Nike Lowers Pro 2012

I spent the morning of Saturday May 5th at Lower Trestles for the final day of the Nike Lowers Pro 2012 professional surf contest. Amazing to see some of the world’s best surfers in action including Dane Reynolds, Gabriel Medina, Pat and Tanner Gudauskas, Julian Wilson, Ace Buchan, John John Florence, Kolohe Andino, Evan Geissalmen.

Ace Buchan.

I had watched the event via the webcast and while impressed with Gabriel Medina’s surfing, I wasn’t sold on him as a complete surfer (lack of style). But after watching his dominate his heats with his effortless and amazing aerial and vertical surfing, I can easily predict he will be World Champ and dominate professional surfing.

Gabriel Medina.

Additionally John John Florence also demonstrated why he will also be a World Champ and dominate Professional Surfing. He surfs with the savant of Andy Irons combined with the strategic brilliance of Kelly. Medina to me is more of a Kelly Slater and just an intuitively brilliant surfer. No one can really even touch him. He doesn’t even look like he is trying.

John John Florence in his quarter final heat against Tanner Gudauskas.

After the final between Glen Hall and Gabriel Median, the ebulliant Brazilian fans carried Medina on his shoulder.

Gabriel Medina in a pensive moment right before the awards ceremony.

The Brazilians  clearly love their country, surf with passion, are determined competitors and are hungry for victory. There is no Dane Reynolds embarrassing lack of clarity on being a professional surfer.

Gabriel Medina and his sister Sophia.

When is the last time you saw an American professional surfer celebrate a victory with an American flag? Brazilians are not ambivilent about victory. Americans almost seem embarrassed by it (not so the Australians who are equally committed to winning and being professional athletes).

Nike Lowers Pro champion Gabriel Medina and runner up Glen Hall with Gabriel’s sister Sophia.

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Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: URT Swim-Paddle-Fin

Israel starts the paddle portion.


Yesterday, my son Israel and I participated in the first ever Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: URT Swim-Paddle-Fin race at Center Beach in Coronado.

City of Huntington Beach Lifeguard Nick Sullivan rounds the final buoy on the paddle portion of the event.

“The Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: The URT Swim, Paddle, Fin competition featured three consecutive open-water events, conducted in the standard triathlon fashion, with the start, transition area, and finish all occurring at Center Beach,” said James Kehaya of North American Athletics who organized the event in partnership with URT.

Men’s finalists from left to right: Serge Dedina (me)-4th, Ryan Pingree-3rd, Israel Dedina-2nd, Nick Sullivan 1st.

“The competition was designed to test traditional waterman skills, through a competitive endurance event.Event gifts and prizes were provided by URT, Emerald City, James&Joseph, Suunto, Ocean Minded and T3.The event began with a 500 meter swim, followed by a 3000 meter open water paddle (SUP or Prone), and finished with a 1000 meter open water swim with fins.”

Women’s finalists: Carrie Lingo (3rd), Carter Graves-2nd; and Gracie Van der Byl 1st. Gracie put on a great performance and passed me in the final leg of the swim, but I caught a set wave on the way in and passed her. She is fast!!

“Challenging conditions and great athletes were the hallmarks of the first ever Swim, Paddle, Fin,” said Kehaya. “The building surf, wind, and chop challenged even the most seasoned watermen and women.  Congrats to everyone who came out to challenge the course, and battle it out in tough weather.”

It was a tough but fun race and another great event hosted by Ian Urtnowski and Dougie Mann of the URT clothing company.

The URT Team won the relay. They killed it!!!

“The contest was split into 2 divisions; open and relay, ” said Ian Urtnowski of URT. ” The Open division was defined by one contestant completing all the legs, while the Relay division assigned one person to each leg of the race.”

It was good to see longtime friends in the race including the Mann brothers, the legendary Kiwi and Adam Wraight. My son Israel came in second behind City of Huntington Ocean Lifeguard Nick Sullivan who proved that you had to be a fast paddler and swimmer to place in the event. Ryan Pingree came in third.

Coronado Beach LIfeguard team came in second.

Gracie Van der Byl put in impressive performance placing first in the women’s division, followed by Carter Graves and Carrie Lingo.

Team URT came in first in the relay division followed by the Coronado Lifeguards. The Imperial Beach Lifeguard team placed third.

Imperial Beach Lifeguard team placed third.

“The URT SPF was a pilot contest of more Watermen Endurance Triathlon Events to come,” said Ian Urtnowski of URT. “So to keep your ear to the ground go to or for more details and pictures. ”

Mens Results:
  • 1st: (0:37:51) – Sullivan, Nick
  • 2nd: (0:40:02) – Dedina, Israel
  • 3rd: (0:42:33) – Pingree, Ryan
Womens Results:
  • 1st: (0:44:09) – Van der Byl, Gracie
  • 2nd: (0:46:27) – Graves, Carter
  • 3rd: (1:07:29) – Lingo, Carrie

Team Relay

  • 1st:  0:37:06- Team URT
  • 2nd 0:40:38 – Coronado Beach Lifeguards
  • 3rd 0:46:11  – Imperial Beach Lifeguards

Israel Dedina heading out for the last leg, a 1K swim with fins.

Steve Pendarvis on Creativity in Surfboard Design

Steve Pendarvis. Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Anyone who surfs the reefs and beaches of Central San Diego has come across the original shapes of Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex line of  surfboards. The irreverant and innovative Sunset Cliffs surfer is part of the long line of unique San Diego shapers and designers that includes Skip Frye and especially Steve Lis.

