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Surfers Get Feet Wet in Contest

July 01, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

They wore the deep tans and wetsuits that identify the true surfer, but most of the 100 competitors who hit the waves near the pier Tuesday were barely as tall as their surfboards.

You can't be too young to start a serious surfing career, according to the owners of the Irvine-based Counter Culture clothing manufacturers, who sponsored the free event for youths 8 to 15 years old.

"The kids have to work a little harder because of the swells, but they're all having a great time," said Mike Schillmoeller, co-owner of the company and an event organizer.

"Contests are expensive--it costs from $35 to $40 to compete. We're trying to expose younger kids to the sport for free."

Raymond Reichle, a 12-year-old from Hawaii who competed in an event sponsored by the National Scholastic Assn. last week, sounded as if he were already pretty well exposed to the sport.

"It's not quite as good as Hawaii, but it's pretty fun out there," said Reichle, who wants to be a professional surfer.

Others were first-time competitors, including Brandon Bianchino, 12, of Huntington Beach. He's been surfing for three years but usually stops in the winter because of the cold.

"I've always really wanted to be in a contest," he said. "It's fun."

His mother, Lisa Bozanic, said this is the first year that she has allowed him into the swells without her pacing along the water's edge.

She said she became more comfortable with the idea when she realized that Brandon and his friends Chase Newsom and Domenic DeFeo, both also 12, stick together and take care of each other.

They even went out on their own and won sponsorships from local stores, earning discounts on merchandise and the chance for financial aid if they become good enough.

"They did that all on their own," Bozanic said.

The sport is not cheap. Wetsuits cost about $100, surfboards up to $500, with other extras bringing the final tallies even higher.

But the competitors said it's worth it.

"What's real cool with these kids is that it's a competition, yes, but they're all friends outside the water," said Scott Banuelos, marketing director for Counter Culture.

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