If you made it down to the end of Bates Road this weekend and got your eyes on the ocean at that fabled corner of coastline known the world over as Rincon, then you already know how lucky you are. The surf was gangbusters!
The 33rd Annual Rincon Classic surf contest was held all day long and all day strong on both Saturday and Sunday in conditions that trended anywhere from “fun and contestable” for much of Day One to “big and epic” for the business end of the competition on Sunday. It was, as Contest Director Chris Keet put it Sunday morning, “A dream come true. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
A locals-only contest that crowns a champion in a wide variety of categories from the tiniest of groms to the oldest of salts, as well as a team competition (“The King of the Queen”) between area surf shops and Rincon Brewery’s Professional Division, the Classic is amongst the world’s most prestigious and star-studded grassroots surf competitions.
Able to run whichever weekend the conditions look best throughout January and February, Keet and crew made the call late Wednesday to green-light the contest for this weekend, and, by the time dawn broke on Sunday, it was clear that they made a charmed decision. With sets pushing double overhead (6- to 8-feet with the ever occasional 10-feet for those of you keeping score at home) and nary a drop of water out of place, the stage was set for a dramatic and truly entertaining day of surfing.
Day One was plagued by some less than ideal early morning winds and inconsistent swell. Your take on the experience was largely informed by when your heat was held. Some heats enjoyed consistent head-high surf while others sat flat with very few waves to ride. However, as the day wore on, the swell that would make Sunday so impressive started to fill in.
With the light getting low, the sets began to grow. For the surfers lucky enough to advance on to Sunday, the promise of big and beyond excellent waves was essentially guaranteed. At no point was this more obvious than in the Semi-Finals of the “Legends” Division late Saturday evening. With darkness rolling in and the waves starting to pop, longtime Classic veteran Bill Urbany scratched into an overhead wave near the rivermouth section. Four turns and one solid tube ride later, he kicked out near the top of the cove having just earned the contest’s first perfect 10. It sent a message to the few left on the beach, Sunday was going to be special.
And indeed it was. The waves were big, some of the biggest ever for a Rincon Classic, and the waves were often flawless, allowing for rides that connected from the top of the rivermouth section all the way into the cove and beyond. Thousands of spectators swarmed the beach and the action didn’t disappoint. If your attention happened to drift away from whatever heat was in the water, a roar from the peanut gallery when a particularly big set would stack on the outside — or a committed surfer charged a potentially bone- and board-breaking section with gusto — would snap you back to attention. On this day at this beach, surfing was a world-class spectator sport.
Highlights included the ferocious surfing of the Pro Division, eventually won by the World Surfing League’s most freshly minted qualifier and Montecito resident Connor Coffin. The eldest Coffin brother put on a clinic Sunday afternoon with his trademarked brand of high speed, fully committed, on-rail surfing. Again and again, he took the most critical sections a wave had to offer and turned them into high-scoring maneuvers above, below, and inside the lip.
Carpinteria’s Dane Reynolds, widely considered one of the best free surfers on the planet, earned the contest’s highest single heat score in the Pro Semi-Final when he bagged a perfect 10 and a couple of high 9’s for a sequence of rides just south of the rivermouth. Not to be outdone, fellow Pro Division finalist Adam Lambert balanced his local knowledge of the wave with an aggressive pedal-to-the-metal approach and took home second in the electric Pro Division.
Carpinteria’s Aubrey Faulk Luyendyk won the Women’s Division by bagging big waves with style and grace and finding her way into a couple proper tube rides that made many of her male counterparts blush. The pride of Lompoc, Pete Mussio, won the always hotly contested Men’s Division with a hyper-fast and precise attack. Vince Felix stylishly took home the big trophy in the Longboard Division, surfing large waves in the pitch black.
Nate Winkles was in full-on machine mode for all of his Masters heats, running up the beach like a half-drunk bull after methodically dismantling long waves that took him far beyond the judge’s view. His efforts were rewarded with a first place Classic Belt buckle. Micky Clarke, a 17-year-old kid from Ventura who changed his hair color and style multiple times throughout the event, was top in the Junior Division thanks to a series of death-drop floaters and a couple mean power gouges on waves two to three times his size.
Gavin Eason was the king of the “Gremlins” Division while longtime Classic standout Greg Venable continued his winning ways in the Grand Masters Division, thanks to his smooth and calculating and relentless approach. Last, but certainly not least, the boys from J7 Surfboards, led by team manager Adam Virs, smashed their way to victory in the “King of the Queen” Division, which pitted teams of four from surf shops throughout Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, and Ventura against one another.
For complete results go to www.rinconclassic.com.