South Bay Boardriders/Jolo Surf Contest in Manhattan Beach challenges locals, takes out club president

Kai Kushner stays focused on his way to winning the Boys Junior division. Photo by Steve Gaffney (

Kai Kushner stays focused on his way to winning the Boys Junior division. Photo by Steve Gaffney (

The Jolo Media/South Bay Boardriders contest last Saturday in El Porto began with a 6.7-foot, king high tide, pea soup fog and 4-foot shore pound. It looked like the English moors in Sherlock Holmes’ “Hounds of the Baskervilles. The powerful shore break was crashing on the hard sand. 

Contest director Matt Walls mercifully decided to delay the starting heats until 8:30 a.m. It turned out to be a good idea — for everyone except club president Tom Horton. The fog started to lift and the waves began to break out further with the receding tide. The north contest area was set up at the end of the El Porto parking lot and the south contest area put in front of the 42th Street lifeguard tower.

SBBC president Tom Horton on what may be his last wave for a while. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

Horton and Dave Schaefer were in the opening Legends (50 and over) heat. Schaefer found some good rights down the beach, hanging toes on his longboard. Tom took over the fast lefts feeding into the inside bowls. When the heat ended and the two were leaving the water together, the shorepound slammed Horton into the sand. 

“Dave, something’s wrong, I can’t stand up and my foot really hurts.” His right foot looked unhinged from his tibia. Horton is short, but thick. Schaefer, a former LA Firefighter/Paramedic, cradled Horton in his arms and, with an assist from fellow competitor Don Toombs, rushed Horton  up the beach.

Off duty Lifeguard Captain Tom Chef was scheduled to surf in the following heat. He called for support and a lifeguard truck pulled up and drove Horton to the parking lot, where he was placed in the back of a Manhattan Beach Firefighter paramedic truck and taken to a hospital. His ankle was dislocated, and broken.

Long Board division winner Dave Schaefer prepares for a crash landing. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

But the contest went on

Seth made it back to his heat in time to advance to the finals and win the Legends division and also the Masters division. Schaefer finished second in the Legends division and won the longboard division.

In the Men’s Open division, Mira Costa team rider Brendan Griffin narrowly outscored Karsten Wanke, of Palos Verdes.

Karsten Wanke placed second in the Men’s Open. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

In the women’s open division, fearless 10-year-old phenom London Meza took placed first, upsetting some of the area’s top high school surfers.

Kai Kushner, another promising young surfer, put on a dominating performance to win the Boys Junior Division, followed by El Segundo team surfer Grayson Daley.

Teagan Meza. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

Seth may have been still thinking about Horton during his first heat, because he finished second to me. A big right sent me flying down the line and into the shorepound, where I was greeted by the local sandcrabs. Two more set lefts came through and I was on my way into the next round, thinking these waves are not that bad. But after the semi final, I was done and Seth went on to win the finals.

Spencer Hennessey. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

The groms and juniors actually made the surf look good, fearlessly dropping into overhead bowls and getting catapulted down the line.

Dylan Globerm,13, surfed in both the grom and boys divisions. His dad Daniel started pushing the American Martyrs 8th grader into waves when he was 5 years old. He has been surfing in the South Bay Boardriders Surf Contest Series for the past three years, advancing to the finals on several occasions. He said he loves the contests because all the hot local kids that he surfs with everyday compete in them. “My surfing gets better competing against my friends,” he said

Nate Goldberg. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

Sonny Holmes, 15, a San Pedro High surfer expressed a similar feeling. “This is only my second contest, but I’m really having fun.” His friend Chris Gregg, also 15, said, “You can’t beat all the swag and free lunch. This is my third contest and I can’t believe how cool everybody is.”

Tatem Gibson, 12, of Torrance is the niece of Surfing Walk of Fame inductee Kelly Gibson. She said that she got stuck in a riptide that kept her from catching the better waves. But she wasn’t complaining. “I love to skateboard and surf. These contest’s are the best because you are with all your friends out there,” she said.

Ben Oei. Photo by Steve Gaffney (Steve

Presley Johnsonm, 11, could have been speaking for everyone when she said, “This is my first year, but I know now that surfing competition is in my blood. I want to continue this for the rest of my life. The sun’s out and the waves are fun.”

The next South Bay Boardriders Surf contest will be sponsored by ET Surf at the Manhattan Beach Pier on March 8. It will be followed by the Waterman’s contest at the Hermosa Beach Pier on May 20; the Riviera Mexican Grill contest at Torrance Beach on April 18; and the Spyder Surf contest at the Manhattan Beach Pier on May 16. The contests are open to surfers of all ages and abilities. This year a foam board division has been added for novices. For more information, visit or follow the club on Instagram at @southbayboardriders. ER


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