“4 minutes left!”
Chris Coté is hollering at me as he’s paddling out for his upcoming heat on a sunny May afternoon. I’ve started to drift to the inside, resigned that I’m not going to catch a good set wave out back in the little time I have left in my own semifinal. My only chance to put a decent score up is to snag an inside wave, and hope for a section to pull of the kind of awe-inspiring turn that I have zero chance of completing.
But let’s back up a second – Chris Coté, long time surf industry figure, the the distinct voice that greets you every morning of the Vans Triple Crown, is paddling out in the same event I’m competing in. Me, overweight, adult-learner extraordinaire, the guy with a bottom turn as firm as an overripe avocado and an even softer top turn. How the hell did that happen?
That’s the beauty of the Shaper Studios Self Shape Surf Contest, er, Festival. Because like all events, it gets bigger and better as the years go by. This year with 25% more scaffolding!
I’ve written before about the benefits of a surf contest made up primarily of non-competitive surfers, as well as the benefits of the chance to surf Seaside without a pack of NSSA-wannabe groms swarming the dawn patrol lineup. The real excitement this year was the growth of the contest, with additional big names and big turns mixed into the heat draws. In addition to a few more recognizable faces mixed into the Open division, the Invitational divisions featured a gamut of Vissla pros, as well as pair of stacked women’s longboard heats. Former world champ and perennial Self Shaper Jen Smith was joined by fleet-footed women like Leah Dawson and Karina Rozunko.
Seaside is a bitch to surf on all but the best days, with a wave that backs off and changes pace unless it hits the outside reef at just the right angle at just the right tide. The contest was treated with, what can be called at best, tricky conditions (and I mean that in the most backhanded WSL commentator fashions). I got lucky enough to surf my first heat at almost dead low tide, and my semifinal at almost dead high tide, neither of which are optimal tides for the break. Not that with my aforementioned noodle turns it makes a huge difference. Fortunately, in between those heats, there was a 45 minute period where it shined briefly, and the Invitational heats provided photographic opportunity for the folks who knew what they were doing to throw down.
Check out the video from Owl House Creative below: