“Just to see people all over the place listening to music, watching skating, watching surfing, a packed house — it was just rad,” said Will Skudin, the founder of NYSEA Productions’ Surf Week. “It was turning over a new leaf. It’s just the beginning of a new era in Long Beach, N.Y.”
Thousands of spectators turned out for NYSEA’s fourth annual Surf Week, which took place from July 17-21and featured surf and skate contests, parties, concerts and an art show and took another step toward publicizing Long Beach and its thriving surf culture.
The week’s main event, the open surfing contest on National Boulevard beach, ran on a waiting period from Wednesday, July 17, through Saturday, July 20, and featured both professional surfers and locals vying for a $3,000 purse. Some of New York’s most talented surfers, including Balaram Stack, T.J. Gumiela, Leif Engstrom and Richie Bogart, were among 48 competitors, according to Skudin.
Engstrom took home the $1,500 first-place cash purse when he won the contest’s final heat, but he wasn’t the only surfer in the spotlight. Bryan Laide placed second, Brian Pollak third and 12-year-old Mike Vanaman placed fourth overall in the pro contest while also finishing second in the boys group.
“It seemed like a breakthrough contest for [Vanaman],” Skudin said. “There’s a time when you’re at that age when you’re pushing your surfing and things start to click.”
The contest’s finale came a day later than expected on Sunday, after the organizers dealt with less than ideal surfing conditions from Wednesday through Friday before kicking the event off on Saturday morning.
“That’s why you have rain days and that’s why we plan for rain days months in advance,” Skudin said referring both to the lack of waves and storms that came through Saturday evening.
However, that didn’t stop the rest of week’s celebrations. On Wednesday, non-profit Surf for All held a surf outing for the blind and visually impaired. The group holds various outings throughout the summer where volunteer instructors give people with disabilities the chance to do something they’d never get the chance to do — surf.
Later that evening, NYSEA hosted an art show at the Allegria Hotel to raise money for Surf for All. The show featured photography, sculptures and paintings by local artists, and NYSEA unveiled the final total of approximately $112,000 that it raised for the NY Beach Relief fund.
The relief fund was started to help beach communities affected by Hurricane Sandy, and money was raised through sales of T-shirts printed through a local shirt printer that was affected by the storm, according to Will Skudin.
His brother, Cliff, noted that the money went to different organizations in the area including toy drives, holiday dinners, park refurbishment and small business relief. Will Skudin said that the event’s main sponsor, Vita Coco Coconut water, helped local relief efforts after the storm by sending trucks filled with tools and supplies to Long Beach.
Thousands flocked to the beach during the week’s events, and Will Skudin said that the crowds illustrated the community’s resurgence in the aftermath of the storm.
“NYSEA is putting New York on the map,” said Brian Adam, a videographer with NYSEA Productions. “We’re out here, alive, doing big things and not trying to hide it from the world.”
While Thursday and Friday gave the event little in the way of waves, the public got its first look at NYSEA’s new surfing film “Beyond the Jetty,” with a 35-minute preview shown at a family night event in the ballroom of the Long Beach Hotel, and then at a Warehouse 5 event at Bridgeview Yacht Club.
The movie took two years to film and includes footage from notable surf areas including Indonesia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Ireland and Long Beach. Surfers in the film included Engstrom, TJ Gumiela, Richie Bogart and Balaram Stack.
Surf Week is also brought back a skateboarding contest — featuring a ramp provided by Red Bull — that took place on July 20 and 21 and offered competitors cash prizes. There was also a skate competition for those 17 and under.
Skateboarder Sean Plundeke took first place and the cash purse in a contest that also had to deal with weather issues with a wet ramp from Saturday’s storms that pushed its completion to Sunday. The contest came down to a five-person finale that took place over 10-minute “jam sessions” with Plundeke being declared the winner.
Surf Week honors the memory of Skudin’s friend the late George “Geeza” Geiser, whom Skudin described as a “legend” in the New York surfing community. The event has grown in subsequent years, but has always featured a paddle-out in his honor, which took place after the conclusion of the surfing contest.
Skudin said that one of the highlights of the week were the ideal wave conditions last weekend that made the surfing contests possible. He also said the turnout on Saturday was the largest he’s seen in Long Beach for any surfing event since the Quiksilver Pro New York contest two years ago.
“Just to see people coming down there and really interested in watching the surfing was cool,” Skudin said. “Even if people just stumbled upon the event — everyone clapping and cheering — it was awesome.”