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Beach 2016 Surfing: Big waves, in and out of the water

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Angelo Luhrsen won the South Bay Boardriders Big Wave Contest for this ride at the Redondo Breakwall in January. Photo Charles Scholz

by Ed Solt

After a lackluster XXL swell-starved 2015 winter season, El Nino brought back The South Bay Big Wave Challenge in 2016.

“Catching the biggest wave of the winter, it’s a punch chance —  there’s so many great surfers in the South Bay, it depends on being at the right place at the right time,” said Chris Wells, a frequent big wave finalist.

Angelo Luhrsen, 24, of Palos Verdes, answered the challenge at the Redondo Breakwall. Luhrsen and his big wave sparring partner Conor Beatty (both were recently invited to Oregon’s Nelscott Reef Big Wave Challenge) paddled out in maxed out conditions.

“Breakwall was big and ugly but after seeing one rideable wave, we were on it,” Luhrsen said. “It was the furthest out that I have ever sat there. I was way past the end of the breakwall and could see all Palos Verdes.”

Luhrsen took off behind the peak. Every inch of his 7-foot-2 Pat Ryan gun was necessary to outrace the 30-plus foot whitewash. The wave earned Luhrsen the South Bay Boardriders Club Big Wave contest title, which came with $3000 and a fresh Pat Reardon gun.

“I have learned a lot from my dad and my uncles, James, Jude, and Chase and give them credit for inspiring me,” Luhrsen said.

Matt Meistrell on his runner-up Big Wave Award entry, at the Redondo Breakwall. Photo by Brad Jacobson

Between the consistent XXL swell, smaller, better shaped waves, created epic days. One particular good swell in February slipped in under the radar of forecasters, leaving the best local; spots for the locals.

“It was as good as it gets with just the boys,” said Matt Meistrell, who held his own all winter.

His cousin Tracey Meistrell, known best for his firehose hacks got what he called the best tube ride of his life.

“The boys were hooting all down the beach when Tracey pulled into a near unmakeable tube,” said Wells.

While freesurfers rejoiced, the South Bay Boardriders Club and the South Bay Scholastic Surfing Association were pulling out their bushy blonde hairdos. El Nino’s massive surf and crappy weather postponed many contests.

SBBC series winners: Kyle Brown, sporting his signature Jonesea wetsuit won the open men’s division. Megan Seth, daughter of super-waterman and LA County Lifeguard Captain Tom Seth, won the open women and the junior women’s divisions. In his last year of eligibility, Mira Costa’s Cody Purcell, dominated the junior’s division, winning three out of five contest. Breakwall stalwart Greg McEwan won the legend’s division. Whirlybird expert Dave Schaefer never finished worse than third, winning three contests and the Longboard division.

Cody Purcell’s winning wave at the SBSSA 2016 Kick-Off Classic. photo courtesy of SBSSA

Mira Costa continued their supremacy in the SBSSA, winning their 9th consecutive championship. Costa also took top honors at the 2016 All Star Meet. Purcell won the shortboard division, Kyra Williams won women’s shortboard and longboard, and Peter Neal won the men’s longboard division.

Streaking continued all over South Bay beaches. During the summer, Hermosa Beach’s Morgan Sliff accomplished her goal of surfing daily for a year. El Segundo’s Jeremy Porfilio passed his 1000th consecutive day surfing.

Pat Ryan, ET Surf’s loyal shaper of over 40 years, won the Easy Reader’s “Best Surf Shop Shaper.” Dan Cobley of Danc Surfboard won “Best underground shaper.”

“Shaping is not a job for buying a house or retiring. If you decide to go big, then you’re not making surfboards. You’re making a business. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m in it to make surfboards. If I was to go ‘big,’ I’d go into a different, more profitable business,” Cobley said.

The Hermosa Beach Surfing Walk of Fame voted in Ted Robinson and Kelly Gibson the first class of surfers from the 80s. Also, nominated, Becker Surf Shop manager of over 30 years, John Leininger and pioneer surfer Chip Post.

Spyder Surfboards opened a retail shop in Manhattan Beach — just around the block from the location of the world’s first surf shop, opened by legendary surfer Dale Velzy in 1950. It was sad to see Vanguard Surf and Sport close its last location in Torrance in May, after 25 years.

The South Bay Film & Art Festival honored Bruce Brown’s timeless surf masterpiece, “The Endless Summer.”  This year was the swan song for the Beach Shorts Film Festival, well at least under founder Barry Hatchet’s direction. After 10 years, Hatchett is stepping down.

Screengrab from Local longboarder Tyler Critelli’s flick seen at this year’s Beach Shorts.

“Barry is an infinite ray of stoke and the happiest guy out in the water,” said Adam Davenport of Davenport Surfboards, who donated a surfboard to raffle every year. “If we had more people like Barry, the world would be a better place.”

No word yet who’s stepping in to fill Hatchett’s big Hawaiian shirt.

Aaron Gold’s winning wave captured by Broza

It was the year of the Broza. Local photographer Brent Broza captured Aaron Gold dropping into a 63-foot wave at Jaws to win the World Surf League’s 2016 Paddle Award. Broza photo was the basis for the award. Broza’s work on exhibit at Hermosa Design, and also at his own Hermosa Avenue gallery.

Local artist Ron Croci teamed up with local surf historian Joel T. Smith to produce “The Illustrated Atlas of Surfing.” Torrance’s Pat Parker was the featured artist for this year’s 2016 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.

‘When I see my poster all over North Shore it is the same feeling as pulling into the deepest barrel of your life, much like the wave on the poster, and coming out with the spit,” Parker said.

In August, several Lunada Bay “Bay Boys” were named in a class action lawsuit for allegedly threatening non local surfers. In November, under pressure from the California Coastal Commission, Palos Verdes Estates took jackhammers to the Bay Boy’s “fort,” at the foot of the Lunada Bay cliff. ER


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