Competitive Long-Boarders Don't Short Themselves on Fun

Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil

A year ago, there wasn't a Professional Longboard Assn. tour. But this year, the association held more than a dozen pro contests and is getting ready for its U.S. Professional Longboarding Championships at San Onofre State Beach this Friday through Sunday.

Then, on Nov. 15-24, the PLA will host the world long-boarding championships in Haleiwa, Hawaii.

"It's been a busy year for us," PLA spokesman Henry Ford said, noting that entrants for Haleiwa already include surfers from South Africa, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and the United States.

Bob Bohanan, Longboarder magazine co-publisher, has estimated that nearly one-third of all surfboard blanks sold are for long boards.

They're a different breed, these long-boarders.

Fig, Ford said they cheer for each other even during competition--something you don't see at short-board competitions, where things are more cutthroat.

They're kinda a more fun-at-heart group. It's not like the short-boarders, who are more serious out there. I know what they mean about long-boarders having more camaraderie. But when it gets down to the semis and the finals, those guys are there to win and it gets serious.

What kind of maneuvers do they have?

Well, I think the judges are judging based on a 50-50 balance. That's 50% progressive and 50% old style. So the guys are out there riding like short-boarders doing lippers, floaters, cutbacks, 180-degree turns and pulling 360s--sometimes twice--on a wave!

Wow. That's a lot of board being moved through the wave.

Yup, and of course , "old style" means running up to the nose, hanging five, hanging 10, fin-first takeoffs, soul aches and drop-knee turns.

Some people say it's unfair to have older surfers such as David Nuuhiwa Jr., who was a world champion long-boarder, competing with younger guys like Joel Tudor and Joey Hawkins, who are in their early 20s and are just all over the board and wave.

That's why it's best to have balanced judging. They tell you up front it's 50-50 . If you're just doing old style, you're not going to win. If you're doing straight modern, you're not going to win.

You gotta deal with both, and you gotta do as many maneuvers as you can do, and you'll be scored on all those maneuvers. If you do only one maneuver, you won't rack up as many points as guys doing five or 10 maneuvers a heat.

At the world contest in Hawaii, Ford said, the PLA will allow pro short-boarders to compete.

A lot of these guys, such as Richie Collins, who won the recent long-board competition at Malibu, can ride both type of boards pretty good. Pro surfers like Richie excel with strategy. They bring that into these heats, where a lot of the guys are just flowing with it, doing maneuvers and stuff like that. They don't have a big game plan or strategy like a pro surfer .

He knows how to climb through hoops to get to the top rung, huh?

Exactly. He knows what he has to do out there, like knowing he needs four waves, that he has to ride a wave from outside to inside. He knows how to get position on you. Shane Beschen was in the long-board division recently at Trestles. He had one of the most explosive moves of the whole contest. He did a floater on a section, on a seven-foot section and did one of the biggest floaters I've ever seen on a long board. And he pulled it off with style.

Dean Reynolds, the PLA's special events director, said contest judges do not use any specific criteria. In PLA contests, Reynolds said, "you want to be able to see the board entirely used."

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Attack: Sean Collins says one of his Surfline/Wavetrak correspondents in El Salvador reported that two young Salvadoran surfers were killed in separate attacks less than an hour apart two weeks ago by a single large shark. They were surfing just a few hundred yards apart at La Libertad. The shark was believed to be a large tiger or mako but was not clearly identified.

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Forecast: Surfline/Wavetrak reports that "wimpy" Tropical Storm Norma, which developed off Baja earlier this week may bring weak, 2- to 3-foot waves at better southern-facing beaches through the middle of this week. Collins says keep an eye out for strong high pressure building over Utah and Nevada, because it could mean Santa Ana offshore winds!

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