Chances are you’ve experienced that deflating feeling of showing up to the beach for a surf after slogging through the work week only to see contest scaffolding towering over your local break. This circus usually brings a full parking lot with it, where you find no shortage of stickered-up boards and wave-hungry competitors, less interested in sharing contest-adjacent peaks than they are in racking up a maximum pre-heat wave count.

Somehow, Vissla’s Cosmic Creek event created the opposite vibe last weekend. At first glance from the hill above Salt Creek, the site looked like it was beamed down, through the June gloom, from a psychedelic alternate universe. A day-glowing wagon circle of tents, trailers, gigantic beachballs and inflatable pyramids, adorned with the eye-popping patterns of artist Jason Woodside, were strewn about the sand. The Cortex Cruiser, a technicolored 1982 Mercedes Benz 240d, was sunbathing on the beach. It had no tire tracks, the Cortex Cruiser looked like it had come from a place that doesn’t need roads (in fact, it could be teleported to your driveway by clicking here). Contestants and spectators meandered around the Gram-friendly installations. Dana Point’s annual Cosmic Creek, now 21 years old, is a surf festival disguised as a surf contest.

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Not your average contest scaffolding. Photo: Vissla

After walking through the Chi-channeling triangular entrance of the event, there was a tent with a pile of old boards. It was like a lo-fi museum of Wave Tools and McCoys from the Echo Beach era, Russells, Hobies, Dick Brewers, Herbie Fletchers and more bygone designs shaped by legends were stacked on top of each other. The Cosmic Creek has a strict pre-1990 single and twinnies only policy and this was the war chest of weird boards for the contestants to choose from. Wall hangers, they were not. These delaminated and waterlogged boards were begging to be surfed. Board nerds rifled through the pile and tossed some under their arms while picturing what they were like decades ago, fresh off the sanding racks. Their daydreams were awakened by a grom accidentally knocking a row of boards over, they fell like dominos. “Whoops! Sorry.”

A wind-textured south swell, about chest-high on the sets, was crumbling into Salt Creek. For some strange reason, these conditions were making single-fins in the 6′ range very popular with the contestants.

1982 or 2019, the Cosmic Creek is a time warp. Photo: Vissla

San Clemente-based surfboard scientist Donald Brink was mowing foam in the Canned Ham trailer that had been converted into a shaping bay. The creation will probably be in the pile of exes at the Cosmic Creek 21 years from now. A band of groms called “Sea Cliff” pounded on drums and strummed power chords outside the trailer’s door. Their froth was contagious.

Later in the afternoon, there was a migration from the day-glowing wagon circle to Salt Creek’s large, grassy hill. The basketball court at the hill’s foot was converted into a stage. The scene was like a beachfront Hollywood Bowl, but without assigned seating and way better scenery–a panoramic view of the Pacific. Garage rockers, Tijuana Panthers, tore into song while youths moshed before turning into creatures of the night.

At some point during Vissla’s Cosmic Creek, somebody won something. But it almost didn’t matter who or what–the day was less about actual competition, and more about a day for the local surf community filled with art, rad boards, music and fish tacos. Too bad it only comes around once a year.

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Tijuana Panthers get the crowd moving. Photo: Vissla


2019 Vissla Cosmic Creek Results


  1. Jason Bennett
  2. Dave Boehne
  3. Ryan Sakal
  4. Troy Elmore
  5. Travis Reynolds
  6. Steven Sawyer



  1. Ulu Boi
  2. Andrew Jacobsen
  3. Cam Richards
  4. Kolton Sullivan
  5. Nate Yeomans
  6. Kevin Shultz



  1. Kayla Coscino
  2. Ryann Daly
  3. Leah Pakpour
  4. Jenny Quam Buchhagen
  5. Elle Emery



  1. Zachary Perry
  2. Rex Henning
  3. Callan Emery
  4. Jacob Crouse
  5. Tosh Johnson



  1. Ian Gottron
  2. Gunner Day
  3. Patrick O’Connor
  4. Ryan Huckabee
  5. Cole Futak
  6. Nate Caplinger


‘STORM RIDERS’ 19 – 24

  1. Nicholas Goldman
  2. Eric Weinhardt
  3. Kevin Skvarna
  4. Garrett Brown
  5. Harrison Kirkman
  6. Josiah Amico



  1. Steven Sawyer
  2. Blake Howard
  3. Pat Ryan
  4. Connor Canson
  5. Mike Voegtlin
  6. Shane Goodwin



  1. Jeff Brack
  2. Ian Foulke
  3. Dylan Crouse
  4. Joshua Mermelstein
  5. Matt Buchhagen
  6. Frankie D’Andrea



  1. Vince De La Pena
  2. Bob Tassin
  3. Eric Diamond
  4. Drew Todd
  5. Bobby Lockhart
  6. Lawrance Quigley



  1. Paul Cernich
  2. Rick Toohey
  3. Paul Naude
  4. John Macpherson
  5. Chris Andrews
  6. Derek O’Neil



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