Volunteers for the first annual Venice Surfing Association Breakwater Open surf competition gathered in the dark and rainy parking lot for what seemed like an impossible task ahead.
With just 90 minutes before the first heat was scheduled to get underway, all hands were on deck, with Dru Lewis leading the charge as our site manager. Clark Hartigan and his Elite Audio/Visual crew broke an early sweat, hauling and setting up all of our audio gear. We would like to extend a huge thanks to Clark and the Elite team for taking this on.
The first heats hit the water at about 7:45am. We can’t thank all of our volunteers enough for stepping up and working things out so quickly on the fly. We threw Elizabeth Fried and Gemma Cocker to the sharks as our lone check-in people. Their effervescent smiles and quick wit kept everyone at bay until we got a few kinks worked out. Thanks Elizabeth and Gemma!!!
The morning started out under a light rain with a bit of chop on the water, but as the day progressed, the sun came out, the wind turned a bit offshore, the swell increased, and conditions became pretty magical for a few hours, with both the north and south zones producing some fun waves. Our competitors took full advantage of it. Scores were elevated and the excitement was beginning to rise as the semi-finals and finals began to shape up.
At 12:30pm we held the 9 and under finals at the main peak. Everyone gathered to watch the next generation of Venice surfers battle it out for the win. Vida Bourget, with an inspiring performance, was right in the mix for most of the heat as our youngest competitors gave it their all. Sonny Dahlin took 3rd, Riley Dogan in 2nd and continuing a tradition of winning surfers in the family, Jacob Packham took home 1st place.
A unique and ongoing trophy, “Most Inspirational Grom” was given to Ryder Deroma, who won all of our hearts with a big win in the corndog competition. Ryder also promised to come back next year and help us pick a new winner!
Speaking of hardware, big thanks to Brock & Jess Mayeux and Norman Antonio for producing our beautiful trophies for this contest and Josh “Bagel” Klassman and Juan Pablo for providing the photos and reclaimed wood. They worked tirelessly through the night to get these works of art to the site. Thank you!
It was close to 4pm and the finals were shaping up to be quite competitive. The sun was getting low and the sky was on fire as sunset approached. DJ Jacques and Glenice Venice were kicking off the party on the rooftop of the Hotel Erwin as our finalists began hitting the water.
Every division was very competitive. A couple of groms worth mentioning here are Rob Blake and Dylan Morrisroe who had an epic 14 and under final. The lead went back and forth until the very end, where Rob needed a 5 to take the win. With just 5 seconds remaining, Rob took off on a left, pumped down the line, got a few turns in, but came up just shy, scoring a 4.67 to remain in second. Theo Carlson took third and Dylan Morrisroe’s vertical attack came home with the win.
Dylan stayed in the water having also made the 18 and under final. Congratulations to everyone in this very competitive division. Skater/surfer Willy Duerr was impressive all day, coming up just shy of the podium. Oliver Levine took home 3rd place, Gus Harrison in 2nd and big ups to Dylan Morrisroe for winning this division too! Sponsors, keep your eye on this kid!
The women brought the stoke and competitive fire to all of their heats, with Dot Powell winning Girls 14 and under, Stephanie Wise winning the Open Women’s division and Fiona Duerr taking the win in the Open Longboard division.
In the Legends Women’s division, Dani Miller came in 3rd, the VSA’s own Alix Gucovsky took 2nd and Liz Montgomery surfed her way to a 1st place finish.
Congratulations to all of the women and girls who competed!
The men battled it out in all of their finals with Joe Duerr taking 3rd, Kevin Butler taking 2nd and West Adler styling his way to the win in the Open Longboard division. West won the hearts of the spectators with his speed and grace as he consistently scored the highest heat totals throughout the day.
The Masters division started with 20 competitors and with less than a point separating the top three surfers, Marcelo Gutierrez came in 3rd, Gavin Dogan finished 2nd and Theo Fedoruk took home the win.
The Legends didn’t disappoint either. Taking third (and beating Pat Solomon) was contest chair Gary Adler, with Mal Ward in second, and taking home the win was an inspired Jeff Shelp. Special kudos go out to Eric “Tuma” Britton who was winning all of his heats leading up to the finals, where he encountered a glitch in the Matrix, and two interference calls kept him off the podium.
34 Athletes began the day in the Open Men’s divisions. After much smack talk in the preliminary heats, Tyler Packam, Elijah Labb, Kolby Clark, Gal Zinger, Beck Adler and Yves Bright paddled out for bragging rights.
Kolby, Elijah and Tyler were going vert, and throwing small wave buckets, making this the most competitive final of the day. All the way from Israel, Gal Zinger’s backhand attack impressed the judges, and he took the 3rd place trophy. Beck Adler dazzled in his earlier heats landing huge airs and with just a minute left to catch one more wave, he fell short of the victory in the final, taking home 2nd place. Yves Bright surfed spectacularly all day in the challenging conditions. He took home the 1st place trophy and all the bragging rights.. until the next contest!
Thank you to all of our judges, who stuck it out tirelessly throughout the day. Two zones is tough for any experienced organization to pull off, so we really appreciate them putting in those long hours and keeping the whole thing rolling!
After the awards ceremony, an amazing sunset stopped everyone in their tracks for few minutes before we packed everything up and hauled it all off the beach. Thanks so much to our LA County Lifeguards for doing the heavy lifting!
Four months ago, when the seeds were being planted for this contest, we were all wondering how the heck it was actually going to go down. But with the support of our local businesses, friends, and VSA members, we moved a few mountains to give Venice a little something to cheer about.
As always, thanks to Guy Okazaki, all of our sponsors, volunteers, members, competitors, and the VSA board for bringing the Breakwater Open to life! We are busy planning the entire contest series for 2023, and hope to see everyone out at the next VSA event. Keep an eye on your email for updates!