A dark bump beyond the Pier brings hoots and yews from the Pier spectators. Bodysurfers look to their friends on the Pier. Riders and coaches use hand signals to alert an approaching set. An attempt at stealth…every extra stroke an advantage when getting to the peak before a competitor. Hand up with digits raised show how many bumps are out the back. Competitors dive and swim hard for the outside. Pick the right one, find the sweet spot, take off and style for the judges.
Chest to head high waves rolled into the Oceanside Pier on the weekend of August 16th and 17th, providing excellent surf for the 38th Annual World Bodysurfing Championships. The Oceanside Buoy read 3.3ft. at 17 seconds from the SSW. The waves even exceeded most forecasts. With the tide rising through the morning, consistent sets provided ample scoring opportunities. The Southside was mysteriously better than the Northside. The biggest sets never seemed to connect through the Pier. The northwest wind blew out the Northside while the Pier blocked some wind to keep the Southside clean. Rotating heat locations on Saturday gave everyone a chance on the Southside.
An air of healthy competition hung over the Pier. Competitors swam hard, teams cheered and judges did their best. Everyone discussed heat strategy. Sit inside and catch a bunch of small waves or wait for the sets outside? Can the judges see the lefts on the Northside? Is that little right still working next to the Pier? With swell in the water, swimming strength became vital in the drifting Oceanside lineup. According to Dr. Hal Handley, “It is very often a swimming endurance contest. The strongest AND most talented win.”
350 bodysurfers in 12 divisions (8 men’s and 4 women’s) began the competition with the first heats beginning at 6:30am. Competitors represented the whole of the California coast, Hawaii, Oregon and the East Coast. International representation included Australia, Brazil and France. The youngest included 12 year olds while the 65+ age groups are always lively and respected.
Saturday’s competition ended with fatigued arms, sunburns and smiles. The usual Saturday night debauchery at the Doctor’s house was replaced this year with a true celebration. A celebration of the Ocean, of bodysurfing and it’s legendary characters. The California Surf Museum in Oceanside hosted the Grand Opening Reception of an exhibit titled, “Bodysurfing…Pure, Simple and Fun!” Over the past year, Bill “Froggy” Schlidge and Dr. Hal Handly have collected and collaborated a wonderful history of bodysurfing. Stories, artifacts, images and passion: it is all there. Lively fin discussions, wild wave tales and pure, simple stoke highlighted the evening.
Sunday morning dawned with continuing swell and clean conditions. All age group finals ran in consistent surf on the Southside. The crowd filled in on the beach and stood two deep on the Pier. With all the finals featuring previous Grand Champions, multiple-time age group winners and legends, a very high level of bodysurfing was on display. Upside down, underwater takeoffs, smooth spinners and long barrel rides kept the judges busy and the crowd cheering.
Positivity surrounded the entire weekend. Many of the competitors have been competing here for 20+ years. Old friends talked story and new friends made introductions. The team competition adds an interesting dynamic. The Wolfpack is always up for a good time especially this year in their flesh-tone speedos that caused many spectator double-takes. The Del Mar Bodysurfing Club “Good Vibes” are exactly that. Chubascos was well represented from Huntington Beach and the young guns from the WOD Crew showed encouraging skill.
When the salt spray finally settled, Calla Allison of Team Pine St. Carlsbad won her 5th Women’s Grand Championship and Brett Templeman of the South City Swells in Ventura took the Men’s Grand Championship. Both exhibited expert wave knowledge, stamina and style throughout the weekend. Congrats to them both! The highly coveted and hotly contested Team Trophy went to Pine St. They are the only name on the trophy, having won it each of the 5 years that it’s been awarded. Hal Handley and Bill Schlidge were awarded the Jack Thill Perpetual Bodysurfing Trophy for service to our beloved lifestyle. Obviously, well deserved!