Although it's winter, things are heating up with the start of the U.S. Bud Tour 1995 season in Santa Cruz, where big names battled it out in small surf.
Santa Cruz usually pumps during the winter, but Rockin' Fig, who helps announce the tour, said small, 2- to 3-foot waves made conditions ripe for small-wave maneuvers. Then, as if on cue, excellent 6-foot swells arrived for Sunday's final, won by Chris (Brownie) Brown of Santa Barbara. The reigning Bud Tour champ took home $4,000, which combined with 1994's take of $14,125, brings his total career earnings to $94,800.
During the contest, Fig--who had microphone help from Robert (Wingnut) Weaver, the long-board standout in "The Endless Summer II"--called Brownie to the telephone for a brief chat with me. The 24-year-old champion also placed 40th (out of 45) in 1994 on the men's professional World Championship Tour, run by the Assn. of Surfing Professionals (ASP).
Congratulations, Brownie! We never did hook up after your taking last year's Bud Tour crown. You had so many points going into the final Bud Surf championships in Hawaii in December that you didn't have to make the finals, did you?
"I didn't even have to compete to win that championship," said Brown, who fell out of that contest early on. "But that's long gone. It happened in December, and today's a new day and it's a new year and I've got new objectives. Time moves pretty fast!"
Whoa! What did you do after the tour ended?
"I did a lot of free surfing in California and then I went back to the North Shore."
Was it good in Hawaii?
"It had its moments. I had a couple of good days at Sunset."
You are on both the Bud Tour and World Championship Tour. What's your contest strategy here?
"Well, I've been on the ASP Tour now for two years," Brown said. "And, while I'm the champion for the Bud Tour, at the same time I'm 40th on the other one. It's just sort of like being in transition for me right now. If you're not really doing well on the championship tour, then the (Bud Tour) gives you the chance to pick up WQS points."
Fig: I think Brown wants to sharpen his competitive wits and get some early WQS points. His surfing was insane. He was doing these upside down off the tops. Styling. Power moves. He was the man out there.
For non-surfers, you need to rack up major points all year to make the top 44 in the world to compete on the world tour. Though Brownie is a champion on one tour, he's still just considered a step above a rookie in the big leagues.
In the early part of the contest, Peter Mel was probably the most amped guy in the early heats.
Peter Mel? Isn't he the guy who's part of the crew from Santa Cruz that surfs Maverick's, the big-wave spot where Mark Foo died in December?
Yup, and that's part of the reason why Peter was amped because he got his picture on the cover of the new Surfing magazine. Although the surf was small, Mel was still ripping it up in the early rounds. And I gotta tell you that the year is shaping up insane. Todd Prestage of Australia was looking really good in the early heats, and so was Shane Stoneman from Capo Beach.
Ian Cairns, Bud Surf Tour contest director, said the contest attracted about 200 professional and amateur surfers, including 48 long boarders.
"The surf was small," Cairns conceded, "but the event and the vibe was good."
In second place was Chris Gallagher of Santa Cruz. Taking third was Oxnard's Tim Curran, a 17-year-old amateur wonder kid. The long-board segment was won by Joey Hawkins of Huntington Beach, who recently said he's made a special commitment to surfing this year. "No more arguing with the judges. I'm just going to do it." Congratulations, Joey.
The event also attracted Taylor Knox of Carlsbad, Richie Collins of Newport Beach, and Hawaii's Kalani Robb, the former red-hot junior who's in his first pro season.
Meanwhile, the tour has added a contest to this year's schedule. The event will be held at Huntington Beach a week before the U.S. Open. It will be a World Qualifying Series (WQS) event, Cairns said.
"We're stoked," Cairns said. "It will be a qualifying event that goes before the U.S. Open and will help pick the wild-card berths (for the U.S. Open). It's good for us, because it's now a Bud Surf Tour event."
Traditionally, that event date is for the Op Pro Championships, and although Cairns has talked about Op becoming a sponsor, no contract has been signed yet. But Cairns did say, "It's a real good chance of it becoming an Op event."
Stamp: The Huntington Beach International Surf Museum will be gathering signatures as part of a campaign to have a Duke Kahanamoku postage stamp established. The Hawaiian surfing pioneer helped introduce the sport to California. For more information, contact the museum at (714) 960-3483. That would be classic, Fig said. I would like to see that. In fact that's the only kind of stamps I'd buy.
Surfrider: As a membership incentive, Surfrider Foundation has contacted Mark Price of Newport Beach, who owns part of Tavarua Island in Fiji. Price has offered to donate two free trips to Tavarua (about $1,800 each) to Surfrider's 1995 membership drive. Every new member who joins from now through September gets a stub with their name on it put in a box. A drawing will be held to pick the winners. Memberships are $25 and $15 for students. GET ON IT! Surfrider: (714) 492-8170.
Adopt a Beach: Surfrider Foundation has also come up with a nifty idea for the budget-tight '90s. The organization and the state Department of Parks and Recreation are establishing an adopt-a-beach program. The idea, similar to the state's freeway program, is to have surf industry companies bid to adopt beaches, with a local Surfrider chapter providing the cleanup. The companies get to flash their logo, and in exchange for the cleanup, Surfrider picks up a few bucks.