The UCSB Surfing Team weeded out the kooks and avoided the plovers in an open tryout at Sands Beach on Saturday. Well, it was sort of at Sands Beach.
The event was moved a mile up the beach after protectors of the endangered snowy plovers raised concerns about the foot traffic the event would bring through the birds’ habitat. After a brief shouting match, organizers agreed to hike further north, team co-captain Isaac Little said.
Approximately 100 surfers showed up to vie for spots in four divisions: men’s shortboard, men’s longboard, women’s shortboard and men’s bodyboard. A solid south swell brought thumping four- to six-foot waves that grew more difficult as the day wore on.
And a long day it was. The tryouts were organized in contest format, and the huge turnout turned the shortboard contest into a ten-round affair. Surfers competed in six-man heats for fifteen minutes. Three judges scored each wave on a ten-point scale and each surfer’s top two scores from the heat were counted.
As heat after heat went on in the water, the contest area came to resemble a desert base camp. Surfers napped in beach towel tents next to their bags while the American flag used to signal the beginning and end of heats fluttered in the steady onshore wind. Bottled water became a valued commodity and more than one surfer was heard to suggest consuming a plover.
The war of attrition ended with the 20-minute final. Team co-captain Carter Anderson took first place, followed by Ashton Inniss, Shane Murphy and Ryan Kates. The highest score of the event belonged to Ted Travers, who earned an 8 with a vertical frontside reverse off an oncoming section.
No prizes were awarded in the event, and Little said a surfer’s placing in the event did not directly relate to whether a surfer made the 30-man shortboard team. Little said he and Anderson would make final decisions in the coming weeks.
“We just needed this event to evaluate the talent, to determine the true rippers,” Little said. “And there are some people who are really good who may have just had a bad heat.”
The rest of the team will be comprised of five longboarders, five women’s shortboarders and five bodyboarders. Kyle Albers, Bianca Valenti and Andy Barton won those divisions, respectively.
The longboard contest was moved south to Devereaux Point as the waves late in the day became walled and poorly shaped. When all the contests were finished, the event, which began at 9:30 a.m., had lasted until 7 p.m.
Spectator Byron Henning said he was impressed by the level of surfing at the contest.
“My buddy Baldo said there aren’t any decent surfers at UCSB, but I said, ‘Baldo, no, we are going to this event,'” Henning said.
The Surfing Team’s first contest will be held October 26 at California Street in Ventura against more than a dozen other schools, Little said. The team will also compete at Black’s Beach in La Jolla, Campus Point at UCSB on December 21 and the Huntington Beach Pier.
The state finals will be held early next year at Trestles in North San Diego County, followed by the nationals at Salt Creek in Orange County.
The UCSB Surfing Team has won ten national titles in its history, the most recent coming in 2001. The team finished fifth last year.
“We’re going to improve on last year’s disappointment,” Little said. “Mira Costa and UCSD are going down. They [messed] us up the whole year.”
Little said Saturday’s contest and the huge turnout, which more than doubled last year’s, was a promising start to the season.
“We’re ready to go,” he said. “We might name the team the Plovernators.”