Surf Fest surf stokes locals

International Surf Festival longboard finalists Steven Wilson, Michael Smitz, Jiro Ikeda, Steve O’Brien, Christian Stuntzman and Troy Campbell. Photo

Neither the surf nor the surfing at the Hermosa Beach pier on Saturday matched that of the Van US Open, taking place the same day in Huntington Beach. But the stoke was just as high.

“I love this contest,” Christian Steutzman said of the International Surf Festival surf contest. He had reason to be happy. He won longboard division for the second year in a row by powering up and down every one of his waves all the way to the sand, while hanging 10.

Longtime Longfellow Avenue surfer Rick Logue, 68, was stoked just to be able to compete. He won the longboard division two years ago. He showed no signs of age while placing second in the over 50 longboard division and advancing to the finals of the open longboard division. But when it was time to paddle out for his second finals, he disclosed to race director John Joseph that he had just recently undergone chemotherapy and felt too weak to surf another heat.

Joseph took over managing the contest in 1996, after the International Surf Festival went several years without a surf contest because South Bay surf is generally small in the summer. But the resurgence in longboarding, he said, made competing in small surf more popular. Plus in Hermosa, even small surf is fast and challenging on the inside, as Jeff Jones proved in winning the senior men’s shortboard division.

Under Joseph, the contest has become as much a social gathering as a competition.

“I never surfed in contests when I was younger because I went into the service right after graduating from South Torrance High,” said Steve O’Brien, who served three tours in Afghanistan.

“Now I’m out and making up for what I missed when I was younger,” he said. O’Brien finished fourth on the strength of his fin-first takeoffs. 

For 10-year-old Marlo Leigh, the shorepound was overhead. But she was not afraid to pull into the tube and finished third in the women’s shortboard division, behind Ava Morrison and Kirsen Barrows. 

Morgan Sliff won the women’s longboard division with consistent nose rides on the rights off the pier.

Joseph enlisted veteran judges, John Grannis and Shawn O’Brien, to watch the north contest area, next to the pier, and myself and Joey Lombardo to judge the south contest area. Dickie Romero was on the mic and Troy and Beth Campell kept the heats running time.

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Written by: Mike Purpus

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