Sport > Point Mugu Surf Contest 2011

Point Mugu Surf Contest 2011

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: August 21, 2011

I've watched surf contests on video before. I've surfed this beach before. I've watched good surfers surf this area before. But the surf contest is a whole nother experience.

My brother is doing a 100 mile bike ride today and assured me that "everything that is still good about America is on that ride." I beg to differ.

I caught the last hour of the open men contest yesterday and plan to be back for the continuation of that section. it resumes in 40 minutes.

Yesterday was a terrible day in terms of waves. They had just passed high tide and there were hardly any waves to be had. There were 3 to 4 guys in each heat and in some heats there were only two rides total in the first 5 minutes. But there was no lack of activity.

First and foremost, pro surfers can paddle. I mean they can move. There is no rest for these guys as they jockey for what might be the next set. That alone was worth the drive over. It was a real estate battle, as any ripple on the surface was possible advancement points.

There were two interference penalties called in 4 heats I observed. The announcer referred to these as "paddle battles".I had some insight on the cause of few months ago when a local was giving me the beta on the area. His overriding comment was "You have to be in the critical part of the wave" to survive here. These guys knew exactly where that was and when a good tube formed there were at least two guys going like mad for the critical zone. In one case I saw a guy get bumped off the crit zone by a penalty. When he popped up on his board he knew he missed it. held his hands 6 inches apart and dropped back down, no way to recover from that, or so it appeared.

There were a few characters there on day one. The sport is dominimated by convention, that is to say a "pro" board is silly short board close to 5 foot in shortness. The most common fin arrangement is one large fin in the middle and two smaller outside fins. I'd say 70-80% of the open men were surfing that set up. A beginner probably couldn't stand up on that for 2 seconds.

Anyway, there were a couple of surfers out of that norm. One was a long haired blond kid that looked barely 20 riding a single fin short board without a tether. And there was a mildly pot bellied guy surfing a 6 finned flex tail board that he shaped himself. Neither made it to Sunday in the open division.

There was a contest for the "tube of the contest". There were so few tubes out there that any tube that formed around a rider was cause for hooting and hollering from the announcer. But it was about an hour before I realized that the scores were on a 10 point scale. No one had busted anything over a 5.

Finally saw a 7 point score in the final round when the best tube of the day formed. That was an automatic advance for the guy lucky enough to catch that wave.

In the last three minutes of the last heat the sound system went out and that really did detract from the experience. A knowledgeable announcer really does add to the sport, especially for novices like me who are still learning the vocabulary. In addition the announcers (pro surfers themselves) provided insight into just what they surfers were thinking and quite often correctly called out what they surfer would do next.

There was a band playing, but they were far enough from the beach that they didn't interfere with the announcers. Security was rock solid, everyone was searched by a metal detector and there were armed security personnel on the beach, meaning, no one was going to turn this event into something America would regret.

At the end of day one, my only regrets were that I didn't get there earlier...and that the wave machine off the coast of Mexico was enjoying a Saturday Siesta.

Sunday morning was a whole nother story. Hurricane Greg off the coast of Cabo San Lucas was working it. Tubes were forming with pleasing regularity. Every set had something a surfer could hide in. The pros were eating these up. Scores had jumped overnight from the 3-5 range to the 6-8 range thanks our savior, Greg, about whom no one, especially me, could say enough.

The other supporting characters for Sunday were the wildlife. It started with a couple seal pups that hopped in the line up early in the morning. Followed by a pod of dolphins that showed the crowd how to really get airborne. The finished off by the pelicans who were dive bombing a school of bait fish. The backdrop was as engaging as the surfers in the forefront.

In fact 30 minutes into my Sunday morning, I couldn't imagine anywhere on Earth I'd rather be. And being the kind of guy who turns those kinds of thoughts into action (or the inaction of spectating) my day's agenda firmed up rather quickly.

And the pros were standing firm as they stomped the waves mostly into submission and then gave way to the military division. I didn't expect a whole lot from the military guys as well, they have jobs that really limit their ability to log the hours the pros have. But I was unaware of one thing.

For purposes of this contest, the Coast Guard is considered military. I know, I know, it's as bad a calling the Air Force military. But we are an inclusive military in 2011 and so we let the coasties in. And it is clear that the coasties have nothing to do but surf.

Absolute ride of the day went to a coastie who rode a barrel to the only score over 9. He logged a 9.33 on a tube where he went in deep, stayed in for lunch, had time fto dash off a note to ma and pa back in Missouri and then bolt for the exit before it clamped shut like a giant clam. To say the standing ovation he received was well deserved is like saying the only service any country really needs is the Navy.

There ended up being a semi-final that was all coastie. The other semifinal was half coastie. I think I'm making my point here that the coast guard is way, way overstaffed. And they are part of the Department of Transportation. Really, they should just plunk them in to the open division and end the charade.

There were a couple of genuine amateurs in the military division. Two guys riding long boards, both of whom looked about as bad as I look on a board, that is to say they can stand up and ride the board on a straight line to the shore. Something to be proud of when you take up the the sport late in life. But in a sport where you get points for making sharp turns, spins and grabbing air..they were clearly out of their element. . But I was glad to see them out there.

They had the young guns division. There was an 11 year old and a 13 year old out there tearing up tubes. What was I doing at those ages? Wasting those years playing football, baseball and basketball, sports I never touch now...yet there are guys still surfing 20 years older than me. I should have focused on life long sports.

But these kids, just mad, mad skills as they were doing just about everything the pros were doing. And they could tuck into smaller tubes to boot. So unfair!

But to get into the smallest tubes, you needed the body boarders. They were not entirely like the rodeo clowns that distract the bulls in the ring, but, there was some of that flavor. The surf announcers were lost trying to describe a move made by the eventual winner. "He rolled...he spun...he? How did he do that? Is that even a move?" Eventually the announcer learned that he just witnessed an RSA, Roll Spin Air that was executed to perfection. But the reality of the body surfing world is that you have those three moves. That plus holding onto your board with a death grip seems to be the keys. Overall it was fun to watch the body boarders out there and I have to say that I doubt I could break my skull doing that sport. I may try it anyway.

There were women at the event and in the event. Both were puzzling. One lady on the sand had obviously invested heavily in silicone augmentation. Then she ran around the beach with a cover up over he bikini. It was a warm day, teh math was not adding up.

In the quick silver expression session there was one female surfer. Four time world champ Steph McGrath I think. The two surf bums next to me had fun with that

"We should go hit on Steph!"

"Yeah. she never has a boyfriend..."

"That's how she gets so much time in the water..."

"Bro, all you have to do is say you'll drive to Carlsbad and you're in."

Ok, ok, perhaps that was a tad disrespectful. But then the women's finals started. They were horrid. Half the time they were blown off the board before making a turn. Can't recall seeing a legit barrel ride (granted that cover up issue was puzzling me, though I remained hopeful) and in the end I had to say that military and young guns both blew away what I saw of the women's final.

The mens open was running as I left. By this time the waves were quieting a bit (Greg's are known to knock off around 3) I stayed until there was 7 minutes left in the heat. I'd seen the better part of 7 hours of surfing and my eyes were about gone for the day. I got about a half mile from the beach and had to stop as an emergency medical vehicle passed with lights blazing heading towards the beach.

Don't know what I missed in those last few minutes, but my sense is that whatever it was it would have slowed my return to the waves. So in that regard, I'll leave this with the maxim "Ignorance is Bliss" and blissfully look forward to next years contest.

It really was a great show.

Any Comments?


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