Kevin Cody

Jim Miller Surf Festival enjoys best of summer weather, winter waves

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Jimmy Miller surf grom

Billy Atkinson showing why the Jimmy Miller contest has become known as a showcase for upcoming local groms. Photo by Kevin Cody

The 2011-12 surf contest season had a promising beginning Sunday with the Eighth Annual Jimmy Miller Memorial Surf Festival at 42nd Street in Manhattan Beach. The air was 80 degrees and the water bare-back-warm, suggesting summer rather than the approaching winter. But the two- to four-foot swell had enough winter juice to break two boards in a single heat, send recurrent lifeguard Kevin Barry home with a bruised or broken rib and send another surfer home with a bruised or dislocated shoulder.

jimmy Miller surf winners

Jimmy Miller Surf Fiesta finalists (kneeling) Kelly Zaun, Brent Broza, Julian Kuhr. (Standing) Hudson Fredriksz, Chio Baldocchi, Matt Walls, Jim Miller, Jack Siever, Chandler Coate, Kalani Rusher. Photo by Steve Fredriksz

More than 200 surfers participated in the family-oriented contest, many of them groms, making the day a fitting tribute to contest namesake, Jimmy Miller. Miller was a Los Angeles County lifeguard and founder of Camp Surf, one of the first instructional surf camps for kids. Miller died eight years ago after struggling with mental illness.

Competitors were assigned to six-member teams, based on their abilities. Each team’s “A” surfer rode a board chosen by the opposing team from a quiver of donated boards. The boards included water-logged longboards, 12-foot soft tops, ‘70s single fins and a four-foot kneeboard with rope handles affectionately known as “The Pickle.” A 6-foot-2, 16-inches-wide, finless Seaglass Tuna, designed by shaper Tom Wegener, was removed from the quiver following the first heat when “A” surfer Charlie Miller demonstrated the finless could be ridden in the walled conditions, but not without jeopardizing the safety of the rider and other surfers.

surfer kelly zaun

Kelly Zaun proves anything is ride-able with enough practice. He’s doing a floater on a 4-foot belly board known as “The Pickle.” Photo by Brent Broza (BrozaPhotos.com)

Contestants weren’t allowed to ride their own boards, but JS Surfboards rep Steve Meidroth brought down 30 new demos. His contribution earned him the Craig Best Award for Stoke and Generosity.

Fresh Brothers Pizza, Silvio’s Brazilian BBQ and Manhattan Bread and Bagel kept everyone fed.

Jeff Miller Miller Memorial Foundation

Contest director Jeff Miller talks about the history of the contest, held in memory of his brother Jim. Photo by Tim Tindall

At the awards dinner, up the street from the beach at Verandas, Kelly Zaun’s team was named the winner. His teammates were Brent Broza, Chio Baldocchi, Hudson Fredriksz, Chandler Cote and Max Cajuste. Second place went to the Family Walls team, which included dad Matt, sons Shea and Kieran, Kalani Rusher, Jack Siever, Julian Kuhr and Jim Miller.

Dad Walls also won the Pure Surfing Experience award.

Other individual award winners were: Spyder Surfboards Best Maneuver Award – Kelly Zaun. ET Surfboards Beach Lounger Award and Body Glove Best Performance by a Family Award – shared by Ulrich family, Sullivan family, Jackson family, Coate family and Petri family. Trilogy Spa Best Performance by a Female — Kyra Williams. JS Surfboards Best Wipeout — Joe Taschler. Rip Curl Longest Traveler Award — Ian O’Keefe. Sector 9 Best Performance by a Grommet Award –Hudson Fredriksz.

The estimated $15,000 in proceeds from entry fees and the silent auction will benefit the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation, which provides ocean therapy for the physically and mentally ill, including underprivileged children and military veterans.

For more information visit JimmyMillerFoundation.org. ER