted to fix this classic one day.

I won't belabor the tortuous process of me trying to act like a craftsman. But in the end, I think I did a decent job (including the generous use of clear plastic tape for miscellaneous cracks and dings). However, one recommendation I can make is to make sure you have an ample supply of UV light for curing the glass (halogen lamps work, but they aren't the best).

I've surfed Sunset only a few times in my life, so I was eager to get out there before the contest. Although the surf was small, conditions were sweet, with sunny skies and good winds.

When I got out to the lineup, I quickly realized there were two distinct peaks: the point at the top of the reef and the west peak near the channel. I knew that I'd have to decide during my heats which one I should focus on. Even at that small size, it was obvious that Sunset has a very complex lineup--experience is definitely an advantage out there.

It was neat seeing the people and the boards that came out for the event. Duncan Campbell brought an authentic Bonzer of his own design. Steven Murphy had a chambered balsa board that most people would hang on the wall. And Tom Stone busted out and surfed a replica circa 1920s "Wili-wili" board (made only of wood and oil).

Helping out at the contest was actually quite refreshing. Rather than lead the preparation, I just laid back and offered my assistance. After setting up the contest tent, I ended up helping to check in competitors with the venerable (catch that, ornery) Rabbit Kekai. That buggah neva change after all these years (he's 84 now)--still the same old talkative, rascally guy.

Not too many people entered the event. Maybe it wasn't advertised enough. Their loss. The stoke level was high as people just surfed for the fun of it. As Len Barrow said, "No worrying about points or ratings--just surfing for fun."

Most divisions reflected this laid-back attitude. Competitors were cordial and even giving during heats, cheering each other on.

I entered three divisions: "You Somebody", Relic Shortboard, and Longboard 30-39 (in which I was the oldest). In the "You Somebody" division, I was fortunate to score a couple of the bigger waves as I did my neo-70s posing. Rode the Aipa board for the first time in the relic shortboard heat and could only get two rides--board worked really well though. In my age group longboard heat, I went up against some aggressive riders and got aced out of the sets.

During the awards ceremony, I was shocked to find that I had actually won the "You Somebody" division. I was stoked to receive the big tiki statuette.

It was nice just having fun in a surf contest and surfing "just like old times." Already looking forward to next year's event.

Aloha from Paradise,