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SURFING

Past, Present Celebrities Swell Action at Op Pro Contest, Party

August 04, 1994|Rockin' Fig & Dave | Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil. and

No matter how organized professional surfing contests are, surprises still happen.

Take the case of Tom Curren, the immensely popular three-time world champion who showed up but didn't compete in last week's Op Pro.

Were promoters dissed?

"We did a dog-and-pony show to find Curren and have him (compete)," said Allan Seymour, special-events director for the Op Pro. "And he didn't even have the courtesy to tell us he wasn't going to be in it. We found this bit of news out when Curren was seen signing autographs on Main Street."

Officially, Curren told organizers (after the contest had started) that he couldn't compete because he had to attend his mother's wedding.

Having Curren, who is semi-retired and living in France, attend your contest is like seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger out in public. People hoot, they cheer. Women get antsy over Tom's good looks, while men sit back and enjoy watching a master work the waves.

Rockin' Fig knows of Curren's celebrity.

There's always that expectation, the hope that some day Tommy will come back and surf in competition. After all, if he ever returns, a lot of people believe he will take that fourth world championship to tie Australia's Mark Richards.

Also under the surprise category, our own Rockin' Fig got his 15 minutes in the limelight (well, actually more like several 15-hour days) when the contest's backup announcer failed to appear. Yep, Fig, who, as a grommet, hung around the announcer's booth at major surfing contests just to get a second or two behind the microphone, went to bat and joined Portugal's multilingual Nuno Jonet, the World Tour's main announcer.

I asked Fig if there was also a chance of his announcing the U.S. Open of Surfing this week.

I am doing it, Fig said, with no doubt in his voice, indignant that the question was even asked.

Well, excuuuuuse me!

Ian Cairns, U.S. Open of Surfing contest director, said of Fig: "He doesn't complain, he's always on time and he does a good job."

Fig says the Open, which continues through Sunday, is going to be quite the event.

It's not big. It's BIG! They're gonna have that big surf expo with lots of people glassing and shaping boards right on the sand near the pier. Plus, forecasters are expecting a big swell, possibly mid-week.

PIER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS:

Party Time: Seymour, surfing's unofficial historian, also helped organize last week's soiree at the Waterfront Hilton hosted by Ocean Pacific Apparel Corp., which featured a string of former Op Pro winners.

"I really had fun digging up some of the names of these former champions," Seymour said. "I even got Jack Haley, owner of Captain Jack's Restaurant in Sunset Beach, who in 1959 won the inaugural men's contest."

Former winners included Louie Tarter, winner of the Op Pro Juniors from Laguna Beach in the early 1960s. Seymour said that in attendance was Ron Sizemore, who won in 1961, Linda Benson, who in 1959 won the inaugural event for women, and Joyce Hoffman, the contest's five-time women's champion.

Also enjoying themselves at the party were Robert August, of "Endless Summer" movie fame; Sunny Garcia, who won the Op last year, and Frieda Zamba, who the day after the party killed her heat and went on to win the Op's women's championship.

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Hot Stuff: Two top juniors, Tim Curran of Oxnard and Hawaii's Kalani Robb, were smokin' at the Op Pro contest. Fig said Robb made it to the main event--round three of the men's division-- and also won the juniors.

I saw Kalani pull a floater 360! The finals for the juniors was insane because all those guys were doing futuristic moves. They weren't sticking quite as much to the criteria as the surfing you see in the men's category.

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Some Welcome: Robb was cited by Huntington Beach police, who said he, ahem, jaywalked PCH. Welcome to Surf City, Kalani.

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Mood: Paul Johnson, who performed the national anthem on electric guitar "surf style," got heavy raves and helped kick off the Op Pro's tandem event Saturday.

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Deep Roots: In the Op Pro's celebrity invitational, surfing celebrities included L. J. Richards, a heavy Huntington Beach Pier rider in the '60s, San Clemente lifeguard Richard Chew and Robert (Wingnut) Weaver, one of the stars from Bruce Brown's movie "Endless Summer II." Interesting story on Chew, a lifeguard who still competes on longboards. I talk to him on the phone from time to time, but he never mentioned his Seal Beach roots. Seymour says Chew was the factory rider for Rich Harbour of Harbour Surfboards in Seal Beach and was like a god in that beach community. "Oh, yeah," Seymour continued, "Chew was a major player there in Seal Beach, though he now is in San Clemente."

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Signing of the Times: The two most popular people at the Op Pro? According to some, Kelly Slater and Weaver. Both spent time signing autographs as they finished surfing.

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Laurel: To Huntington Beach lifeguards, especially Lt. Bill Richardson, whose attitude for contest organizers was, "Hey, what can we do for you?"

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