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Wave of Freebies Greets Visitors to Surf Expo : Event: Booths set up on the sand at the U.S. Open of Surfing are giving away posters, cassettes and more. Skin cancer screenings and massages are also available.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Denoal Goffaux came to watch the U.S. Open of Surfing on Saturday afternoon, he got more than he bargained for.

In addition to watching several hours of world-class surfing competition, the 25-year-old tourist from Belgium walked away with free pop music cassettes, posters, magazines, stickers and cups.

“I walked by and saw all of these people receiving free things so I thought maybe I could get some too,” Goffaux said as he peered into a bright yellow Tower Records bag filled with freebies.

Goffaux was among the thousands of spectators at the surfing contest who also visited the more than 50 display booths that made up the U.S. Open Surf Expo, held on the sand only yards away from the competition.

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Among other things, the expo--which continues until 5 p.m. today--offers the latest in surf wear and surf products, surfboard shaping demonstrations, and a variety of giveaways from radio stations, record companies and nonprofit organizations.

“It’s kind of like going to the mall,” said 12-year-old Tiffany Chao, who emerged from the Warner Records booth with a free soundtrack to the film “Endless Summer II,” stickers, a megaphone and a calender featuring the band R.E.M.

“The best part is, it’s all free,” said Chao, a resident of Fountain Valley.

The Warner Records booth, which resembled a hut on Gilligan’s Island, was jammed with people drawn by a music cassette giveaway, video screens and pounding rock music.

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“This has been fantastic,” said 31-year-old Michael Merrins, an employee for the record company. “It’s been nutty all day, people everywhere.”

Also popular was a makeshift Tower Records store set up on the sand just south of the city pier. Employees there reported brisk sales of vintage surf music, including a CD boxed set of Annette Funicello songs.

“A lot of the older customers are buying the surf music,” said 19-year-old cashier Rachal Easton.

Tower sales manager David Miller, 28, said the expo provided his Costa Mesa store with invaluable exposure.

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“It’s been great,” Miller said. “It’s not so much a moneymaker as it is good advertisement. It’s been a lot of fun being here on the beach. The only hard part is packing up all the CDs every day.”

Other booths stressed health and safety for surfers. Several organizations participated in the expo to expound on such surfing-related risks as skin cancer and spinal cord injuries.

“People don’t think about how dangerous it can be when they just go jumping into the water,” said Kris O’Neal, a registered nurse representing Project Wipeout, an educational program at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach that stresses neck and spinal cord injury prevention.

“The bottom of the ocean shifts all the time and people can break their necks,” O’Neal said. “This (expo) was the perfect venue for us to reach a lot of people.”

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A medical team from UC Irvine was on hand to offer free ear exams and skin cancer screenings.

“Surfers get a lot of sun so we’re seeing a lot of precancerous things that should be looked at,” said Dr. Jay Applebaum, who conducted the skin cancer screenings.

Another booth offered a quick massage for surfers and spectators alike. A neck and between-the-shoulder-blades rub was available for $5; a neck, back and shoulder rub went for $8 and “the deluxe,” which was a combination of both, cost $10.

Surfer Sam Seaweed paid for the deluxe massage and said it was well worth it.

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“I surf lots of hours so I use all those muscles,” he said. “It’s good to have them worked out.”


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