Local Currents

A Contest of Our Own


Dave Vanderveen

“With Labor Day quickly approaching, I wanted to put out the very real possibility early that the 50th Annual Brooks St. Surfing Classic could happen this weekend. There was a very powerful swell generated in the Southern Hemisphere last week, and it is heading our way…there will be no definitive answer on if the contest runs till Saturday morning. We are late in the window, and I couldn’t think of a better time to hold the 50th than over the last weekend of summer!” –Brandy Faber via email

When you’re on an 18-day, extended business trip in Asia there are many familiar things you miss about home. The last thing that I wanted to miss this summer is the Brooks Street 50th Anniversary Surf Contest.


Much has been written about the history of the Brooks Street Surf Contest this year. Tom Morey and Hobie Alter are two of the original contestants in the 1955 contest still living. Many legendary surfers since then have competed in our local contest.


Not long after moving to Laguna Beach almost a decade ago, my family and I moved to Brooks Street to rent a house while we “renovated” a home in Bluebird Canyon. We ended up living on Brooks Street for almost five years, and it remains a part of us.


The Brooks Street contest claims to be the oldest continuous surf contest, and I’ll agree with that. It hasn’t been held every year, but it’s also never been discontinued. The contest is held when there is a good enough swell on a Saturday and Sunday over the summer months. The last weekend it can be held this year is Labor Day Weekend.


We’ve had some good swells this summer and even some over weekends, but none that really live up to the quality that is expected to hold the fabled Laguna contest. Part of what makes it so special is its exclusivity.


The contest is for local surfers—people that actually live in town. The sponsors have local connections. There are unusual events, like the paddleboard race around Second Reef, which Ted Taylor claims you have to actually get on the reef to complete. There are age divisions that include AARP members and grom divisions for boys and girls in the single digits.


My favorite part of the whole contest is simply the camaraderie. Over the years, it seems like everyone who surfs or is interested in the sport in Laguna shows up. Granted various talents have missed due to other travel constraints, but it’s a wonderful event that highlights what makes Laguna special.


When you paddle out in your heat, it’s always with people you know. Sometimes people are too friendly. Sean Brown gave me a wave in our longboard heat that he shouldn’t have so I could squeak through to the final. I was traveling during the epic event two years ago where guys were picking off bombs breaking on Second Reef. Scott Holt said it was so much fun it didn’t even seem like a contest.


We also have some extremely talented surfers in Laguna, actual professionals and guys who should have been. Watching Jeff Booth and Tristram Miller fight it out with huge gouging turns that throw buckets of spray is like watching fire trucks battle. There are too many great surfers to try and name them all, but you can find them on old Brooks Street heat sheets.


Living on Brooks Street was special for many reasons: my old college roommate, fun street parades, epic HalloVeen parties and being able to walk a couple blocks to watch or participate in the oldest surfing contest in the world with people you know.


I selfishly sent Brandy a jokey email saying it wouldn’t bother me if he had to postpone the Brooks Street Contest this year, since I was going to be out of town. Just after I hit “send” it struck me that even though I am dreading missing this year’s event, the thought of it not happening at all is 10 times worse.


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

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