Field wide open at 'The Vic'

Throughout the years, the Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding has evolved from a casual competition involving local riders to an event that's about to celebrate a big anniversary that includes international competitors.

The Victoria WCS, originally known and still referred to as "The Vic," begins for the 35th time Saturday at Aliso Beach in Laguna Beach. The event wraps Sunday with division championship finals.

Titles are up for grabs in the following Amateur divisions: 8-and-Under; 9-11; 12-14; 15-17; 18-21; 22-24; 25-29; 30-39; 40-and-Up, and Women. Champions also will be crowned in Professional Men's and Women's divisions.

Trigg Garner, general manager at Victoria Skimboards, said the championships start at 8 a.m. both days and break for lunch around noon. The competition will resume following a 30-minute break and run until 5 p.m. each day.

"Really excited by the competitors that are in the contest and our ability to broadcast the event to the world live as it happens," Garner said. "With the proper sun and surf, we should have a fantastic event and we are looking forward to it."

Garner said that about 130 skimboarders were entered through Wednesday. By division, he said that there will be about 80 to 85 competing in the amateur divisions, 30 to 35 professional male contestants and 10 to 12 professional female contestants.

Riders from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Japan are entered in the event. Garner said that competitors from Portugal, Holland, France, Chile, Australia, Taiwan and Indonesia, countries that have sent entrants in the past, are not represented this year.

"I partially contribute that to the global economy and the price of air travel at this time," he said. "The interest from all parties was there, but the monetary means was not."

The fact that the contest has grown into an international spectacle speaks to the successful rise of "The Vic" through the years.

The Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding originally started as a gathering of skimboarders, "having fun pushing each other to new heights," Garner said, at Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach. The contest moved to Aliso Beach in its early stages.

"Over time it developed into the longest-standing skimboarding competition in the world and is today the standard that other contests hold themselves to," Garner said. "The growth of the contest over the years is a testament to the growth of the sport and the skimboarding community pulling together to make the event what it is today."

"The Vic" continued its evolution in 2010 and Garner said that the 2011 event is "building on the monumental achievements" the contest incorporated a year ago.

In 2010, "The Vic" added a Women's Professional Division, which Garner said was a "huge step forward" for the sport.

"Women have been underrepresented in the past and we are part of the group that is looking to change that," he said.

Also making headlines last year was the introduction of a live web broadcast, which Garner said "opened up global viewership."

"This year we see the return of the Women's Professional Division and an expansion of the live web broadcast, which should help overall viewership of the sport on a global scale," he said. "With that being said, we are really looking over the next year or two to revolutionize the way contests are run, so stay tuned."

Morgan Just of Dana Point is back to try for a repeat title in the Professional Men's division. Anna Prophet, who moved from Florida to Dana Point last year, is the reigning Pro Women's division winner. Veteran Bill Bryan of Laguna Beach — who has numerous titles to his credit and whom Garner said is "still on top of his game," — along with Brandon Sears, Sam Stinnet and Teddy Vlasis, are some of the notable athletes vying for the Pro Men's title this weekend.

Just, 25, won his first Professional Men's division title last year. He finished runner-up in the division in 2004 and 2007.

"I'm going to take whatever comes my way this weekend," he said. "All I can do is do my job and have fun with it.

"A lot of these guys competing are my friends and honestly, I think that any one of them has a chance to take it. I'd be stoked if I win, but stoked if one of them wins, too. I also think several international guys can finish in the top four, if not win it."

As for Bryan, who has won "The Vic" 14 times, Just says the perennial power will be right there again.

"If he doesn't win it, then he'll be in the top four. That's my prediction," Just said.

Steve Taylor, operations manager and a team rider for Exile Skimboards, has been competing at "The Vic" since 2002. He won the 18-21 Amateur division in 2006 and placed seventh in the Pro Men's division in 2009.

He's back for another attempt at the Pro Men's title.

"Skimboarding is in its most exciting stages thus far," the 27-year-old said. "There is an abundance of fresh talent in the competitive skimboarding world, as well as a continuance of domination by the veterans. It will take a strong showing for me to finish high in the placing, but Aliso (Beach) is where I learned to skim and I've spent more time there than anywhere in the world. 2011 will be an exciting year for the contest and I can't wait to see how it pans out."

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