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Debate over surf contest heats up

ENCINITAS — The community is divided by a recent move to hold a surf contest at Swami’s.
The Women’s World Longboarding Championship could be the first major competition held at the premiere surf break if organizers have their say.
World-class surfer and local resident Linda Benson has asked the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to consider allowing her to hold the four-day event at Swami’s. The contest would run from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17 with qualifying rounds on Oct. 13 at Moonlight Beach.
While Benson has the support of many in the community, including surfers and business organizations, there are a number of detractors. Jean-Paul St. Pierre, author of and a local surfer, said the contest would set a bad precedent. “Once you have one contest at Swami’s, then my concern is that you will end up with five or six,” he said. “You end up privatizing a public beach.”
But others view the relatively small contest as an opportunity to bring the community together while celebrating women’s longboarding, which has traditionally been treated as the “stepchild” in surfing and usually brings in modest prize money. “We want to do everything we can to make it a low-impact contest. We’re not looking to take away public access to the beach,” Benson said.
To that end, Benson said that several modifications will be made to the usual surfing contest. Loudspeakers will be quieted and a boat will relay the scores to competitors in the water; scaffolding will be modest and unimposing; only a few tents will be used for competitors; and vendors and nonprofit organization booths will be situated along K Street rather than on the beach.
The contest and accompanying festival along K Street are designed to be a community affair according to Benson. All proceeds from a surfboard raffle will go to Keep-A-Breast, a local nonprofit, in honor of breast cancer awareness.
Chris Hazeltine, director of Parks and Recreation, said no formal application to reserve Swami’s for the contest has been made yet. City policy does not address surf contests or special events on city-operated beaches according to Hazeltine. “Every special operations request is decided on a case-by-case basis.” Because Swami’s is not designated as “reservable” the decision to issue a special events permit cannot be made administratively.
As a result, the Parks and Recreation Commission will form a subcommittee to further review the proposed plan to reserve Swami’s and make a recommendation to City Council. Hazeltine said that while no timeline is set for making a decision, he anticipates the subcommittee will bring the matter before the council in the early part of the new year. “It’s kind of a waiting game right now,” he said. “There will be a thorough review process and certainly there will be an opportunity for public input.”
The contest has been held in Biarritz, France, hosted by Roxy Europe for the past three years. According to Benson, the majority of the competitors want the contest to return to the United States because of the cost of travel to the event.
Indeed, Cori Schumacher, two-time world champion longboarder and Cardiff resident, said the move to Swami’s would not only cut down on the cost to competitors, but also create a “contest that is focusing on the spirit of the sport.” She described women longboarders as a close-knit group who share camaraderie even in the heat of a competitive surf contest. “We do it (longboard surfing) because we love it and we love each other,” she said.


Swamiji November 20, 2009 at 11:44 am

Five or six contests?! A year?! There is no precedent for this at a winter break anywhere in the world!

Other beaches that catch swell year round are the beaches Jean-Paul (who is planning to open his own profit-driven surf shop in Leucadia soon) must be referring to, not a break like Swami’s.

Even Cardiff and Seaside south a ways, only see one to three events a year. This guy should have done his research.

Stop the fear-mongering! This event would be great for the community and for the ladies!

JP_in_Leucadia November 21, 2009 at 8:26 am

Once you have the women’s world champ contest at Swamis then you will have the men’s, then the pro juniors, then nationals and then the club contest. It goes on and on. The surf industry at large has had it’s eyes on Swami’s for a long time. There was a time when Lower Trestles was contest free, now they dominate Lower’s for the bulk of the season. There are 6 contest at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Hawaii this year. History has proven me right on this. As a town we need to discuss if we want to rent out our most important surf spot to private interest before any decision is made on this contest.

BR_in_Leucadia November 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm

If one contest is good for the community wouldn’t 4 contests be 4 times as good? A lot of the public wanted to find out more information directly from Council Member Dalager and Linda at the SSA meeting a few weeks ago. They decided to not show up at the last minute.

Cristina G. November 22, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I think that the newly bestowed “MPA” designation will put a damper on any “professional” surf contest going on anywhere in Encinitas. The area is going to be under state protection and I really doubt they’ll let the reef and tidepools get trampled to death for the sake of a few. In fact if this did occur, or even if it was planned, I’m sure a lawsuit would be filed on behalf of the state. I’m surprised the council is considering the event since they supported becoming a “protected” beach.

mooningu November 23, 2009 at 5:16 am

Christina G hit it on the head with her comment.

You can kiss that area good bye for ANY surfing or beach going now that the new MPA’s are going to be put into affect.

You can thank your Council members and Surf Rider foundation for supporting the closures.

anonymous November 24, 2009 at 10:43 am

We are about to lose our surfing and fishing rights! When the MLPA takes effect beaches in So Cal will be off limits to surfing and fishing.

People opposed to fishing have taken on the cloak of environmental activism in an effort to shut down all fishing in the USA and have moved the fight to southern California. These people are well funded, politically savvy and will stop at nothing in an effort to ban all fishing in our state at any cost. In the beginning the MLPA was viewed as a scientific method of stabilizing fish stocks in the coastal areas of our country. Unfortunately no science has been used in the So Cal process, only heart felt opinions held by people that think Disney films are based on science, i.e. Penguins talk and dance don’t they? As fishermen we want sustainable fish stocks, clean pollution free water and access to the ocean so we can continue 10,000 years of fishing legacy. How is this different from what the environmentalist want, its not! That’s the issue here; they want to put an end to fishing in the USA bottom line and will not stop until fishing is illegal.

As a responsible fisherman I am opposed to no take fish reserves that do nothing to increase threatened fish stocks but do allow special interests and organizations with massive amounts of money and influence to control our oceans and beach access. Enough is too much especially during a time when our economic future is at stake and the MLPA’s will suck up another $45 million dollars a year at today’s estimation while providing no science to show it can improve fish stocks at any level.

anonymous November 25, 2009 at 9:53 am

look at who’s behind all the noise, the same we don’t want a park people and malcontents. Surfers against it well I would be careful, because if you keep up the “Protected” argument you might find you “Protected” yourselves out of a place to surf as well.

I think the event would be good for the community.

nick d November 26, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Oleas get out and VOTE……and get active or you will lose your rights to fish, surf, and even walk down the beach……..

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