Steve has worked with Canyon Surfboards, Classic Glass, Superior Glass, and Diamond Glassing. Some of the surfers who have ridden Steve’s boards include Buttons, Dave Rastovish, Dan Malloy and Gavin Beschen.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Serge Dedina: When did you first start shaping surfboards?

Steve Pendarvis: In the 1960s when I was in my early teens, I started shaping and building surfboards. I was always tinkering with projects: boards, model airplanes, boats, bikes, all finely tuned.

Dedina: How did your interest in shaping begin? Did you wake up one day and say, “I want to be a shaper.”

Pendarvis: Having projects naturally led to building surfboards. Not to mention 2 dollars for resin, 40 cents per yard for cloth, skateboard marine plywood for fins, blanks from Ridout plastics or G&S for about 8 bucks. Yeah baby! $20 dollars or less to make a new toy, now we’re talk’n!

Steve field testing his Pendoflex design in Baja. Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: With all the pop-out surfboards made in China and computer-shaped boards, is the role of the underground shaper still even relevant?

Pendarvis: Yeah, I still have my planers and sanding blocks humming, hands on is key for me. A lot of the innovation comes from underground shapers. If a design becomes trendy, it is often picked up by corporations and mass-produced and may eventually be popped-out overseas.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Given the market forces that are forcing the consolidation of the surfboard industry into a more corporate structure, why are you still handcrafting surfboards?

Pendarvis: To each their own. I prefer the work ethic of making a carefully hand-crafted surfboard.

Dedina: What is the value of a handcrafted surfboard?

Pendarvis: Absolutely custom for the client is what it’s all about!! Hand-crafted surfboards are built for the customer, thus the word custom!!

Dedina: Your shaping and surfboards have been associated with Central San Diego and especially the Sunset Cliffs. Why have the Cliffs been such a hotbed of surfboard innovation and design?

Pendarvis: Can’t really say, except for beaches and reefs a plenty!

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Many of your Pendoxflex designs have used alternative surfboard technology and building techniques. Can you describe some of the alternative ways you are designing and building boards and what materials you are using?

Pendarvis: The Pendoflex has a high torque, high speed, tail design built into the tails; it’s a stand-up derivative of a Greenough shell, which I then back-fill with foam to bring the deck flush with the rest of the board. A Pendoflex taps more of the available energy, sort of like a Fiberflex skateboard, weighting and unweighting,building speed on speed. It’s really cool.Subtle flex characteristics fuel powerful rail turns, while the board conforms to the wave face.

Generally my boards have a foam core, for instance US Blanks (PU), and WNC or Marko foam (EPS), and here and there, balsa, agave, cork and veneers.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Who are the surfers and shapers who are inspiring you to think differently and continue to progress in your shaping?

Pendarvis: Some are Skipper (Skip Frye), Stevie (Steve Lis), Greenough, Paul Gross, Dan Hess, the Campbells, the Thompsons, Brian Conley and the Murpheys,, and others. And everyone and thing that comes across your senses helps define your relativity.

Dedina: You and your wife Cher are known as super positive and a stoked couple who continually look on the bright side of life.  Since the members of Sunset Cliffs surfing crew have not always been known for their laughter and good cheers (at least with outsiders) why do you think it is important for surfers to be positive and create connections outside their local surf spots?

Pendarvis: As you know every dog’s gotta leave his mark on the fire hydrant. Hey, that’s my hydrant! And you can use it too mate! I dunno, share and share alike. I still get my poker face going from time to time when the bait ball shows up, loading up the zone, Yikes!

We look for the positives, and appreciate friendship and kindness among people.

Steve and his wife Cher.


You can find out more information on Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex surfboards here.

Saving our Surfing Heritage Through World Surfing Reserves

One of the most innovative tools for the conservation of surf spots has been the development of Surfing Reserves. Pioneered by Brad Farmer in Australia, the Davenport-based Save the Waves Coalition has taken the lead on organizing the development of a global network of World Surfing Reserves.

Serge Dedina: Why do surfing areas need to be designated as Surfing Reserves?

Katie Westfall: Natural surf breaks are important public recreational resources. Unspoiled surf spots are unique and rare and important for their ecosystem services, recreational, aesthetic, educational, and economic values. On a global scale, surf breaks have been destroyed by coastal development and threatened by water quality issues or closure of beach access. In California alone, several surf spots have been destroyed along the coastline, including Killer Dana and Corona del Mar in Orange County and Stanely’s in Ventura County. Through World Surfing Reserves (WSR), we are proactively working to prevent this from happening to the most amazing surfing areas on the globe.

Dedina: What does a World Surfing Reserve status mean?

Westfall: Designation as a World Surfing Reserve means that an area has been formally recognized by a worldwide group of experts, the World Surfing Reserve Vision Council, as a globally significant surfing ecosystem. Once approved, the local community makes a long-term commitment to protect the area’s coastal and marine resources and creates a Local Stewardship Plan that outlines exactly how this commitment will be carried out. World Surfing Reserves staff in turn helps to build the capacity of the local community in threat response, stewardship, and community outreach and education, which are the three elements that form the fabric of managing a World Surfing Reserve.

Ericeira World Surfing Reserve, Portugal. Source: World Surfing Reserves.

