Above: Professional surfer Jordy Collins of Carlsbad and his group of friends started the “Tamarack Takeover” several years ago. The event is aimed at including all who want to come and have fun in the surf. Photo by Steve Puterski
CARLSBAD — Groms, pros and everyone in between took to the waves in an impromptu surfing “event” filled with chaos and at least 150 surfers.
The “Tamarack Takeover” or “The Light Up” as it is known, saw hundreds of spectators line the beach as surfers engaged in a raw and adrenaline-fueled gathering on May 31.
The gathering began several years ago thanks to Carlsbad surf pro Jordy Collins, friend Noah Crider and others in their circle. The group, known as the Ponto Troll Crew, was looking for a way to do something fun and inclusive without the need for drugs, alcohol or the party scene.
Another caveat was getting into the water during high tide and a big swell to increase the chaos. However, the Collins said no hard surfboards or fins are allowed, only soft tops (foamies) to ensure safety.
“We’re always centered in the water,” he said. “It kind of came just naturally as we’d always come here and do the shore break. We started doing it every summer more and more. It’s just grown every time.”
So, about four years ago they decided to play rough on the waves. It started as a night event, with the crew hauling out large lights, thus leading to the name “The Light Up.
Since then, their circles of friends grew with word has spreading and the gathering exploding in popularity. In July 2018, about 1,500 spectators viewed the carnage, while the May 31 takeover had its largest turnout of surfers, with at least 150 hitting the waves, looking like a floating mob amid the rolling waves.
During the takeover, 10 to 12 surfers ride a single wave in close proximity with surfers jumping onto different boards and smacking each other with foam noodles.
“It’s a fun gathering where a bunch of people get together and just surf,” Crider said. “This is the biggest one we’ve had. Most of the surf industry knows of the ‘Tamarack Takeover.’”
Collins said there are no specific dates for the takeover, although he and his friends keep a close eye on the surf report. Once they see an opportunity for a swell over 3 feet and high tide, they post to Instagram notifying their followers of the event, which is usually about one week before.
As for safety, there were at least six lifeguards and water rescue personnel from the California State Parks, which owns the beach. Collins and Crider said a number of their friends work with state parks, so they keep them in the loop.
And to date, Collins said there has only been one incident, as a surfer suffered a knee injury. They don’t recommend the event to novice surfers because of safety concerns.
“It’s just a free-for-all, chaos-drive, gladiator battle,” Collins said. “As surfers, it’s a pretty selfish sport and it’s all about me getting the wave and no one else getting the wave. That’s kind of silly because we’re all out there having fun. When we do these things, I think it’s a great reminder of what we’re all about.”