LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP - When Kurt Scheibner was a kid in Ship Bottom, his family owned a 1960s-era, Greg Noll-shaped Mickey Dora "Da Cat" model longboard. An older surfer saw the board and offered to buy the boys any new surfboard on Long Beach Island as a trade.
"I didn't want to do it, but my oldest brother agreed to go along with it," said Scheibner, now 24.
When he realized not only the monetary value of the board but also the historic significance, Scheibner became fixated on finding and riding older boards.
On Saturday, Scheibner won the Alliance for A Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic on a 1961 Challenger East 9'6. Held at the 85th Street beach, the event challenges surfers to ride boards from the 1960s, the sport's golden era.
"A board that's been around for 50 years really interests me," Scheibner said. "You wonder who rode it, on what kind of classic days."
The surf was forecasted to be flat, but surfers were pleased to find 1- to 3-foot waves. The conditions were clean all morning and remained rideable right through the afternoon.
Bill DeWitt, 61, of Beach Haven, who made the semifinals, puts this day at the top of his list of favorites of the year. His daughter, Jamie DeWitt, 28, was the most successful female surfer New Jersey has had in recent decades, and she now lives in North Carolina.
In the 1960s, Bill DeWitt competed in the Ocean City Surfing Association's Polar Bear Contest, the budding Eastern Surfing Association's events, and the LBI Surfing Championships. This event is a throwback to those days.
"To me, this is a gas," said DeWitt, who rode a borrowed Eastern Surf Lines 9'8. "A lot of the guys here don't even know what it was like back then, but this is good for the kids and good for the whole surfing community."
DeWitt also won the tandem division, surfing with Nastasha Lisnieska, 25, of Beach Haven West. The pair executed a wheelbarrow stance to take the win.
Among the men, Scheibner and Jared Temple, 23, of Beach Haven, looked the sharpest throughout. Temple, riding an Oceanside Spoiler, beat James Contreras, 28, of Brick Township, and Rick Karolkiewicz, 45, of the Mayetta section of Stafford Township, in his semifinal by completing a very difficult fin-first takeoff.
In the final, Scheibner collected six points (of a possible 10) for a skillful noseride to take the win. Kemp Kane, 50, an LBI native who now lives in Stewart, Fla., took second place for his solid footwork.
Josh Law, 23, of Beach Haven, a successful local shortboard surfer, finished third by finding a very rare barrel ride on the inside.
"I wasn't even planning on surfing today," he said. "I was just here to watch and help out. I don't really ride longboards, but it was a blast."
Kim Kepich, 18, of Seaside Park, won the women's division with a nice frontside ride and turn on a steep wave face. Her sister, Jill Kepich, 21, took second, followed by Mary Tantillo, 40, of North Beach and Drew Gamils, 20, of Beach Haven.
Brian Aji, 14, of Ship Bottom, had the style to win the boys division over Kevin Budd, 14, of Holgate; Ryan Eckel, 14, of Ventnor; and Vaught Butler. The top Skimboard finishers were Mauro Sancharico, 18, of Beach Haven, Aji and Budd.
This year's event also featured a paddle race in which contestants started a quarter-mile out to sea and paddled to the beach. Mike Dancha, 42, of Surf City, a veteran Long Beach Township lifeguard, caught a wave on the way in to beat Kyle Fallon, 23, of Beach Haven, and Charlie Clay, 39, of Surf City.