Peace, Love and Understanding Reign Supreme at the 2006 Cosmic Creek Challenge

Walking into the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday night it was as if I had been teleported back to 1969. Incense and the piercing ping of psychedelic guitar riffs mingling in the airwaves, bearded long-hairs and cute hippy chicks shimmying together, David Nuuhiwa and Herbie Fletcher sharing a laugh and a cold beer, and an eclectic collection of single-fins stashed in a corner bearing silent witness to all the subsequent mayhem (that would later be auctioned off to help local boy Kevin Krushinsky who’s on the mend after a serious spinal cord injury). The only real discernable difference was that, whereas the '60s had Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead to stir the pot, this time Eric Diamond was behind the wheel of the magic school bus steering through yet another wildly successful Cosmic Creek Challenge while pro skater turned musician Ray Barbee, Dave Rastovich and his Band of Frequencies provided the appropriate musical mood.

Cosmic Creek Challenge 2006

Click here to see Skip Frye interview on SURFER Radio

Click here to watch Rasta ripping in Indo

More of a festival of freaks than a surf contest, for almost a decade now the Cosmic has been, well, cosmic. It's a pretty simple concept really, which is good because as you'll see even drawing straws can be a bit — how would you say — mind-blowing? It works like this: A heap of crappy old single- and twin-fins are lugged down the hill to the beach at Salt Creek, heat sheets are drawn up, and before the start of each heat the competitors in said heat draw straws to see who gets to ride what board. That's the idea anyway. The luck of the draw keeps it interesting, as obviously some boards work better than others. But beyond the bizarre array of boards, this year the two-day groove-a-thon attracted quite a diverse group of people. From powerful surf industry players to past Pipeline Masters to aspiring grommets who are just getting their first whiff of patchouli oil, there's no shortage of entertainment if people watching is your gig.

Saturday morning started slow and sleepy. South wind greeted a new rising Southern Hemi, and while the Body Glove Surfbout was completing its final day at Lowers, just down the road in somewhat marginal conditions thanks to the cheese breeze, Salt Creek, which doesn't mind the south wind, enjoyed sparkling little 2- to 4-foot peaks working off the point and across the inside sandbar.

The grommets took the water first. A prize should have been given out for the kid that could carry his board down to the water by himself; nevertheless, they made do on the clunky old equipment. Considering that every board was made at least 20 years before the grommets were born, it was pretty interesting watching them try to get the single-fins to turn. From start to finish Brett Bereford, who ended up winning the VZ Grems division, Troy MacDonald, who took second, Chase Vittitoe and Scott Weinhart all proved to the Dana Point audience that they may be little, but they sure can groove.

Then came the Junior Space Cadets, led by division winner Corban Campbell and Free as a Dog star Ellis Ericson. The Rocket Men followed them. Proving that local knowledge makes all the difference, Pat Drummy laid back into first, while Josh Sleigh, always the entertainer, implemented an aerial assault to relative success. Airs on a twinnie are a bit awkward, but for Sleigh it was enough to get him into second place. Former ASP media machine and current boss of Insight, Jesse Faen also stood out with a smooth style, fluidly connecting his rides from the outside all the way to the beach. It was obvious he's ridden some pretty creepy boards once or twice.

Not to be outdone, both the Honolua Groove Masters and the Rolling Stones divisions, featuring contestants that had actually learned to surf on these boards when they were once new, were, in the words of contest emcee GT, "Dynamic." The most notable performer in either division had to be Ricky Irons (I say that only because he's my boss and he can fire me), but Seal Beach's Tim Stamps also made the most of the fun-sized surf (and I say that because he makes some of my surfboards and I don't want to get a lemon next time I place an order). But in the judges' eyes it was Chris Billy that took the Groove Masters top honor and Chris Boland that rolled into first in the Rolling Stones.

This gets us to the pro division, which if you've ever blamed a bad session on a shitty board, proved that ability trumps equipment every time. There's this guy, his name is Rob Machado, and he could, as they say, "ride a door and make it look good." Even with stars like Dave Rastovich, Daniel Thomson, Pat O'Connell, Dino Andino, Jeff Booth and Mike Parsons all on hand, Rob simply shined the brightest. Who gets a two-tube wave on a mushburger off the point anyway? Rasta boosted a sizeable air on a twinnie, O'Connell floated over a large outcropping of rocks, but Rob's effortless-looking carves and knack for finding the tube enlightened everybody both in the water and on the beach.

And finally, last but certainly not least, the Legends, the guys we owe this whole dang thing to. How's this for a final: Clyde Beatty Jr., Herbie Fletcher, Danny Kwock, Buzzy Kerbox, Richard Kenvin and Marty Hoffman? Does it even matter who won? Not really, but if you're interested, Beatty took first, while Fletcher and Kwock rounded out the top three, respectively.

Back to my Saturday night at the Coach House. When Rasta and his Band of Frequencies wrapped up their set Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones took the stage. At least I thought it was the Stones. In fact it was a cover band named Sticky Fingers, but damn if their guitar player didn't look like Keith Richards. Anyway, the night was a huge success, nobody got dosed (as far as I know), and the contest the next day went off in great surf.

Next year plans are to make it even bigger and better, so sign up early, dust off your Nuuhiwa Fish and don't eat the brown acid (you'd have to have been at Woodstock to get that one).

Results:

VZ Grems
1 Brett Beresford
2 Troy MacDonald
3 Chase Vittitoe
4 Scott Weinhart
5 Devon Dolan
6 Sam Orozco

Jr. Space Cadets
1 Corban Campbell
2 Ellis Ericson
3 Ryan Franz
4 Justin Hugreon
5 Dylan Upp
6 Pat Ryan

Rocket Men
1 Pat Drummy
2 Josh Sleigh
3 Jesse Faen
4 Dave Pinto
5 Chris Cabeza
6 Chad Mitchell

Honolua Groovemasters
1 Chris Billy
2 George Mayou
3 Rob McCarty
4 Tim Stamps
5 Ricky Irons
6 Perry Faanes

Rolling Stones
1 Chris Boland
2 Phil Johnson
3 Dan O’Donnell
4 John MacPherson
5 Mark Russell
6 Francine Udall

Legends
1 Clyde Beatty Jr.
2 Herbie Fletcher
3 Danny Kwock
4 Buzzy Kerbox
5 Richard Kenvin
6 Marty Hoffman

Pro’s
1 Rob Machado
2 Dino Andino
3 Daniel Thomson
4 Micah Pitts