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Local Currents

Anticipating Laguna’s Brooks Street Surf Contest

“The 50th Annual Brooks St. Surfing Classic is on hold. We are currently watching an intense storm in the South Pacific, which has potential to deliver a nice swell for next weekend, 8/18-19. Hopefully, one worthy of the 50th Anniversary of the Classic’s running! Stay tuned and start rearranging your schedules!” –Brandy Faber.

The 50th Annual Brooks Street Surfing Classic may finally be held this weekend. That’s big news in Laguna Beach and around the world.

“The world’s oldest running surf contest” doesn’t happen every year. The contest that first ran in 1955 requires a significant south swell

Local Ryah Arthur competing in an earlier Brooks contest.

that hits on a weekend and produces enough surf to hold heats for two days. In addition to size requirements, the waves have to arrive in close enough intervals that people can compete in 15-20 minute heats.

With a holding period that only runs for a few months each summer, it’s no surprise that we don’t get to compete in Laguna’s legendary south swell reef break every year, but scarcity adds to the allure.

The first Brooks Street contest was held in 1955. Legendary surfers Bing Boca, Hobie Alter and Tom Morey were among the first contestants, riding large, flat and heavy long boards.

Because of the wave shape that forms quickly on the Brooks Street reef, with a steep vertical face and even low-tide “steps” that protrude as the ocean’s hydraulics push shallow water across the rocky bottom, few longboarders made their waves consistently in the early days.

A couple of years ago, Ted Taylor hosted a movie night in the Laguna Canyon with legendary surf film maker and local resident Spider Wills, where old reels from Brooks Street contests in the 1960s were shown. Many surfers on the classic equipment had to bail their boards as Brooks Street surf jacked up. Tristram Miller, a Brooks Street champion, asked, “Did anyone ever make a wave back then?”

Corky Smith, who has been surfing Brooks Street since some of the earliest days of the contest and was in the film, responded, “You should try riding one of those boards out there; it’s not as easy as it looks!”

These days there continue to be longboard heats in the Brooks Street contest, as well as heats for short, paddle, and boogieboards, split up based on age, gender and pro status. Come check it out this weekend.

David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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