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 third and Newport Beach's Richie Collins fourth--to consistently use the strategy of running south on the wet sand and re-entering the water so as to position himself for long, sweeping rides in front of the judges and an estimated 5,000 spectators.
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 preferred paddling, but his running paid off. He received higher marks for his longer, less-spectacular rides. The other finalists received lower marks 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 No. 8 on the World Tour and was competing in just his second PSAA contest in 1991. He lost in the third round of qualifying last month at Imperial Beach.
Collins, 22, was rated eighth in the world last year and now is ninth.
After winning the Bud Pro Tour championship last year, Andino, 22, decided to try the ASP World Tour this season and now is rated 55th.
Frohoff, 25, was ranked 33rd in the world in 1989, competed on both tours last year and with his third-place finish on Sunday moved up to 10th on the 1991 PSAA rankings.
Because of his low PSAA point total entering this tournament, Booth had to surf in nine heats this week, including four Sunday, and further exhausted himself with his jaunts along the shore--each roughly 1,500 feet.
"I'm worn out," Booth said. "I haven't surfed nine heats in a tournament in a long, long time."
In five of those heats, Booth went against Carlsbad's Taylor Knox, who finished tied for fifth with another ASP regular, Greg Anderson of Australia.
For Knox, 20, who turned pro last summer after graduating from Carlsbad High, this was his best finish and biggest payday. Earning $1,050 and 656 points, Knox moved up six places, to 11th, in the PSAA standings.
Cardiff's Rob Machado, 17, who finished second here last year and is the only amateur among the top 60 PSAA contestants, finished second in his second-round heat, then third in the quarterfinals. He finished tied for ninth and moved up to 14th from 22nd.
San Clemente's Shane Beschen, who lost in the first round of the main event Saturday, remained atop the PSAA leader list with 3,098 points. Santa Barbara's Chris Brown and Carlsbad's Mike Lambresi, who were seeded Nos. 2 and 3 but also lost Saturday, dropped to third and fifth.
In the Easy Rider Bodyboarding Division, Mike Stewart beat Encinitas' Paul Roach and two other Hawaiians in the final to win 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.
Roach, 18, the youngest of the finalists, finished third and won $650, his biggest payday since joining the tour this season.
"Throughout the contest, I felt real strong, I got off some real powerful maneuvers," said Roach, a drop-knee bodyboarder, "But that last heat, I felt tired. I'll be sleeping late (today). That's for sure."
The National Scholastic Surfing Assn. national championships will be held at the Oceanside Pier for the second consecutive year, beginning this morning. The finals are Thursday. . . . The Bad Boy Bash Pro-Am Surf Contest--a non-affiliated event--will be held July 5-6 at Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Encinitas' Brad Gerlach, a standout on the ASP World Tour, and Cardiff's Colin Smith are among the 60 surfers committed to participate. . . . According to the latest issue of Surfing magazine, Charlie Wright is credited as being San Diego's first surfer. In the late 1910s, Wright watched Hawaii's Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth ride waves at Ocean Beach and later joined them. Other "first surfs" in San Diego County, include: Freeth (Oceanside, 1918); Ocean Beach Lifeguards (Cardiff, 1930s); Don Oakey, Buddy Hull, Woody Brown and Tiny Cromwell (Windansea, 1938); Pacific Beach Vandals Surf Club (Pacific Beach, 1938); Pete Peterson (Mission Beach, 1936); Lloyd Baker, Dorian Paskowitz, Eckstrom Brothers, Blankenship, Cromwell and Brown (Sunset Cliffs, 1936); Bob Simmons (Point Loma, 1945); and Dempsey Holder (Imperial Beach, 1939).