Dedina: Where did the concept of surfing reserves come from?

Westfall: Surfing reserves can be traced back to the 1973 when the Victorian government in Australia officially established the first reserve at Bells Beach. National Surfing Reserves Australia (NSR) was formed in 2005, which was a pioneering program that created a blueprint for surfing reserves in Australia.

In 2009, Save The Waves Coalition partnered with NSR Australia and the International Surfing Association (ISA) to launch World Surfing Reserves, with the goal of adding layers of protection to world’s most iconic surf breaks and educating people about the tremendous value of these special places.”

Bell's Beach, the world's first Surfing Reserve. The area is now threatened.

Dedina: Are there more than one type of surfing reserve?

Westfall: Reserves can either designate an individual “wave break,” which includes just one surf spot, or can designate a “surf zone,” which includes multiple waves along the coast. The two types of Reserves are essentially managed in the same way.
Dedina: What surf spots globally and in California are now World Surfing Reserves?

Westfall: Currently, three World Surfing Reserves have been officially dedicated including Malibu in California, Ericeira in Portugal, and Manly Beach in Australia. Santa Cruz has been approved and will be dedicated as a World Surfing Reserve on April 28th. The official dedication ceremony for Santa Cruz will include an evening fundraiser on Friday, April 27th as well as the official dedication on April 28th, with a paddle out at the Pleasure Point at 10am and a ceremony at Steamer Lane at 1pm. The general public is invited to attend all the events of the dedication ceremony. For more information about the event, people can visit the WSR website.

Dedina: What is the process for evaluating and then designating a World Surfing Reserve?

Westfall: Communities interested in designating their local break or breaks as a World Surfing Reserve will first submit a brief Letter of Inquiry (LOI) to World Surfing Reserves. If the LOI meets the minimum criteria, then communities are invited to submit a full application to World Surfing Reserves. The WSR Vision Council, which is a global group of leaders from the surfing, environmental, scientific, media and business communities, then votes on whether or not the application is approved. The application is evaluated by four criteria: 1) quality and consistency of the wave or surf zone; 2) unique environmental characteristics of the area; 3) surf and ocean culture and history of the area; and 4) local community support.

Manly Beach World Surfing Reserve.

Dedina: Is the key criteria having a local stakeholder/stewardship group?

Westfall: Local community support for establishing a World Surfing Reserve is one of the main criteria for approval. Applicants must show broad support from local businesses, community groups, nonprofits, governmental agencies, etc. Once a World Surfing Reserve has been approved, a Local Stewardship Council, a group of seven members from the local community, is created and oversees the management of the Reserve. It is very much a grassroots effort dependent on support at the local level.

Killer Dana, before the Dana Point Marina killed it. This was a complex and important coastal and marine ecosystem. Now it is one of the most polluted areas on the Southern California coastline.

Dedina: Some have criticized World Surfing Reserves as having little teeth to prevent threats. Are there concrete examples of WSR status helping to reduce a threat or enhancing a surf spot’s conservation status?

Westfall: We see the WSR designation as a starting point rather than the finish line. We are planting the seeds of surf spot protection in the four WSR sites, and Local Stewardship Councils have been established for each site. These members serve as the guardians of the Reserve. These councils are identifying the needs for increased protection, which may include more stewardship, policymaking, better coastal planning, etc. The program is still in its infancy, and in the next couple of years we will be able to assess if these efforts are leading to more effective threat responses and increased stewardship of the coast and ocean.

WSR is essentially creating community around the protection of valuable surfing resources and increasing the number of tools available. Even locations that have significant legal protection can come under threat, but the more tools, resources, and people you have, the better chance you will have of defeating that threat. As the late Peter Douglas said, “The coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.” The same goes for waves.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and widlife and is the author of Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

Surf and Boules in Ensenada: A Super Day in the Biarritz of Mexico

Zach Plopper ripping San Miguel after the surf started pumping after the contest was over.

Spend the day yesterday in Ensenada at the 2nd Annual Walter Coloca Jr. Memorial Surf Contest organized by UAPO and WiLDCOAST. It was an epic weekend with one of the craziest NW swells I’ve ever seen in April (the surf jumped from 2-4′ in the morning to 6-10′ in the afternoon). I’ll post more about the contest later this week.

Javier Martinez the propietor of Boules in San MIguel in Ensenada.

But besides the great surf the highlight of the day was strolling over to Boules, a 2-year old restaurant that is perched above the inside break at San Miguel. Located inside a restored vintage building, Boules is a great addition to the Ensenada food scene. Owned by Javier Martinez (Javier’s brother David owns the insanely great Muelle 3) and his wife Galia Ahlborn, Boules is Biarritz meets Mexico. An earthy unpretentious and rustic location and similar tasty, simple, but delicious food.

Efrain with the mushroom and roasted zuchini appetizers.

While I sampled roasted zuchini with parmesan, roasted artichoke, mushrooms, fresh yellowtail (jurel) sashimi, and risotto with mushrooms and duck, with my staffers Sofia and Efrain, I watched the surf roll into San Miguel and chatted with Javier.

The bar at Boules.

Surfing is just part of the reason to visit San Miguel. But like a lot of surfers and foodies, I am finding that the innovative and original food being offered up throughout Ensenada is what is going to have me coming back for more. Don’t wait to visit Ensenada before the whole scene blows up. But for now get down to Boules for a pleasant afternoon lunch or dinner. You won’t regret it.

