Rincon's Soulful Classic: A Contest Full of Stoke

Rarely does "Soul" define a surf contest, but as anyone on the beach at the 9th Annual Rincon Clean Water Classic will tell you, pure stoke was oozing from all aspects of the event. Competitor Alan Honadle said, "There is a special vibe here, and it's real, it's fantastic." Soul was in everything, from the Native American opening ceremony, to the handcrafted winner's trophy.

Soul wasn't the only thing oozing at the contest. Rain from a few days earlier was apparent in the chocolate-colored chest- to head-high surf. Although the contest was blessed with good waves, the pollution prevented surf legend Skip Frye from competing for the San Diego Surfrider Foundation Team.

Ironically, one of the reasons the Clean Water Classic is held is to raise money for Heal the Ocean's legal team to help clean up the polluted water at Rincon. However, competitors paddled out in defiance of the polluted water, almost as a protest, to raise money for the efforts to hook up local residences to the sewage system and get rid of their polluting septic tanks.

The Groundswell Society, a philanthropic and educational non-profit organization dedicated to "sharing the stoke" with the global surfriding community, has held the Clean Water Classic at Rincon for nine years to raise money for important local environmental and educational programs. Unfortunately, new surfing communities were also in need this year, and The Groundswell Society stepped up to the plate.

Key beneficiaries this year, as in years past, include Heal the Ocean's Legal Team working on the Rincon Septics-to-Sewers project, the City of Carpinteria's Ocean Recreation Program, and the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. This year, proceeds went to Surf Aid International in support of their medical relief work, both ongoing and in response to the tsunami, in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia.

And as a result of a special effort on the part of each and every team, additional proceeds went to funds set up to aid the families of those lost in the landslide tragedy at La Conchita, California. Giving to these victims was an obvious cause because the landslide area can easily been seen from the lineup at Rincon.

When homes were built within the watershed of Rincon Creek, nobody realized that their septic tanks would pose such a threat to the water quality and health of surfers at Rincon. When sick surfers later discovered that the cause of pollution in the lineup was from human sources, the battle to get those homes connected to a sewage system was on. The battle has waged for years and continues to this day, a day when surfers share good waves and good times in order to continue the struggle to restore clean water at Rincon.

Local legend and longtime Clean Water Classic sponsor Clyde Beatty said, "There is a big problem here and the government isn't going to help us. I want my beach clean. We have to do this ourselves. I am proud to have been a sponsor of this contest since the word 'go.'"

The Clean Water Classic is not like the average surf contest. It is held in team format with up to 15 members, with a limit of up to 200 waves during a 40-minute heat. Unlike a normal contest, the more people you have on a wave, the higher your score. 64-year-old competitor Harry Reed from the San Diego Surfrider Foundation Team said, "We get scored higher if I share a wave with my friends; you don't see that at other contests, or anywhere else."

Jesse Billauer, founder of Life Rolls On and a quadriplegic surfer, made a special appearance and surfed Rincon with a style and grace never seen before at Rincon, with some of the longest and highest scoring waves of the contest.

The Groundswell Society's co-founder Glenn Henning said, "This year was about as good as it gets — and with Jesse Billauer there, I think everyone got a clear message about the soul of surfing that has nothing to do with competitive surfing — or the surf industry — as they currently exist."

Basically, the contest was all about having fun and surfing Rincon with your crew for 40 minutes. Regardless of who won, everyone was stoked because, just by surfing perfect waves, they were able to help those in need.

Irony was thick at the Rincon Clean Water Classic, as competitors paddled out with the La Conchita Slide in the distance, surfed waves to provide aid for tsunami victims, and paddled out in pollution in order to clean it up. In addition to the charity, the end result of the 9th Annual Rincon Clean Water Classic was the spirit of stoke, and it was apparent on the faces of everyone on the beach.

This event was more than a contest, more than surfing a good wave; this was an experience of soul that will be carried out into lineups for years to come. "This contest is an honor to do, just because of what it stands for," said Harry Reed.

Competing teams included:

Non-profit Organizations
Gold Coast Groms — The Huntington Beach International Surf Museum Surf Team
Surfrider: Santa Barbara/Isla Vista — Rideawave/Santa Cruz — The Groundswell Society

Surfing Clubs
Sunset Cliffs Surfing Association — Oxnard Waveriders Surf Club
Pacific Beach Surf Club — Santa Barbara Surf Club — Ventura Surf Club

Locals, Legends and Friends
Beatty Products — Malibu Surfing Association — Surfrider San Diego
The Rin-Cons on Parole(*) — The Surfrider National