Old friends, new champs

The first big surfing event of the new decade was held for two consecutive days, Friday and Saturday, on the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier.

A solid swell was delivered, as promised, for the Katin Pro-Am Team Challenge.

The historic event, first held in 1977, was conceived by Nancy Katin, founder of Kanvas by Katin. The pioneer of durable, long-lasting surfing trunks, Katin was the industry leader in surfwear long before OP, Hurley, Rip Curl and Reef made the scene.

Katin is also responsible for creating the unique structure for this annual surfing event: an open-draw format consisting of four-man teams, with each heat running between 20 and 25 minutes. Her vision was to channel camaraderie and competition between surfers, not only for their respective sponsored teams, but individual recognition as well. The top four teams and eight individuals scoring the highest cumulative point totals share cash and prizes totaling $25,000.

The first day of competition saw such surfing greats as Tom Curren, Jesse Evans, Richie Collins, Teddy Navarro and Shaun Ward shredding three- to five-foot waves and making it look easy. Last year's defending champ and Huntington Beach local Chris Waring promised to "go big or nothing" and certainly didn't disappoint. As the day began to wind down, with the glare of the sun pretty much blinding announcers and officials, the esteemed crowd shifted off the beach and over to the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort for a movie premiere and after-party.

The mood was upbeat and optimistic in the Pacific Ballroom, sort of a class reunion of surfing greats. Stories were swapped about the "good old days" in Huntington Beach, age was disputed, and lots of laughs were shared as old friends and local surfers settled in to watch the premiere of "California for Better or Worse." And up on the screen, there they were.

Each familiar face flashing on the screen was followed by hoots and hollers and the constant ribbing from surfing champions past, present and future. A few faces in the crowd were Bud Llamas, PT Townend (webcast announcer), Scott and Shannon Waring, Matt Taylor and, of course, the "voice of US Open," announcer Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti. Fig announced the Katin Pro-Am Team Challenge, as well.

The second day of competition was intense and action-packed. Solid surf prevailed and Team Hurley (Timmy Curran, Yadin Nicol, Brad Ettinger and Michael Dunphy) emerged victorious, taking first place. The last heat of the finals finished out with Curran busting an air at the last minute and Waring's fancy footwork placing him second in individual points competition. Sandy's Beach Grill hosted the after-party and awards ceremony. Caught in the spray of champagne were David Nuuhiwa, Huntington Beach High School surf team coach Andy Verdone, Micah Byrne and Jeff Deffenbaugh.

What a great way to kick off the new year in Surf City! Until the next big thing, don't forget to stop and enjoy the local color.

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