WiLDCOAST staffers Efrain and Sofia at Boules.

Risotto with mushrooms and duck.

Sofia and Javier. For such a cool place, Javier and Galia are incredibly down-to-earth. Javier sat and chatted with us for a while. We had a mutual friend, Luis Guerena the legendary founder of Tijuana No! a seminal Mexican ska-punk band who passed away and who I wrote about in my book Wild Sea.

Mural at Boules.

What could be better than great food and watching world-class surf. That's me in one of my contest heats. My bottom turns couldn't match the vertical surfing of fellow competitors who were half my age and seriously ripped.

Sharing the Stoke at Rincon

The WiLDCOAST team.

PB Surf Shop owner Randy Strunk was there. So was environmental attorney Rory Wick of Coast Law Group in Encinitas.

Surfboard shaper innovator Steve Pendarvis and his lovely photographer/journalist wife Cher traveled up from the Sunset Cliffs.

Josh Hall, another San Diego shaper and a graduate of Coronado High School, made it in time to surf on his brilliant green single fin with his friends from the PB Surf Club.

San Diego shaper Josh Hall.

The Surfrider Advisory Board put together a team helmed by former Surfrider CEO Pierce Flynn who is now at Dub Magazine.

Everyone, and I mean everyone had a smile on their face.

So why was everyone stoked, grinning and reveling in the perfect day of Aloha, goodwill, and a classic Southern California beach day.

Because they had accepted the Groundswell Society’s invitation to surf the 5th Annual Sharing the Stoke Rincon Invitational, a team surfing benefit event.

“It was a real special event to be a part of and I look forward to it year in year out. Plus the Con has delivered insane waves the last two years,” said Josh, who is planning a trip to northeast Spain this summer to shape, surf and hang with his many Basque friends (thanks to Josh our family will have the pleasure of hosting a super grom Basque surfer this summer).

Glen Henning, Director and Founder of the Groundswell Society and contest director.

Glen Henning, the founder and organizer of the Groundswell Society and the Sharing the Stoke event, was on hand to make sure that everyone followed the rules.

“Imagine California’s best surf spot, a sunny weekend, waves 3-5′ and pretty consistent, with only friends in the water sharing waves and the pure stoke of surfing,” said Glen. “Each of 11 teams, invited thanks to their public service efforts, had the fabled waves to themselves for an hour.”

And what were the rules? Teams scored points by sharing waves and riding lots of waves. The more surfers on a wave, the more points they scored.

The Rincon Pit Crew, an assemblage of what are arguably California’s most hardcore surfers celebrates the day by barbequing chicken and ribs for everyone.

“Glenn Henning’s Rincon Classic is California’s greatest anti-contest,” said Wicks who is as amiable as a surfer can get.

A team from the Great Lakes made the trek from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. They were stoked and still perplexed about the fact that the Chicago Police Department arrests surfers for the crime of surfing.

“It is not like they don’t have a lot of really serious crime to deal with,” said Mike Killion a Chicago-based surfer and photographer and Surfrider Foundation activist. “They threw one guy in jail while he was still in his wetsuit. One cop asked me if I was high because I was surfing.”

My team from WiLDCOAST was about 20 strong, and included Imperial Beach locals Randy Putland and his daughter Chase, A.J. Schneller, the Johnson Family (Daren, Terri and Josh), and super groms Noah Bender, Jake Stutz, Aries Chavira, Ashley McAskill, and Camryn Rockwell.

The Alldredges (Peachy, Andrew, Jack and Marshall), a Coronado surfing family extraordinaire, and Coronado High surfer Sean Franks, joined us and surfed their brains out.

My WiLDCOAST team paddled out at 2pm on Saturday. The waves were a pleasant 2-3’ with larger sets that never seemed to stop. The sun was shining and the predicted south wind didn’t blow.

When I paddled out my childhood surf heroes and former world surfing champs Peter “PT” Townend and Shaun Tomson each caught a shoulder high set wave to complete their heat.

For an hour our team traded waves, shared waves, laughed and hooted.

“It was the best hour of my life,” said Aries Chavira.

“I overheard one grom say, ‘I didn’t know having this much fun was so tiring,’” said surf dad Daren Johnson, who was ripping his shortboard backside. “I think the fact that they were getting so many waves was what made them exhausted since they were surfing, paddling, surfing, paddling and never sitting.”

When you share waves you catch more waves and you have more fun.

“It was a really fun event,” said surfer mom Terri Johnson. “How many people get to surf Rincon with just a bunch of their friends?  Plus it was a beautiful afternoon with clean water, waves, and great company.”

Sean, Israel and Josh.


Total Waves
1. Sunset Cliffs Surfing Association
2. Wildcoast
3. Surf Happens

Total Shared Waves
1. Great Lakes Surf Crew
2. 3rd World Surf Co.
3. Best Day Foundation

Team Surfing
1. Coast Law Group
2. Surf Class
3. Surfrider Advisory Board

Team Spirit Awards
P.B. Surf Shop
Oxnard High School Surf Club

Best Wave (Team Surfing)
3rd World Surf Co.

Surf, Art and Soul in Sayulita

The beach at Sayulita--the surf is similar to Cardiff Reef. Mellow reef and rivermouth cobble semi-point.

