The surf and the sand drew a crowd in Laguna Beach over the weekend, as two popular water sporting events returned to town.
After a four-year hiatus, the Brooks Street Surfing Classic got back in the water, continuing a time-honored tradition with the 56th annual running of the event.
Brandy Faber, the director of the surfing contest, said the competition is open only to Laguna Beach residents, as it has been since its inception in 1955. It had not been held since 2018, which of course preceded the coronavirus pandemic. The other factor in the event’s absence had been the surf itself.
“The Brooks Street contest is unique in the sense it’s not like other events, where you can just show up at Huntington or Trestles or Salt Creek and just have waves on any particular weekend,” Faber said. “We have a waiting period that begins in June, and it goes all the way to the end of October, and we need enough surf to run two full days — sunup to sundown — on a Saturday and Sunday.
“In 2019, we never had a swell that hit on the weekend that was able to give us enough surf to run the event,” Faber said.
There were winners crowned in 14 divisions, ranging from young boys and girls to legends (competitors of at least 60 years of age).
Cash prizes also went out to the pro-am division, with teenager Hudson Saunders taking home $1,000 as the first-place finisher. Travis Booth ($750), Eli Viszolay ($500) and Michael Chapman ($250) rounded out the top four.
Walter Viszolay, Eli’s father, set himself apart as the winner of the legends division.
There were also competitions held for those riding the waves on longboards, bodyboards and paddleboards.
The Cy Chambers Award, given to a high school or middle school contestant who exhibits the quality of sportsmanship while also performing well in the classroom, went to Brooks Carter.
Maddox Rapp was the recipient of the Thom Chambers Award, a recognition that goes to a middle school or high school competitor who has shown an affinity for the arts.
Faber also thanked local artists Kaj Garmshausen and Robert Jones for designing the T-shirts and the trophies, respectively, for the Brooks Street Surfing Classic. Jones is an exhibitor in the Sawdust Art Festival.
“We always get custom-made trophies by local artists that are part of the surf community,” Faber said. “Robert Jones is a local ceramicist who displays every year at the Sawdust Festival, and he is a past Brooks Street champion himself, so that was cool that he made the trophies.
“Kaj Garmshausen, who made the T-shirts, a local artist and surfer. … We try to keep everything really local and tapping into our local art community where we can, so I think that’s kind of an important part to the contest. We don’t just get your standard plastic, doorstop type of trophies.”
With two big-time events happening on Laguna’s beaches, some residents embraced the challenge of going back and forth between Brooks Street and Aliso Beach to compete in surfing and skimboarding. That group included Dia Prietto, who won the boys’ 13-and-under division in the Brooks Street Surfing Classic and the amateur division for competitors between the ages of 12 and 14 in the Vic West skimboarding contest, put on by Laguna Beach-based Victoria Skimboards.
It was the 45th annual running of the Vic, which drew an international field of competitors and provided $9,000 in prize money for individuals competing in the professional divisions.
In the professional divisions, Yahir Valencia of Barra de Navidad, Mexico, won the men’s championship, while Chabe White of Mazunte, Mexico, won the women’s title.
The Vic is part of the United Skim Tour, which will also have the Exile Oktoberfest in Newport Beach Sept. 17 and 18.
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Andrew Turner is a sports reporter for the Daily Pilot. Before joining the Pilot in October 2016, he covered prep sports as a freelancer for the Orange County Register for four years. His work also has been used by the Associated Press and California Rubber Hockey Magazine. While attending Long Beach State, he wrote for the college newspaper, The Daily 49er. He graduated with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history. (714) 966-4611
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