Capping the most grueling contest of his professional career, Jeff Booth of Laguna Beach went the extra mile Sunday to win the Pro-Am Surfing Division of the $35,000 Body Glove Oceanside Open.
With the victory, his first in three years, Booth won $5,750, earning about $1 for every foot he ran in the semifinals and finals to escape a vicious rip current that towed competitors north into the south side of the Oceanside Pier.
"It was tough out there," said Booth, 21. "The current was almost faster than you can paddle. Catching a wave and running back seemed to work. It seemed to be the only way to avoid the current."
Booth was the only one of four Southland finalists--San Clemente's Dino Andino finished second, Manhattan Beach's Chris Frohoff was third and Newport Beach's Richie Collins was fourth--to consistently use the strategy of running south on the wet sand, then re-entering the water to position himself for long, sweeping rides in front of the judges and the crowd of about 5,000.
The other finalists chose to stay on their boards, paddle out after infrequent rides and fight the current head on.
"I'm a paddler, not a runner," Collins said.
Booth, too, said he prefers paddling, but his running paid off. He got higher marks for his longer, less-spectacular rides than the other finalists received for their shorter rides and crowd-pleasing maneuvers.
Though this event, the fifth stop on the Bud Pro Surfing Tour, was affiliated with the Professional Surfing Assn. of America, all four finalists have competed on the Assn. of Surfing Professionals' World Tour.
Booth, who attended San Diego State for one year, is ranked No. 8 on the World Tour and was competing in just his second PSAA contest in 1991.
Because of his low PSAA point total entering this tournament, Booth had to surf in nine heats this week, including four on Sunday, and further exhausted himself with his jaunts along the shore of about 1,500 feet each.
"I'm worn out," Booth said. "I haven't surfed nine heats in a tournament in a long, long time."
San Clemente's Shane Beschen, who lost in the first round of the main event on Saturday, remained atop the PSAA leaders list with 3,098 points.
In the Easy Rider Bodyboarding Division, Mike Stewart won his 31st PSAA title and $1,350.
Stewart, the 1991 points leader, is the four-time defending Bud Pro Tour champion and a seven-time world champion.
The National Scholastic Surfing Assn. national championships will be held at the Oceanside Pier for the second consecutive year, beginning this morning. . . . The Bad Boy Bash Pro-Am Surf Contest--a non-affiliated event--will be held July 5-6 at Rosarito Beach, Mexico.