Surf’s up! Grab your sunglasses and a spot on the beach for the free Ventura County event of the West Coast Board Riders Surf Tournament on May 12 at Ventura’s Surfers Point. This is the first year that Ventura County Board Riders Club will host one of the nine events of the tournament, and the competitors include kids to pros to old-timers who will show how to take the drop or ride the barrel.

West Coast Board Riders (WCBR) launched the tournament in 2016 with Huntington Beach Board Riders vs. Seal Beach Board Riders, then expanded it to include other surf clubs in 2017. But as that season progressed, more and more wanted to join. This year’s competitions involve surf clubs in Carlsbad, Dana Point, Encinitas, Huntington, Laguna, Newport, San Clemente, Santa Cruz, Seal Beach, San Luis Obispo, South Beach and Ventura. But interest is growing, and next year promises to have even more clubs and events.

The tournament has two divisions — a south conference that goes from Newport to San Diego, and the north conference from Huntington up to Santa Cruz. Competition is between teams from each city, and this year Ventura County will compete against other north division clubs: Huntington, Seal Beach, South Bay, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz.

Each team has six age groups: 14 years and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, and 50 and older. Participants are judged on the waves they choose, the speed they build, how many maneuvers they do and how precisely they’re executed. Younger surfers may receive more lenient scoring from the professional judges, who also score pro tour events, but those competitors still have to choose their waves well, make impressive moves and finish cleanly to get the best score that pumps up their teams’ standings.
The four members of each age group compete relay-style, with surfers running in after their heat, basically handing off the waves to their teammates and cheering them on.

Though each group has one hour to show its stuff, there’s a lot of team strategy as to how they use it. Less skilled surfers will use less time in order to give the balance of their time to that age group’s star.

“The team captain elects one of those guys that they think is their top gun little kid, of whatever age,” says Mike Lamm, surfing trainer, mentor and competitor, and owner of Channel Islands Kayak Center. “They elect him as the Double Whammy surfer. When he goes out in his time block, when he gets a wave, he’ll actually put both hands up and claim that wave.” Double Whammy surfers earn double points for their skills and their teams.

“There’s a group energy in this thing that’s not like any other event I’ve ever seen,” says Lamm, “where everyone’s around cheering and yelling and slapping high fives. If they blow it, it’s like, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, we’ve got more guys.’ It’s got a real positive vibration to this thing.”

In a “paying it forward” gesture, many of the younger surfers have been trained or mentored by current or former pros from the area. And Ventura County is home to some of the top award-winning surfers: Chris, Keith and Dan Malloy; Dane Reynolds; Nick Rozsa;, Matt McCabe; and Mary Osborne.

With its tournament’s growing popularity, West Coast Board Riders is already making plans to expand. “The big picture is to develop it to the East Coast and be similar to the NBA with a western conference final, an eastern conference final then the finals. We’re already working on the east coast, helping those clubs get organized,” says Casey Wheat, co-founder of the West Coast Board Riders.

But will there be room for all the teams that are asking to compete?

“I think we can. …We definitely want everyone to be involved,” says Wheat. “We would never want a city out that had the talent that could win. We might have to, if it gets that big, make it county clubs — the best from Orange County, LA County, Ventura County, San Diego County, and so on. We have that to look forward to. “