After 37 straight years as the title sponsor of the annual Carmel Surfabout, Sunshine Freestyle Surf Shop closed its doors in 2018. That left the beloved locals' tradition in limbo this summer.
But the tradition carries on, with the 38th annual Carmel Surfabout scheduled for this weekend, thanks to a partnership of people who didn't want to see it go away with its long-time sponsor.
“We felt there was a void left,” Carmel resident and surfer Andrew Call says. “We felt that this could be awesome.”
Call and other members of the Monterey County surf community (including local surfer Sunny Smith) started the Monterey County Surfers Foundation with a mission to “cultivate and sustain a healthy, thriving and safe surfing community on the Monterey County through providing needs based educational scholarships, environmental stewardship, water safety education and activities that support those purposes.”
That all sounds nice, but: How do you fund it? The answer that Call, Smith and others landed on is with a surf contest, timed perfectly with the Carmel Surfabout in need of new organizers. The event is open to all Monterey County surfers, with a $40 entry fee going to the MCSF. (It’s free to watch, and the organizers encourage anyone who wants to come to the beach and enjoy the surfing from the sand.)
Brad Johnson founded the original event 38 years ago, and is proud to be returning this weekend as emcee. “If Andrew is going to make the effort through his new organization,” Johnson says, “then I’m going to make the effort to be there.”
There will be a host of heats throughout the day, much like the original Sufabout, only without body boarding and skim boarding.
There are a variety of divisions in age brackets that go from “super groms” as young as 6, all the way to “kahunas” 50 and older. Women can surf in any of those brackets, but there is also a dedicated women's division and a dedicated longboard division.
To top off the final competition, the memorial distance paddle is a race from Carmel Beach around a rock in Stillwater Cove and back, “an event dedicated to members of the surf community that we have lost.”Call’s brother Weston Call, a beloved Big Sur resident and also a surfer, died last year, and friends and family members gathered to honor and remember him with a paddle-out at Carmel Beach.
The surfer with the best score combined in his/her division, the longboard heat and the distance paddle receives the All Around Waterman award.
The Carmel Surfabout runs at 6am Saturday and 7am Sunday, June 22-23, at Carmel Beach. Surfer sign-ups now closed; free to attend for spectators. carmelsurfabout.com.