Handley, Bertsch Wave in Championships


Hal Handley and Sonya Bertsch competed in as many or more heats than any other man or woman in the World Body Surfing Championships (WBSC) Sunday. They also caught the best waves and were the Grand Champions in the 14th annual contest at the Oceanside Pier.

Both Handley, a 40-year-old research scientist from La Jolla, and Bertsch, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher from Corona Del Mar, came out of tough age divisions to win their 15-minute finals.

Each also won about $2,700 in gifts.

“Desire,” Handley said of his motivating facotr. “I’ve been trying to win this for a very long time.”


Handley has been competing in the world championships since 1983, including the four years he spent obtaining his Ph.D. in cell biology from Virginia. During those years on the East Coast, Handley planned his vacations around the WBSC.

Bertsch said being able to relax was her key. “I tend to get super hyper beforehand, and I blow it. I have to find a way to settle down, and the team (Muddy Creek) really helped me out.”

Handley, a division champ in ’85 and ’87, won three close heats Sunday in the 35-44 division and defeated seven other age-division champions in the Grand Champion final.

They were: San Clemente’s Niell Kohlhase (65 & older); Oceanside’s Jim Enright (55-64); Summerland’s Daniel Drown (45-54); Newport Beach’s Jeff Stevens (25-34); Leucadia’s Tim Casinelli (18-24); Cerritos’ Todd Kennedy (15-17); and Cerritos’ Vincent Trotter (12-14).


Casinelli, a two-time Grand Champion, had the best four-wave score of the day, 107, in the 18-24 final. Trotter tied Ojai’s David Ford, 72-72, in the 12-14 division, but won on the basis of the next best wave.

Bob Burnside of Palm Desert, the defending men’s Grand Champion, finished second in the 55-64 division. Five-time Grand Champion Mike Cunningham of Gardena was eliminated in the men’s 25-34 semifinals.

Bertsch won the 25 & older division final, 88-78, over two-time world champion Virginia Cartwright of Encinitas. Bertsch defeated San Clemente’s Kris Kohlhase (18-24) and La Palma’s Mailei Robinson (12-17) in the women’s Grand Champion final.