Malibu was weird over the weekend of July 23-24. There was a decent, inconsistent three to four-foot south swell rolling through First Point at the same time a heat wave was jacking the temperature into the triple digits in the valley. On a normal weekend, the lineup at First Point would have been a mob scene, a Wilbur Kookmeyer cartoon, with 60 to 80 surfers strung out from the Pier to the Adamson House, everyone taking off on everyone, people getting kneecapped by loose boards, oaths and profanity ringing out – chaos.
But over this weekend, First Point was strangely calm, orderly, nice. There were dolphins frolicking on the inside where they normally wouldn't frolic, probably because there weren't a lot of angry humans around putting out bad vibes. First Point looked like another place at another time, like it must have looked in the 50s – or like some lonely Baja Point looks now – with only six people in the water, some waves actually going through unridden.
The reason for all this sanity and order was the 14th Annual Call to the Wall, a surf contest benefiting the Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times. Sponsored by the Malibu Boardriders Club, the Call to the Wall brought over 300 surfers from surf clubs up and down the California coast to Malibu, to a line of large and small tents that looked like a Bedouin camp along First Point. There were surfers from the Long Beach Surf Club, Santa Cruz Longboard Union, Swami's Surf Club and 17 others. There were surfers like Jason Collins and CJ Nelson that the world has heard of, and a lot of surfers who willingly paid $95 to compete for a good cause, and for the weird privilege of surfing Malibu, on a weekend, with only five others in the water.
The history of Call to the Wall goes back to 1992, when the Malibu Boardriders Club was formed. A year later, the MBC began a program to bring the children of Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times down to Leo Carrillo for a Day at the Beach. More than 300 kids stricken with cancer were overseen by volunteers from the MBC, and a tradition was born.
The Call to the Wall began as a MBC event to raise money for the Day at the Beach. The first event was held at Surfrider in 1993, and it grew into Call to the Wall in 1997. Call to the Wall is now one of the largest invitational longboard surfing contests in the world.
And this year's event was great, blessed with good surf, lots of sunshine, big crowds and even that aerial dolphin display on the inside.
All in all, it was a good call. King Neptune came through with a south swell that pulsed consistent two foot lines along the point through all the tides, with occasional three to four footers. On the first day, the event ran 52, fifteen-minute heats from 6 in the morning to 6:45 at night, more than 300 surfers from 20 clubs in 10 divisions and most of them getting enough waves.
All those heats on Saturday whittled down to the quarters and semis on Sunday and then the finals in 10 divisions, which began around 2:30 on Sunday. The tide was just about right, and the surf was inconsistently good, with some heats getting lots of three-foot sets, and other sets a little wave-starved. A lot of surfers, a lot of surfing and a crowd of about 3000 people on the beach to hoot and holler and enjoy it all.
Will Buckley is the competition director for the Malibu Boardrider's Club, one of many volunteers who worked their tails off to set up the contest on Friday, keep the heats running Saturday and Sunday and have it all off the beach by Monday morning, It took Buckley a couple of days to recover but when the dust had cleared, he was jazzed by a successful event: "The entry fee was $95.00 for all participants except the groms and super mini groms who were $65.00. After costs, net proceeds are expected to be $12,000 with $7,000 earmarked for Day at the Beach expenses, such as; tee shirts, rash guards, lunches, snacks and beverages, bus transportation, photographs and a big sandy smile. We are going to run the Day on the Beach for the Ronald McDonald House kids in September. Volunteers from up and down the coast will help with beach games, a sand castle city, boogie board lessons, kayaking and tandem surfing with some of the sports best. Any remaining proceeds are then given to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times as a cash donation to support as many campers as possible for the summer program."
All in all, the Call to the Wall was a ball, y'all: Good weather, good surf, great organization, great surfing. For one long, hot weekend, Malibu was orderly and made sense, and made everyone on the beach and in the water yearn for a time machine back to the simpler days of one surfer/one wave. Or at least a trip to Baja.
THE PARTICIPATING CLUBS FOR 2005
Big Stick Surfing Association
Cold Water Surf Club
Coronado Longboard Surf Club
Doheny Longboard Surfing Association
Huntington Beach Longboard Crew
La Jolla Shores Surfing Association
Long Beach Surf Club
Malibu Boardriders Club
Malibu Surfing Association
Newport Beach Surfing Association
Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club
Pacific Beach Surf Club
Pismo Beach Longboarders
Santa Barbara Surf Club
Santa Cruz Longboard Union
Sunset Cliffs Surfing Association
Swami’s Surfing Association
Ventura Surf Club