I arrived at the Puerto Vallarta airport after a short flight from San Diego and was immediately whisked away by Darrin Polischuk, a filmmaker who I had first met when he lived in northern Baja.

“The surf should be fun,” said Darrin.

I traveled to the Riviera Nayarit, the name for the coast north of Puerto Vallarta, to give a talk in Sayulita, a coastal village known for its artsy surf vibe and boutique and gallery lined streets.

“When we first arrived here a few years ago we knew it was the place for us,” said Darrin, who lives in Sayulita with his wife Paulina and two children. “And we’ve been here ever since.”

Half an hour after my arrival Darrin and I were surfing 2-4’ rights and lefts with a few friendly locals somewhere on the way out to Punta de Mita, a theme green headland that forms the northern terminus of Bahia de Banderas.

The waves were similar to Church’s at San Onofre.

The tropical foliage and white sand beach reminded me of Kauai and southeastern coast of Australia.

After about an hour and half, we returned to the truck and headed north to Sayulita on a small highway that meandered through the rainforest.

Upon our arrival, Darrin dropped me off at the brightly colored Petit Hotel Hafa, owned by Christophe and Marina Mignot.

Just a couple of blocks from the beach, the Hafa has free Wi-Fi and simple but clean and tastefully decorated rooms.

“Marina, the kids and I came to Sayulita after traveling many years on a sailboat and living in Portugal,” said Christophe, who is French. “We were looking for an easy living place with surf sun and culture. The family loves it!”

Marina, who is from Mallorca, has installed a little boutique on the ground floor of the hotel with surf and nature inspired art and jewelry.

The following morning, I walked around the corner from the hotel to the Café El Espresso Sayulita.

After sipping a double espresso with just the right amount of foam, I strolled down to the beach to check the surf.

Nearby, local fishermen were readying their pangas for a day of fishing.

Down the beach, the operators of surfboard rental companies were setting up their boards and umbrellas.

With a mellow cobblestone reef point in town, Sayulita is the perfect destination for beginning surfers or surfing families.

I first visited Sayulita a decade ago with my wife Emily and our two budding surfer sons.

Israel my oldest son had just learned to surf. “I got my first barrel in Sayulita,” he remembered. We spent the entire weekend surfing and playing in the waves.

The town really hasn’t changed that much since then. There are just more boutiques, galleries, hotels and great places to eat.

It was too windy to surf, so I walked over to meet Kevin Roberts of Punta Sayulita who grew up in Coronado and is developing an Indonesian/Hawaiian style residential village just south of town.

Kevin was the host for my lecture that evening and is one of the organizers of the 3rd Annual Punta Sayulita Longboard & Stand- Up Paddle Classic that will be held on March 9 – 11.

“Over the past two years, the Punta Sayulita Classic has developed into one of the premier surfing and stand-up paddle events in North America,” said Kevin.

“The event has one of the deepest international fields competing head-to-head in longboard and stand-up paddle (“SUP”) surfing contests as well as in an array of exciting offshore SUP distance races.”

Later that day Darrin picked me up to search for surf.

Once again the wind didn’t cooperate.

Just a few miles north of Sayulita, we turned into San Francisco (the locals call it San Pancho), an earthy coastal village that has become a new-age destination.

Huichol women in brightly colored dresses sold jewelry on the tiny malecon. Beautiful murals depicting the town’s agricultural and indigenous legacy surrounded them.

We visited the Entre Amigos Community Center, a brightly painted brick building in the middle of town.

Photo by Globalista

Local children were reading in the public library and working on art projects.

“We focus on classes, lectures, art, community projects and education,” said Nicole Swedlow, Executive Director of Entre Amigos. “The center was community designed, is community driven and has become a gathering space and a place of tremendous positive energy.”

Photo by Globalista

After my evening talk on conserving Baja’s coastline and showing the documentary, The Baja Wave Document, at Punta Sayulita, I sat down to dinner at a restaurant on the town’s colorful plaza with Paul Van Fleck, a photographer.

Paul is a longtime friend from Coronado who had previously lived in Imperial Beach and Todos Santos in Baja.

He keeps a small studio in Sayulita and as well as a place in Puerto Vallarta. “I love surfing here,” said Paul.

Prior to catching my flight the following day, Darrin drove me to another surf spot on the road out to Punta de Mita.

After a short walk through a tropical forest, we emerged on to the beach to find  waist-high surf and glassy conditions.

Darrin and I shared wave with a few tourists on longboards and sea turtles swimming around the reef.

It was a good omen and a great way to end my short time surfing and exploring in and around the magical coastline of Sayulita.

Sayulita is host to a major SUP and Longboard contest.

My hotel the Petit Hafa, was a nice simple "boutique" hotel. I love staying in places like this. Much more comfortable and easy to hang out in compared to a big resort hotel.

Surfing is a big business here with tons of locally owned surf schools.

The Punta Sayulita office and casita where I gave my talk. Couldn't think of a nicer place to give a talk.

Preparing for my talk.

Answering questions--a great group showed up.

Kevin Roberts at left of Punta Sayulita hosted me. He grew up in Coronado. That's Paul Van Fleck of Nado-IB-Baja-Sayulita just next to Kevin (heading poking out), Robert "Chuy" Madrigal a longtime tourism and surfing consultant in Mexico, and Darrin Polischuk is to the right of me. Darrin is a longtime friend from Baja who has helped out Wildcoast for years now.

