Sea Of Love
It's time once again for the groovy soul-surfing feel-goodfest that is the Surfabout.
Thursday, June 6, 2002
Photo: Bashed Lip-Viktor Klinger makes some water art at the 2001 Surfabout, where he wrested the All-Around Waterman title from defending champ Craig Cox.
Sad but true fact: Carmel is often characterized as a fuddy-duddy town where million-dollar gingerbread homes, shiny sedans, khakis and cardigans are the rule. But for one weekend each year the reins are loosened a bit and county-wide surfers are invited to town en masse to compete in the Annual Sunshine Freestyle Surfabout.
Talk about "there goes the neighborhood."
Actually, the truth is quite on the contrary-one of the reasons the local waveriders are welcomed back year after year is their spotless record, says veteran Sergeant Pete Poitras of the Carmel Police Department.
"As far as I know none of the participants or spectators has ever caused any kind of problems," says Poitras.
I just hope I didn''t spill the beans by divulging the closely guarded date of the contest to Sgt. Poitras upon inquiry.
In any case, the Surfabout is back once again this weekend for its 22nd running. Local surfers are polishing up their repertoire of tricks and beachgoers are cleaning out their coolers in anticipation of the weekend-long fiesta.
"It''s one of the biggest weekends for us in Carmel, because we don''t have many occasions that are actually for the locals anymore," said Robinson Newman of Carmel, whose father Michael has been competing in the Surfabout since 1981.
This year the aquatic action unfolds with defending All-Around Waterman champ Viktor Klinger on hand to prove his title wasn''t a fluke against a skilled lineup of crusty veterans and hungry up-and-comers like Newman.
One of these challengers, who at age 33 is more crafty than crusty, is Craig Cox. Craig had steamrolled to four straight All-Around Waterman titles before Klinger dethroned him last year.
"What makes the Surfabout unique is that you''re pretty much friends with everybody, so it''s more of a fun contest," said Cox. "Of course you want to win," he quickly added, "but if you don''t, you can still just hang out at the beach and have a good time."
Cox will be looking at the contest a bit differently this year after recently becoming a father.
"Because of other priorities I haven''t been in the water as much lately, so I was going to cut back this year and only do one event. But it''s hard to give it up. I ended up signing up for all the events anyway," he said.
The biggest difference between the Surfabout''s format and traditional surf contests is that surfers are competing in different events and for the All-Around Waterman title. To win the title of Waterman you can''t just win the men''s surfing competition, for example; you must also do well in other events like the Stewart''s Cove-to-Carmel Beach distance paddle and skimboarding.
The waterman title adds a different dimension by putting an emphasis on being a dynamic and fit athlete, not just a talented surfer. Last year, with waves surging the entire weekend, just paddling out for the number of heats needed to take the overall title was a test of stamina. The quest for waterman honors also makes for some good comedy as stylish surfers struggle for points in unfamiliar events like skimboarding and body boarding. It should be noted that with the increasing presence of women in the lineup, it might not be long before we see an All-Around Waterwoman hoisting the trophy.
All the fun makes for a surf contest that stands out for its good-natured sportsmanship. Robinson Newman, for example, sampled the Pro Tour across the bay in Santa Cruz and in Europe and South Africa before realizing it wasn''t his style.
"At the pro contests you get all these cliques from San Diego, Santa Cruz, Hawaii, and they''re all caught up in this contest attitude," says Newman. "It''s ultra competitive.
"The Surfabout is the opposite. It brings people together."
The 22nd Annual Surfabout takes place June 8 and 9 at Carmel Beach. Heats begin at 7am. Participants may register at Sunshine Freestyle Sports at 443 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey, 375-5015, through June 6.