Joe Surf: Old school surfing contest

The best surfers in the world will be out here starting Sunday and throughout next week as the ASP World Tour makes a stop at Trestles.

But for those who prefer going old school to the shredders on short boards, there is an alternative.

The Doheny Longboard Surfing Assn. will hold its 22nd annual Dale Velzy Classic and Luau on Saturday at the "Boneyard" section of Doheny State Beach.

It's more than a surf contest; it's a day at the beach. Besides the longboard competition, there also is a stand-up paddleboard contest and a tandem surfing contest, an afternoon luau and, once the sun goes down, a performance by the surf band the Eliminators.

And you don't have to be Kelly Slater to compete. The competition is open to anyone of any age. There is no prize money, only cool trophies. The DLSA has been putting on the event since 1990 in honor of Dale Velzy, who passed away in 2005.

Velzy's name has always been associated with the event, his legacy not forgotten by the longboard club and others up and down the coast.

"The event was set up to celebrate Dale's life," said Mark Calkins, president of the DLSA. "He was the first foam (and fiberglass) board shaper. He was one of the first to start mass producing the surfboards. He and Hobie (Alter) are the founding fathers of foam boards.

"In the late '50s, the boards were between 10 and 12 feet and they were wood boards. They'd get waterlogged and were real heavy. We called them kook boxes. When they started producing the foam and fiberglass boards, all of a sudden, the boards went from weighing 60 pounds and more to 20 to 22 pounds."

Velzy worked for Hobie with other eventual surfboard shaping legends like Mickey Munoz and Terry Martin before Velzy opened his own shop. And nobody can appreciate Velzy's contribution to surfing like the longboarders, who benefit more than the shortboarders with the lighter, more manageable boards.

Professional surfing is dominated now by the sleek shortboarders, but the longboarders aren't going away.

"Longboarding is still alive out there," Calkins said. "It doesn't have the financial backing, but it's still exciting. In the '80s, we had the 'rebirth of cool.' Longboarding came back and Dale starting running contests. There was some money involved, but it kind of fell apart.

"Longboard clubs up and down the coast still have competitions throughout the year and are still alive. The difference is that shortboarding is about the money and sponsorships, and longboarding is about family and fun for everybody. Our contest will have competitors from ages 5 to 80. And we still get legends in the water once in a while, like David Nuuhiwa and Mickey Munoz."

Saturday's contest isn't only about the longboarders, as Calkins said he expects four of the top six tandem surf teams in the world to compete. And the stand-up paddleboarders provide a twist to surfing style as well.

The DSLA isn't going to make any money from the event, but it's another way to help bring focus to their efforts to promote surfing in a clean and natural environment. The DSLA also has a "Wounded Warrior" program in which they take wounded soldiers surfing.

"They might be missing an arm or a leg, or maybe they're just shell-shocked," Calkins said. "We had one guy who recovered from a broken back and we took him surfing. He liked it so much he moved from Seattle to Southern California so he could keep surfing."

There was one soldier whom Calkins said had a bigger impact on him than any of the others.

"Two years ago, he lost a leg in a Humvee explosion," Calkins said. "He had just gotten his prosthesis and we took him surfing. He could get up, but he couldn't stay up, and he was getting really frustrated. He had surfed before the injury, so I asked him if he had been a regular or goofy foot. He said he was a goofy foot, but he switched because he thought he had to put his prosthetic leg out front and his good leg in back.

"I told him to surf the way he used to surf, and all of a sudden, he was surfing again. Afterwards, he was on the beach in tears. It was one of the best days of surfing in my life and something I'll never forget."

For more information on the DSLA and Saturday's event, go to dohosurf.org.

JOE HAAKENSON is an Orange County-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at joe@juvecreative.com.

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