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Surfing: Group holds first competition on Pawleys Island

By James Williamson
Coastal Observer

Surfers participating in the first-ever Eastern Surfing Association competition on Pawleys Island crowded near the last groin on the south end waiting for the peaks of the slow-dumping, 2- to 3-foot swells in the 66-degree water. “These contests show what a real surfer can do,” said Pam Quate of Pawleys Island, who has attended surf contests since 1986. “It’s all in the mind; just them and the waves. It’s not about the trophy, that’s when you know a true surfer.”

Tom Chandler, director of the tournament and surfer for 35 years, worked with Pawleys Island Mayor Bill Otis and Police Chief Mike Fanning to arrange the event that had about 70 competitors Saturday. Chandler took over the state’s northern district of the ESA in January. “He has taken it to all the different beaches,” said Kelly Richards, owner of Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City. “I’m sure that with each place he goes to, he picks up new members.”

Throughout a series of heats split into divisions by age, gender and choice of boards – long, short, body and stand-up paddle – up to five surfers were scored on a 10-point scale for as many as 10 rides. Surfers advanced, depending on how many points they accumulated in the heats. And surfers who place in at least three competitions during the year, can continue onto the regionals, said Scott Benson, owner of Surf the Earth. Regionals will be held at Folly Beach in March.

Panels of three to five judges looked for the most radical maneuvers (cut backs, floaters, aerials, tube rides or vertical snaps) in the curl or pocket of the wave. Judges distinguished the surfers by their different colored jerseys, while a head judge, Doug Henderson, hovered as a supervisor and coordinator to ensure that heats ran smoothly.

“It’s all about the stoke, the joy you get from the surf,” said Luke Sharp, who was judging stand-up paddle board from a lawn chair beyond the low tide mark. He was the only surfer without a wetsuit. “The contest is an excuse for us to have fun.”

A green flag rose and an air horn blew to begin the long boarding heat for men ages 25 to 34. Overhead, Kelly Rhode, the master of ceremonies for the tournament and a surfer of 45 years, offered a few “woo doggies” and commentary into a microphone as Chandler, Sharp and James Stafford swooped across the waves’ crisp faces.

“With a roundhouse cutback into a cascading lip,” Rhode shouted. He read from his stack of index cards which he recited over the crowd throughout the tournament.

“It’s as much about defense and gaining position to take priority on the wave,” said Bryan Finley, one of the judges for the event.

“Orange is up,” he explained, referring to Stafford, who finished second behind Chandler in the heat.

Finley’s two sons, Parker and Tristen, also competed in the surf-off. “Their skill level has surpassed my abilities to teach them,” said Finley. “Sometimes I can help coach, say like bend your knees more here and there. They have a passion for it that I never had when I was that young. The younger they are, the more enthused they are.”

Trip Chandler, 13, has attended nationals twice since 2012 and finished first in the association’s menehune long boarding heat. Looking back on the nationals, he said he got used to the contests over time. “It was kind of nerve-racking at first,” said Trip, “but you learn to stay calm and not stress out. Take a break, eat food.”

Olivia Wendel finished first in the girls short board heat. “I go out there and show those boys what to do,” she said. “On bigger waves I’m a lot better. I like a good spray or floater.”

Wendel began surfing when she was 3 and has been taught by her father, Doug. “My dad would push me out in the water,” she said, “and I loved it.”

Of the 70 participants there were nearly 16 multiple family member competitors. “I do it for the kids,” said Bob Weaver, who has surfed since 1967 and finished first in the weekend’s grandmaster short board heat. All three of his sons competed as well. “They grew up surfing since they were 2,” he said. “It keeps them off the street and out of trouble. They can be a handful, but that’s not a problem.”

Quate said she admired the family aspect of the local surfing community. “As a parent, surfing builds a connection with your child when you have all things in life going on,” she said. “I’ve never seen such a connection between the legends and menehunes until I came to Pawleys. They’re dedicated.”

The results

Open: 1, Micah Cantor; 2, Boyd Brown; 3, Jackson Tiller; 4, Triston Finley; 5, Doug Henderson; 6, Trip Chandler; 7, Seth Brown, Doug Wendel III; 9, Jack Buffington, Tyson Royston; 11, Parker Finley, Zach Tudor; 13, Rivers Ford, Hugh Rafferty, Seth Ensley, Reid Largin; 17, Todd Woodard, Carter Dear, Dylan Hagler, Tanner Dunn; 21, Oliver Royston, Ryan Largin, Alex Comley, Shea Outlaw.

Boys: 1, Micah Cantor; 2, Boyd Brown; 3, Seth Brown; 4, Jackson Tiller; 5, Trip Chandler; 6, Seth Ellis; 7, Doug Wendel III, Tyson Royston; 9, Hugh Rafferty, George Jennings; 11, Dylan Hagler, Parker Finley; 13, Carter Dear, Conner Leone, Jack Cook, Tanner Dunn; 17, Shea Outlaw, Brian Jennings, Todd Woodard, Alex Conley; 21, Caleb Michael.

Menehune short board: 1, Reid Largin; 2, Morgan Weaver; 3, Aubry Weaver; 4, Hudson Clemons; 5, Bree Labiak; 6, Ryan Largin; 7, Olivia Wendel, Kennedy Brown; 9, Harrison Props, Oliver Royston; 11, Elijah Cox, Anthony Biondo; 13, Kellen Poole, Caden Benston.

Junior men’s short board: 1, Zach Tudor; 2, Jack Buffington; 3, Triston Finley; 4, Rivers Ford; 5, Seth Ensley.

Men’s short board: Doug Henderson.

Senior men’s short board: 1, Matt Ellis; 2, Doug Wendel Jr.; 3, Jason Clemons; 4, Tommy Gordon.

Grandmaster short board: 1, Bob Weaver; 2, Harold Brown; 3, Tom Chandler; 4, Stan Budd.

Legends short board: Al Johnson.

Girls short board: 1, Olivia Wendel; 2, Kennedy Brown; 3, Bree Labiak; 4, Kaiya Brand; 5, Grace Sutz; 6, Zeta Sharp; 7, Lexi McCall.

Junior women’s short board: 1, Maci McCall; 2, Sanibel Sharp; 3, Brooke Hagler.

Women’s short board: Brook Bedsaul.

Ladies short board: Elizabeth Hicks.

Menehune long board: 1, Trip Chandler; 2, Seth Brown; 3, George Jennings; 4, Seth Ellis; 5, Dylan Hagler; 6, Zeta Sharp.

Junior men’s long board: 1, Triston Finley; 2, Seth Ensley; 3, Terrel Brown.

Masters long board: 1, Tom Chandler; 2, James Stafford; 3, Luke Sharp.

Legends long board: 1, Harold Brown; 2, Bob Weaver; 3, Al Johnson; 4, Stan Budd.

Stand up paddle: 1, Trent Ventura; 2, Todd Sutz; 3, Jonathan Wellons; 4, Scott Benston; 5, Frankie Ford; 6, Tom Howard.

Junior women’s long board: 1, Sanibel Sharp; 2, Brook Hagler.

Body board: 1, Elijah Cox; 2, Trip Chandler; 3, Brian Jennings; 4, Anthony Biondo.

Open body board: Triston Finley.

Novice: 1, Easton Weaver; 2, Stowe Benston.

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