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SURFING

Bud Pro Tour Goes the Long Way

February 11, 1993|RICK GIGNETTI and DAVID REYES | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams that competed in Bali and Brazil.

This weekend's U.S. Bud Pro Tour surfing contest at Pismo Beach will highlight the return of long-boarding to its rightful niche in the world of competitive surfing.

According to Rockin' Fig: It's the first time we're going to have pro long-boarders in the water in conjunction with the Bud Pro Tour.

Short-boarders will be in a different division. For spectators, it's a bonus. Not only do you get to see such short-board performers as Shane Beschen of San Clemente, but you get to watch such hot long-board riders as Joey Hawkins of Huntington Beach, the 1992 world's long-board champion.

I saw Joey Hawkins recently, and he was all psyched up. He'll be there. I know he's been practicing a lot of 360s, so he's gonna splash, like, major.

For too many years, long-board surfers have suffered bad PR. The term "long-boarder" conjures up images of old wave stylists doing what made the sport popular in the 1960s: walking the nose, drop knee bends, or hanging five or even 10. But in subsequent decades, long-boarders grew older. As their knowledge of the waves expanded, so did their paunches. No longer were they or their maneuvers in the forefront.

Figgy says let's flip the page to the '90s. Modern long-boarding is a whole new world.

They've got guys like Hawkins, who are doing floaters, off the lips, 360s--maneuvers once thought impossible for longer surfboards in the nine- to 10-foot range.

New groups like the Huntington Beach-based Professional Longboard Assn. (PLA) represent the newest phase in long-boarding.

"It's out with the old and in with the new," said Mike Downey, 35, a PLA advisory board member. Downey says the organization, which was formed last summer, and its contest sponsorship have been long in coming.

"We've been trying to do this for years. We're now a nonprofit group, and we're representing long-boarders, setting up professional events. A lot of the work is voluntary, like (PLA acting president), Henry Ford who's put in so much of his time," Downey said.

He said the PLA already has an office in Huntington Beach. According to the group's mission, part of its purpose is to "create new and innovative long-board surfing events," to provide for "community and cultural interaction" and to bring awareness and education of the beach and ocean environments to the public.

Ford said PLA competitors represent all walks of life. They have male and female competitors from Puerto Rico to Maine and from Hawaii to California. They've already lined up about 15 contests, mostly in California. Five of them are with the Bud Pro Tour. There's about $60,000 to $80,000 in prize money available this year alone.

About 5,000 people watched the group's inaugural event at San Clemente on Oct. 31. They dubbed it the PLA Halloween Pro. And Ford said the group is pursuing television coverage for some of its bigger contests.

The second event will be this weekend's contest at Pismo Beach. For Downey, who is a PLA competitor, the group's formation and its contests are the icing on a big cake.

"The whole image of the PLA is so different from what people think of long-board surfers," Downey said. "We don't play the '60s music. It's all leaning toward the future. If this thing is going to go, people don't want to see the old. They want the new, the exciting . . . the old style is good, but it's boring. They want the new stuff: guys going off doing aerials!"

A casualty of the Bud Pro Tour for the Pismo contest is bodyboarding, which will be out, said Fig.

Fig said these PLA competitors will be qualifying for the world championship scheduled for Makaha, Hawaii, in November.

After Pismo, the 1993 qualifying series, according to a tentative schedule, travels to Salt Creek in Dana Point, Feb. 26-27, for a contest sponsored by the Doheny Longboard Surfing Assn. For more information on the PLA, contact Ford at 673-2785.

Contests: Fig said that Kelly Slater confirmed to the surfing world in an announcement at the December Assn. of Surfing Professionals banquet in Hawaii that he is aiming for his second world championship. The public statement was rare for the popular Slater.

With Slater being the big TV star on "Baywatch," he's figuring that he wants to get out front and let people know he's still a surfer first, Fig said.

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