The cafe around the corner from my hotel and on the main plaza--excellent espresso and good simple, healthy food. My kind of place.

Lots of galleries and boutiques in town.

This surf shop has what are arguably the coolest surf t-shirt designs of any shop in Mexico.

The coast south of Sayulita looking to Punta Mita. This is a beautiful coast and biogeographically the southern end of the Sea of Cortez. The surf is pretty gentle along here with reefs and white sand beaches in some locations.

Surfing’s New Aloha: The 2012 Groundswell Conference

The conference took place at SDSU.

It used to be that surfers didn’t worry about anything except catching the next wave.

For Glen Hening, founder of the Groundswell Society, the 10th Annual Surfing, Arts, Sciences and Issues Conference, was all about surfers moving beyond sefishness and embracing a new spirit of aloha.

Co-hosted and organized by SDSU’s new Center for Surf Research, the event brought together more than 120 surf industry stalwarts, social entrepreneurs and everyday surfers to examine the myriad of ways in which surfers can give back.

“The conference confirmed a whole new trend in surfing that’s not about commerce or competition, but about community,” Hening said. “A university setting, great presentations, honest answers, and a real surf-stoke vibe made SASIC 10 a bit of a milestone.”

For Jess Ponting, director of the Center for Surf Research, the conference marked the beginning of a new era in surfer philanthropy and giving back.

Originally from Australia, Ponting has carried out research on the economic, ecological, and cultural impacts of surfing tourism in the surfing “nirvanas” such as Indonesia.

During his research, he found that the multi-million dollar surf tour industry was a complete contrast to the abject poverty and environmental degradation of the rural communities that populate many third-world surfing destinations.

But in some places that situation is changing. Over the past decade, with the development of organizations such as SurfAid, and the emergence of a more strategic form of surf industry philanthropy, a new culture of giving back has emerged among surfers and the surf industry.

Dave Aabo is the founder of Waves for Development, an organization that works to link surfing and community development in the wave-rich coastal desert of northern Peru.

At the conference, he provided an overview on how to make a strategic request from a surf company to carry out community work.

Aabo, an ex-Peace Corps volunteer who departed for Peru the day after the conference, is slowly bringing a more business-like approach to the complex field of community development.

Other presentations were given by staff from Surfing the Nations, SurfAid, Surfing Magazine, and Surfers for Cetaceans. Pierce Kavanaugh screened his film, Manufacturing Stoke.

In the panel on corporate philanthropy, Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver, PJ Connell of Reef and Derek Sabori of Volcom, all provided an overview of how these companies make an impact in their giving (in full disclosure, WiLDCOAST, the organization that I am Executive Director of, receives support from Quiksilver, Reef and SIMA).

For all three companies it is critical for their staff and surfers to get more involved in the projects they are funding and support.

Giving back has now become another important element for professional surfers as well. Kelly Slater for example launched the Kelly Stater Foundation to facilitate his philanthropy.

Rob Machado, who was interviewed by Ponting in a video presentation, carries out his philanthropic work in San Diego County through the Rob Machado Foundation.

The iconic Cardiff surfer also worked with Reef to create a more sustainable sandal made from recycled tires.

One of the more well-received presentations of the day came from Kevin Whilden, co-founder of Sustainable Surf, who identifies and implements environmental solutions for the surf industry.

In one of its key programs, the start-up organization has helped to collect thousands of pounds of used styrofoam that is then collected, compressed and reused in recycled EPS surfboard blanks.

These blanks produced by Marko foam only cost $5 more than those that are non-recycled, and according to Whelden, “are 10 percent stronger.”

Additionally, Sustainable Surf partnered with the Rip Curl and Waste Busters at the San Francisco Rip Curl Pro to reduce waste by 90%.

It is solutions like these and green and social entrepreneurs such as Whilden, Aabo and the new plethora of the members of surfing’s new “aloha” generation who are changing what has typically been a group of inward-looking athletes, into a community that understands the need to give back.

Jake Stutz, a High Tech High sophomore, who attended the SDSU event, exemplifies this new generation.

Recently returned from a school trip to Nicaragua, Jake and his classmates volunteered for community development projects and caught some great waves.

“It was cool,” he said.

Israel Dedina at the WiLDCOAST table. Thanks to Daniel and Jake Stutz for helping out!

Jeff Knox, Megan from San Diego Coastkeeper and Marco Gonzalez from Coast Law Group.

Zach Plopper and AJ Schneller of WiLDCOAST

Jess Ponting, Director of SDSU's Center for Surf Research and Dave Aabo of Waves for Development.

Panel on Corporate Philanthropy with PJ Connel of Reef, Derek Sabori of Volcom, Jeff Wilson of Quiksilver, and Michael Steward of Sustainable Surf.

Panel on Surfer Driven Non-Profits: Andrea Yoder Clarke of SurfAid, Zach Plopper of WiLDCOAST, Tom Bauer of Surfing the Nations, and Kevin Whilden of Sustainable Surf

Pierce Kavanaugh Director of Manufacturing Stoke.

Surfing Magazine editor and SDSU alum, Taylor Paul talking about engaging pro surfers in giving back.

Jack Oneill’s Surfing Life and Legacy

Drew Kampion has always been one of the most astute and intelligent observers of modern surfing. With over 10 books to his name, the former editor of SURFER, SURFING and the Surfer’s Path, has published a new tome on the life of Jack O’Neill, the legendary innovator behind surfing wetsuits and the founder of the Santa Cruz surf giant, O’Neill.

