RETURN OF THE HOTDOGGER: Longboard surf contest comes to Manhattan Beach
by Mark McDermott
“Let the young hot-dogger have his fun in the shorebreak. A mature man will never remain a hot-dogger.”
From “Hot-Dogging vs Classic Surfing,” SURFER, Sept. 1966, by Sam Reid, as preserved in the Encyclopedia of Surfing.
“Most surfers agree that there are two predominant styles in surfing. The stylist concentrates on exactness and control. He retains control throughout the ride and purposely limits his actions. The hot-dog surfer remains the master. He is an accomplished small-wave rider. Being able to maneuver quickly and easily on small wave betters his chances of becoming a small rider in all types of surf. A hot-dogger develops his reactions until they’re almost instinctive because he is able to ride any type of swell with greater confidence.”
Dewey Weber, in Surfing magazine, uncertain date, as preserved in the Encyclopedia of Surfing.
The Hotdogger is back, and back where it belongs, at the Manhattan Beach Pier.
The surf contest, formally known as the Subaru Pacific Hotdogger Championship, ran for five years ending in 2019, south of the Hermosa Pier. The Hotdogger was exuberantly organized by longboarder and local surf culture preservationist Ed Solt to celebrate a style of surfing that was in its heyday over a half-century ago.
The Hotdogger disappeared with the pandemic. Now Solt is reviving the contest, and doing so in a way that honors the legendary “first hotdogger,” Dewey Weber. In the early ‘80s, when longboarding had fallen out of favor, Weber helped revive the style by organizing the Dewey Weber Longboarding Classic at the Manhattan Beach Pier.
“I wanted to move the Hotdogger to the Manhattan Pier to pay homage to those contests back in the early 80s that basically put longboarding back on the map,” Solt said. “Because longboarding had become like a novelty thing. It was just sort of passe, or whatever the word is. The Dewey Weber Classic got everybody back in the water from the ‘60s.
Solt wasn’t born until 1983, but he has every T-shirt from the Dewey Weber Classics, which he found at auctions, as well as a red tracksuit worn by a member of the Dewey Weber team at one of the contests. He and a handful of friends grew up keeping the dim fire of traditional longboarding alive. They were all also inspired by iconic El Segundo longboarder Tyler Hatzikian.
“When I was a kid, a few of us were on these traditional boards,” Solt said. “Like, I mean a few of us — I am talking like maybe enough to fill up a jury. We were riding ‘60s longboards.”
The poster and T-shirt shirt art for the Hotdogger harkens back to the Dewey Weber Classic. The art is by renowned surf artist Brian Bent and is based on an 80s photo from the contest, taken by the late surf photographer Brian McStotts. It depicts longboarder Rocky Sabo, who happens to be Bent’s uncle, on a wave below the MB Pier.
Solt went far enough down the rabbit hole to know that the first revival at the Manhattan Pier in 1981 wasn’t technically the Dewey Weber Classic, but a contest organized by local legend Peff Eick.
“That first contest was the Peff Eick Invitational, sponsored by Dewey,” Eick said. “No one was surfing longboards so I had a contest. We thought there would be maybe 40 guys who would participate and ended up with about 150.”
And yes, Solt has the Peff Eick Invitation T-shirt shirt. But more crucially, he has the stamina to organize the notoriously unruly breed of humans known as longboarders, more than 100 of whom will participate at Saturday morning’s Hotdogger. The contest features an open division, a women’s division, an under-18 division, a legends heat and “the Superdogger,” which allows only old boards. The Hotdogger also features a few idiosyncratic contests within the contest, in particular a “Spin-to-Win Whirlybird Invitational.” The Whirlybird was a maneuver surfers on more modern longboards performed when Solt was a kid, one that he and his purist longboarder buddies couldn’t do on their boards.
“You had Chris Bredeson Jr., on a board that probably weighed as much as one of our fins, lose the fins to do a spinout, and it was called the Whirlybird, or Helicopter,” Solt said. “Dan Cobley was also a master of that, and Dave Shaeffer. You turn around and somebody is doing that, and you were like, ‘I’m done. My board can’t even do that. If it does that, it’s not working.’ So I like to include everybody, and we wanted to get all these guys out there, who are cool dudes. We just have different choices of equipment.”
“The Whirlybird winner gets flying lessons from Sling Pilot Academy,” Solt said. “How sick is that?”
Mayor Richard Montgomery said he welcomes the Hotdogger back to the Manhattan Beach Pier.
“I believe all surf-related events at our world-famous pier solidify our reputation as the most picaresque and friendly beach in SoCal,” Montgomery said.
The contest also includes a team challenge, sponsored by L&B Coastal.
Other sponsors include Jonesea Wetsuits, South Bay Credit Union, Katin, Mickey’s Deli, Beach Hut, Chevron, Riera’s Place, and Naja’s, where at 6 p.m. the afterparty and awards ceremony will also celebrate legendary surfer Mike Purpus’s 75th birthday.
“The Hotdogger is basically, to me, all the generations, all my influences — not San Diego, not Orange County, not even mainstream longboarding influences,” Solt said. “It’s what inspired me in my experience growing up in the South Bay. Aloha Days, Tyler Hatzikian, my favorite longboarder of all time, and of course Mike Purpus, hanging out with him when he had a mullet and everybody gave him a hard time because he looked like a perverted Captain Kangaroo tied in with a Teletubby.”
Purpus, arguably the greatest surfer the South Bay has produced, is one of the inspirations for the Hotdogger.
“Hotdogging is going for broke, like how Dewey Weber surfed,” Solt said. “Hard turns, roller coasters, fast nose rides, quick speed…You might not look the prettiest, but you are trying to be the most radical. Purpus was that way, too. You look at the evolution of surfing the hotdog style, I think there was Dewey, and then there was Purpus.”
The Subaru Pacific Hotdogger Championship begins at 7 a.m. at the Manhattan Beach Pier. For more information see Hotdoggers.org.