LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP – Dozens of surfers caught waves on vintage longboards as music from a 1960s surf instrumental band blared from the 65th Street beach in Brant Beach on Saturday.
The scene was not a set of a cheesy music video or the flashback of someone who might have enjoyed the 60’s a little too much, but rather the third Annual Longboard Classic – a large-scale benefit for Alliance for a Living Ocean.
The Long Beach Island-based nonprofit organization works to help keep the ocean and bay waters around the 18-mile-long island clean through education and action. Profits from Saturday’s event will help fund that cause.
“Surfers are a great base for us to reach out to because they are natural stewards of the ocean and the environment around it. So this is our single biggest fundraiser of the summertime,” said Kelly Quinlan, the vice president of ALO, adding last year’s event generated donations of approximately $3,000 and that this year’s event was expected to exceed that. “We’ve been lucky, our sponsors really stepped up big this year and the turnout has been great.”
In addition to the ALO, the event also featured a handful of tents housing similar non-profit environmental groups.
“Today is all about raising awareness about doing right by the environment,” Quinlan said.
And Mother Nature also plays a part in the event.
“Last year we had a nice little hurricane swell on the day of the event and this year we’ve had some nice sets come in, and that helps,” Quinlan said.
But the event is not your typical surf contest. The field of 40 surfers had to compete solely on vintage surfboards and would only get judged on “old school”-style tricks.
“The Surfrider Foundation has a classic longboard contest in Manasquan that has really caught on, so we wanted to bring something like that to LBI,” said Tom Beaty, an ALO board member and the owner of Wooden Jetty Surf Shop in Beach Haven.
So Beaty said the surfers were restricted to 60’s-era tricks – like riding the nose, cross-stepping, spinners, and fin-first takeoffs – on behemoths of wooden boards.
“Using these older boards requires more command,” said Beaty, adding paddleboard and skimboard competitions were also part of the event. “But it’s a chance for younger surfers to get out on the water alongside guys who used these same boards in the 60’s.”
Dawson Smith started surfing when he was 12 years old and 48 years later, the Ship Bottom resident is still very active in the sport. And while Smith uses a variety of boards, he says there is something special about the longboards he used in his youth.
“It’s like listening to an LP instead of a CD. There’s something about it that’s just better, something that’s true,” Smith said. “And I think that when the younger guys get to use them for an event like this, that they almost like it better.”
Ship Bottom resident Kurt Scheibner agreed.
The 24 year old shapes his own surf boards as a hobby but said that there is something intrinsic about using vintage boards.
“They have been on the beach for 40 or 50 years,” said Scheidner, who used a board that was “handed down” to him on Saturday. “They’ve got soul.”
But for other younger surfers like 12-year-old Kelani Anastasi it was an opportunity to be appreciative of the technological advancements of the last four decades.
Anastasi planned on competing in the tandem competition with her father, Ric, on Sunday. Because even though she has been surfing on longboards since she was 2 years old, she said the sheer weight and size of the classic boards were too much for her to maneuver.
“I like growing up nowadays, because there are more things to do and the boards are easier to use,” she said. “But I’m still having a lot of fun today and it’s exciting because we’re definitely going to try something new... I mean old.”
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