"Surfers, drugs, and rock 'n' roll sometimes went together," writes Nat Young in his book The Complete History of Surfing. Last week, Joel Tudor teamed up with Vans to deliver the Duct Tape Invitational, an event where 16 handpicked longboarders were unleashed upon the town of Montauk, New York, to prove that Nat's comment still applies today.
A legendary father to the surfing world, Nat is referring to an era that preceded the current generation of battle-faced, exercise ball-toting pros. "I genuinely felt there was more to surfing than competition," he continues. "Many young surfers today are missing out on the possibility of expressing themselves through their surfing because their lives are dominated by contests."
Joel was, and always has been, the exception to Nat's generalization. Sure, Joel has spent his fair share of time garbing contest jerseys and slapping sponsor logos on his quiver. But no one can deny that Joel wandered into a realm of surfing that no other young surfer dared search out during the early- to mid-'90s, a time when shortboarding was the only way to roll if you were an ambitious kid looking to make it in the pro lineup. Instead, as an immensely talented surfer, Joel spent his time toying with board shapes and styles of surfing that the rest of the industry viewed as antiquated and unprogressive. Little did the surf world realize where this seemingly aimless path of counterculture would lead Joel and his eventual cohorts.
Last weekend's blur of an event featured two days of heats, none of which can be considered genuinely competition-focused. The rules of the contest basically went like this: F–k it. There are no rules. Just four colored singlets, 25-minute heats, a few tents on the sand, and an open bar tab. Snaking, burning, crossing over—it was a free-for-all. In fact, competitors were awarded $500 to split for the best doubles ride in every heat of the event.
Age and sex didn't matter either. From Herbie Fletcher to Kassia Meador, the roster of competitors was skewed with a variety of talent. Psychedelic stylemaster Robbie Kegel, a smooth operating Alex Knost, and a perpetually barefooted, facial hair-harvesting Chris Del Moro were a few among the crew to invade Montauk.
Admittedly, there wasn't much focus on pre-contest preparation, better known as "getting in the zone" by what Del Moro calls "jock surfers," but you can bet there was plenty of creative, and sometimes daring, maneuvering going down in the heats. From feet-first paddle-ins and hanging tens over the infamous Ditch Plains rock to a bit of ass-jiving to the Talking Heads playing over the loudspeakers, there was no lack of classiness to the antics of the Duct Tape Invitational.
With local Montauk surf boss Tony Caramonico on hand for weather and swell insight, the call was made to run the semis and final at dawn on Friday. Tony's call was spot on. The tribe (well, most of them) stumbled across the freezing sand at sunrise to discover 2- to 4-foot lefts with roaring offshore winds rolling toward the contest site.
In the end, Florida's Justin Quintal cruised his way into ownership of a giant foamboard check that boasts the sum of $4,000, while Noosa Heads local Harrison Roach pulled into second place with $3,000. Montauk staple Mikey DeTemple walked away with third place and $2,000 and California's Tyler Warren claimed fourth place and $1,000.
Vans wrapped up the weekend with a private party and concert by Public Enemy, Mos Def, and Flavor Flav at their newest locale in Brooklyn. Yeah. Amazing. The weekend was like that.