Kevin Cody

Browning caps young career with Hermosa Beach Bear Back surf title

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South High surfer Parker Browning keeps warm during the 11th Annual Bear Back Surf contest in Hermosa Beach on Saturday. Photo by Mike Balzer

by Kevin Cody

Jimmy Young, founder/director of the prestigious Hermosa Beach Bear Back Invitational contest, looked  at the draining, overhead barrels Saturday morning at 16th Street in Hermosa Beach and wondered  aloud whether the annual Super Bowl Sunday weekend contest should be postponed.

The Pitcher House owner was concerned about liability.

Greg Browning looked  at the same draining barrels, breaking on a waist deep sand bar and said, “Look at those spitting barrels.”

“… as seen through the eyes of a pro surfer,” photographer Mike Balzer added to Browning’s assessment.

“First heat, in the water,” contest marshal Jeff Browning ordered.

Saturday morning’s air was 55.The water  was 57.

Hypothermia charts show that “Loss of dexterity,” followed by “exhaustion, incoherence and unconsciousness” set in between 10 and 15 minutes in 50 to 60 degree water.

The heats were 20 minutes. Anyone who left the water early would be required to ring the bell of shame planted before the bundled up crowd on the beach. No one left the water early.

The first heat began badly. Most of the contestants, including Young who was riding a longboard, were swept two blocks up the beach before they were able to reach the outside. Greg Browning elicited the most cheers by free falling down overhead waves and pulling into close out barrels. But his son Parker ran up more points by completing countless maneuvers on the better shaped, inside waves.

Conditions cleaned up for the final second heat, allowing competitors more time to contemplate whether or not to take off. Jani Lange, the skinniest surfer in the line-up, decided the best way to stay warm was to keep moving. The downside was repeated pummeling. It was hard to tell if he was punchy from the cold or from concussions.

Jeff Parker matched Lange for hyperness and edged him out on style points. He wore white terry cloth briefs with the word Sweet embroidered on the bum. And he had a mullet.

South High surfer Parker Browning, whose other prestigious wins include Ratopia and the Jimmy Miller, achieved the highlight of his young career by being declared winner by acclamation. Jeff Parker was second and Greg Browning was relegated to third.

Recipients of very cool T-Shirts designed by Rob Kalafut: Jeff “Haji” Parker, Greg “Geebs” Browning, Jani Lange, Chichyo “Cheech” Baldocchi, Drew “Future Fuzz” Browning, Flinch, Steve from Pitcher House, Rob Kalafut, Kevin Cody, Jeff Browning, Jimmy “Ferret” Young, ER


Photos by Mike Balzer

Ode to the Bareback 2012

by Jeff Browning

The ocean kisses my toes.

My brain says, “NO!”

but my body goes.

I cringe, look around,

Too late to back out now.

What is wrong with me?

Can I fake an injury?

The ocean kisses my knees,

I start to chatter, I start to freeze.

Jimmy and Greg are staring me down,

Too late to back out now.

The ocean kisses my balls,

I see Chyo go over the falls,

I wonder aloud,

Is it too late to back out now?

These other guys can’t be as cold

As my old bones,

I could be warm at home,


Why, why do I do this?

The lips hit like cold, liquid bricks

I can’t breathe, now up to my hips,

I should just dive and get it over with!

I duck dive.

And then it’s me

And some friends,

Shivering in the medium tide,

Surfing bear back at the pier.

Photos by Megan Abrigo and Kevin Cody


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