Serge Dedina: You’ve documented the evolution of surfing since the 1960s. For you, what was the most innovative and exciting era?

Drew Kampion: Definitely 1968-1970 … what could compare? So many converging impulses in that atmosphere of cultural upheaval and experimentation. Surfboard designs were changing by the week – by the day! 40 years on there are still people going back to some of those ideas and realizing that there had been no follow-through. So you see a re-exploration of concepts. The fact that the 40-some pros on the WCT (and the rest of the ASP and ISA circuits) ride boards that appear to be essentially cookie-cutter, in fact there are infinite varieties out there being ridden and tested, and each of them has its own little cult following and band of believers and all of that. Those thousands of little niches create the actuality of the surfing world.

Dedina: Your tenure as the SURFING editor in the 1970s seemed to be the zenith of mainstream surf journalism for adults. Are surfers really interested in coherent and contextual reporting anymore?

Kampion: I think so. In fact I’ve really, really enjoyed a lot of the surf writers over the past 20 or 30 years. I think surf writers are pretty good as a group –they tell good stories about adventures on the edge of things, they integrate environmental and naturalistic perspectives, they do a good job of enlarging our understanding of the sport and art and culture. I think the surf mags have done very well, even as ownership and management have shifted, the guys on the beach have stayed on mission. Thanks to them all!

Dedina: Jack O’Neill seems to be one of the last generation of founding fathers and surf CEOs. Do you think in today’s world of multi-national surf companies that O’Neill’s success is even possible anymore?

Kampion: Absolutely. Surfers are quick to pick up on things that improve their game in one way or another, and practical innovations will always attract a market.  From there, you just start selling T-shirts and “sportswear,” and you’re golden!  That’s where the money is, in all of these companies.  No one really got right making surfboards or wetsuits; it’s the sportswear (made in China and sold to folks in Chicago or Knoxville) that builds the so-called “industry.”

Author Drew Kampion

Dedina: When O’Neill looks back on his own life and career, what is his greatest legacy

Kampion: Aside from an incomparable accumulation of innovations, inventions, and improvements in the world of wetsuits and related comfort-causing products, I’d say Team O’Neill was the big one. Largely Pat O’Neill’s baby, the Team O’Neill concept (an international roster of top riders who toured, marketed, competed, and partied together around the planet) really provided a template for what became modern pro surfing and also inspired the other big companies to follow suit. Team O’Neill arguably ignited the reality of career surfers with potential beyond the performance arenas.

Dedina: Out of all the innovations that have spurred the progression of surfing, where does the development of modern wetsuits fit?

Kampion: Well, it’s one of the top three probably, right up there with foam (which Jack pioneered too) and the leash (which Pat O’Neill helped create).  So, the O’Neill name is pretty essential in the evolution of surfing.  Picture surfing without Jack and his kids, and the vision would be far more limited, I’d say.

Dedina: How did the development of wetsuits and especially the commercialization of flexible, neoprene suits for surfing help advance modern surfing?

Kampion: Without the wetsuit – and specifically the smooth-skinned neoprene wetsuit – surfing would be a far more limited, unknown, and warm-weather sport associated with certain parts of the world. As it is now, with the proliferation of the wetsuit and associated technological developments, surfing is a global sport that has participants in the northernmost points of Europe, America, and Asia, as well as the chill zones of Africa, South America, and Australia.  Surfing (and a full range of other sports and activities) is a year-round global sport, in large measure due to the wetsuit.

Dedina: Why did Jack O’Neill set out to create a surfing wetsuit?

Kampion: Jack had been working in sales for several years following WWII, and he’d moved from Portland to San Francisco to work for an uncle in the fire-equipment business. Anyway, this kept him trapped in the downtown world most of the time, and Jack, being an adventurous spirit, was getting progressively more claustrophobic. His only escape was a drive down to the beach and a plunge into the Pacific.

This was totally invigorating, and he was an excellent and dedicated bodysurfer, but there were limits to how long you can swim in that water without protection.  So the cycle of “dive in, swim out, catch a wave or two, start shivering, get hypothermic, sprint back to the beach and the fire to warm up and do it all again” had (its) own frustrations, so… he began to think about ways to keep warm and thus be able to surf longer.

First came bathing caps and wool sweaters, but when he saw a piece of PVC foam in a surplus store, a lightbulb went off, and he tried fitting pieces of the foam into his bunhugger trunks … and behold! At least that part of him was warm. So, one thing led to another, and soon he found neoprene and the rest is history.

Dedina: Out of all of the surf personalities you have written about who stands out? And whose surfing stands out for you?

Kampion: Well, I learned to surf (literally) in the shadow of Miki Dora. I was awestruck by the surfing and animal magnetism of Nat Young. I was blown away by the intricate artful sensibilities of Tom Curren. I was overwhelmed with the powerful insights and commitment of Titus Kinimaka, and on and on and on.  Every one of the hundreds or thousands of surfers I’ve interviewed has been a unique pearl of human perfection, and each one I’ve appreciated in many ways, but I must say that it’s hard not to admit that Kelly Slater is the most impressive surfer (meaning a person whose central mission in life is riding waves) that I’ve encountered.

