Jimmy Surf Fiesta finds a cure for the COVID-19 beach blues

Team Camp Coye Lounger Award winners Kevin Coye (in background), Kai Coye, Lexi Sholten, Coral Coye, Gavin Kingston. Photo by Jamie Kingston

Team Maldives. Photos courtesy of the Jimmy Miller Foundation.


Over the past 18 years, the Jimmy Miller Surf Fiesta has been a fun, family day of groveling for whatever waves 45th Street in Manhattan Beach delivered on the first weekend of November. Over 200 surfers regularly compete. But this year, because of the pandemic, beach gatherings were banned.

Undeterred, contest organizers unleashed their competitors to surf anywhere in the world and to video their surf sessions for the judges to view.

The Cherry family surfed 45th Street because they live there. Team Boogie surfed 45th because the beachbreak lends itself to Boogie boarders. But other teams saw the expanded contest boundaries as an opportunity to surf the best waves in the world.

Team Maldives surfed the Maldives. Team Gaviotas Groms surfed Gaviotas in Baja. The Brewer Twins surfed Trestles. Team Isurus surfed Jalama, above Point Conception. In Isurus’ video, team captain Ed Quinn recalled surfing Jalama with Jimmy Miller after the two became friends at Cal.

Expanding the contest locations elevated the competition level, as well. Team Isurus’ Twiggy Baker, of South Africa, won the Best Wave award for a 20-foot-plus bomb he caught in Portugal on Nov. 2. Baker is a two-time Mavericks Big Wave winner.

Best Wave honorable mentions went to Dayton Silva for ripping a wave at 4th Street in Manhattan, to Derek Brewer for a Lowers Trestles left and to Flavio Pires for a scream at Punta Mango in El Salvador.

The Best Team award went to Isurus, which also included former Canadian pro Raph Bruhwiler and his daughter Aqua.

Best Performance by a Boy Grom went to Cole Saffell, 12. Though he normally surfs Marine Street in Manhattan Beach, his winning wave was a perfect left, just a plane and a boat ride away, in the Maldives. Tesa Mesa, of Hermosa Beach, won the Girl Grommet award for a powerful right at Las Gaviotas.

Grom Ava Saffell received honorable mention for a long Maldives left recorded by a videographer surfing behind her.

Best Wipeout is traditionally awarded to a single surfer. But the Team BalkerCamp’ video looked so much like a comedy wipeout scene in a Bruce Brown surf movie, that the award was given to the whole team. Team members were Koa Balk, 8, Ruby Balk, 7, Van Parker, 8, and Finn Parker, 7. This year’s contest was dedicated to Koa’s and Ruby’s dad John, a longtime local surfer who passed away this year.

Will, Hilary, Beck and Cash Cherry won the Best Family Performance, based less on their surfing than on the shouts of encouragement their kids gave their parents. Otherwise, the Silva family would have won. Son Dayton is a pro.

The coveted Beach Lounger Award went to Team Camp Coye. Their video featured a Halloween theme and Gavin Kingston tripping on his leash and doing a headplant.

The Jimmy Miller Foundation provides ocean therapy for the physically and mentally ill, including military veterans. The therapy includes surf lessons for wounded veterans from the Veteran’s Hospital in West Los Angeles and at Camp Pendleton. It’s ocean therapy is featured in this month’s Journal of Community Psychology Practice.

To view videos of the winning teams, and learn more about the Jimmy Miller Foundation visit JimmyMillerFoundation.org. ER

Team Maldives’ Ava Saffell received honorable mention for this long left recorded by a videographer surfing behind her.


Team Boogie Fever (Left to right) Haku, PK, Monkey and Charlie Bear.


Team Camp Coye Lounger Award winners Kevin Coye (in background), Kai Coye, Lexi Sholten, Coral Coye, Gavin Kingston. Photo by Jamie Kingston


Best Wipeout award winners Team BalkerCamp.


A scary Coral Coy, of Team Camp Coye.


Team Gaviotas’ Amanda Dellenbach, London Meza, Teagan Meza and Cayden Meza.


Team Isurus’ Raph and Aqua Bruhwiler warming up for a session in Tofino, British Columbia.


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