He’s 40 years old, and he’s still the best.  In fact, his mission may be to see how old the best can get.  But Kelly is amazing on other levels too — interpersonally, heartfully, aesthetically.creatively — that it’s hard to see him as anything other than the culmination and fruition of numerous forces.  I continue to follow his career with fascination, keeping one eye out for the amazing genius that will inevitably follow him.

Dedina: Your book, Stoked: A History of Surf Culture, provides an excellent framework for understanding the world of surfing, but has surfing become too mainstream and too commercial to be considered a lifestyle or culture anymore?

Kampion: An old friend of mine, who sold advertising in the surfing world, used to caution companies and clients, “Don’t forget to water your roots!”  Meaning, don’t leave the beach to chase the dollar – you’ll regret it.  Some big companies buy a surf brand and then see the brand go into immediate decline — because not only do they not water the roots, they don’t even know where the roots are!  The fact the sport becomes mainstream or commercial only affects those that are affected by that.  The core practitioners of the sport-art don’t change, they just move further out to the edges, where all of that in drowned out by the sound of moving water.

White Wash: Challenging Racial Stereotypes in Surfing

Last night I spoke with the Malibu Surfing Association (thanks guys!!!) at Duke’s in Malibu. In attendance was Andrea Kabwasa, who is active in the Malibu club. Andrea was handing out invitations to attend a screening of White Wash, a film that explores the “often overlooked ‘Black aquatic tradition.” Andrea is also in the film.

I had first learned of the interesting history of black surfers while on a surf trip to Michoacan, Mexico. I met members of the Black Surfing Association, who were in the process of making White Wash.

Members of the Black Surfing Association after a long session surfing a secret left point in Michoacan.

After the trip I returned home and wrote this post for my occasional column in the Voice of San Diego:

On a recent surfing trip to the wild Pacific coastline of southern Mexico, I met a group of surfers who are so committed to their vision of community that it made me reevaluate my own notion of surfing as sport. For members of the Black Surfing Association, in whose company I was lucky enough to spend two mornings surfing a remote left point break, surfing is, in the words of BSA’s Rick Blocker, about, “teaching, mentoring.”

In between multiple surf sessions (it stayed offshore until 1p.m.) and watching BSA member Rusty White rip the head high perfect lefts, I chatted with Rick and Will Lamar about their passion and the history of black surfing in Southern California.

Rick and Will are some of the most interesting and perceptive surfers I’ve met. Rick is the BSA historian and according to

In the early ’60s, Blocker and friends Max McMullin and Marc Thompson began skating streets and banks all over west Los Angeles. Rick’s childhood “play cousin”, Marty Grimes, close friend of the Dogtown crew and perhaps the first black professional skateboarder, credits Rick with introducing him to the surf/skate lifestyle. A few years later, a friend of Rick’s mother took him surfing for the first time, at Malibu. Rick was instantly “stoked just being in the water, seeing the sights, seeing the perspective.” Rick began commuting by bus from inner city LA to Santa Monica, where he kept an old board in a “board locker” at the pier. In 1968, when he was 13, Rick saved up enough money ($150) to buy his first new stick, a Dewey Weber longboard.

Will was shooting video for a documentary and discussed how African Americans were a key part of the Southern California beach scene in the early part of the 20th century — but were physically barred from using the beach after the first black surfing resort, Bruce’s Beach, was destroyed. This history of Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach is an ugly chapter in the often sordid history of Southern California, in which racism is a neglected theme in the often Disneyfied accounts of our past — especially as it relates to what some geographers call “Surfurbia.”

According to the City Project, from whose executive director, Robert Garcia, I had first heard about Bruce’s Beach:

When Manhattan Beach was incorporated in 1912, a two-block area on the ocean was set aside for African-Americans. Charles and Willa Bruce built a black beach resort there, the only resort in Southern California that allowed Blacks. Bruces’ Beach offered ocean breezes, bathhouses, outdoor sports, dining, and dancing to African-Americans who craved their fair share of Southern California’s good life. As coastal land became more valuable and the black population in Los Angeles increased — bringing more African-Americans to Bruces’ Beach — so did white opposition to the black beach. The black beach was roped off. The KKK harassed black beachgoers. The City of Manhattan Beach pressured black property owners to sell at prices below fair market value and prevailed in the 1920s through condemnation proceedings. Bruce’s Beach and the surrounding black neighborhood were destroyed. Black beachgoers were then relegated to the blacks-only section of Santa Monica beach known as “the Inkwell.” Manhattan Beach tried to lease the Bruce’s Beach land to a private individual as a whites-only beach, but relented in the face of civil disobedience organized by the NAACP. Bernard Bruce has spent his life telling people about Bruce’s Beach, the beach resort that his family owned. No one believed him because they did not believe black people owned beach resorts. This is why it is important to tell the story of Bruce’s Beach.

On March 31, 2007, the city of Manhattan Beach renamed its ocean front park Bruce’s Beach Park in memory of the pioneering African American community there. At least in Los Angeles, there is an awareness of how to redress the racist wrongs of the past. In San Diego, when it comes to the racist heritage of coastal exclusion (in such enclaves as La Jolla), we are in total denial.

The spirit of Bruce’s Beach lives on in the BSA and in surfers like Will and Rick, who are attempting to build a inclusive surfing community in Southern California rather than one that includes a select few.

One of the subjects I mentioned last night during my talk was the need for the surfing community to reach out to everyone to share our love and passion with the ocean. That is also especially important for the mostly white environmental movement.

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