WBC 2016: The People

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Papa Joe, the man in the green cap, can be seen swimming the peaks of Oceanside all year long.
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Mike Stewart led a deep contingent of Hawaiian bodysurfers at this year’s contest.
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Shayne McIntyre is a family man, world traveler and helluva bodysurfer. His positive energy is contagious.
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As the contest cranks to life, director/bodysurfer Tim Burnham hollers at competitors in the surf.
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Bill “Froggy” Schlidge is a champion for bodysurfing. He loves the sport and works hard to pass down his knowledge and passion to the next generation.
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Ernie Ford of Ojai has been trekking down to Oceanside for many years bringing a rack of talented bodysurfers from the South Jetty.
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Meredith Rose is a solid bodysurfer with stoke overflowing.
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Jeff is always keeping an eye on things. Here he is with fellow charger Chris Kalima looking over the heat sheets.
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Tom Hunter is always ready with your cap and the call.
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France sent some of it’s best to Oceanside this year. Joël Badina led the way.
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Mark Cunningham is always a pleasure to have running about the place. This year he was serenaded by Fred Simpson and Mike Stewart for his birthday song.
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Wedge pioneer and Viper Surfing Fins creator, Fred Simpson returns year after year to support bodysurfing ohana.
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A young man runs up to his friend to wish him luck before his heat.
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Scott Hubbell has been the man behind the curtain for the last 15 years of World Bodysurfing Championships.
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Rabbit is a humble and styled wave rider. His creativity on the wave helped him capture his age division title and put him in the running for Grand Champion.
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Scotti Schafer (Right) rode several waves to the beach in her age group final. She then ran south on the beach to get back in the water for the next set. This gutsy strategy earned her the age division win in a talented grouping.
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Contest director extraordinaire Tim Casinelli.
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Hawaiian youth Kanealii Wilcox and Tayzha
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Mike and his son Kaimana enjoyed their Oceanside premiere as Mike took down the big win.

Dirty Old Wedge with Tim Burnham

Dirty Old Wedge is a 62 minute documentary about Southern California’s own bodysurfing magnet wave. We sat down with Director/Producer, Tim Burnham to learn more about his film and his process in making it.

Filmmakers by Ron Romanosky
Filmmakers and Fred Simpson by Ron Romanosky

How long have you been working on this project?

It has been about four years. After I saw Come Hell or High Water I knew I wanted to tell the Wedge story through film.  Then I contacted a couple of young and talented filmmakers (Jack Murgatroyd and Edwin Eversole, Ozzie Clarke, and Jeff McCoy) to get the project going.

What is the focus of the film?

Dirty Old Wedge is a film about the wave but more importantly about the culture behind the wave. 

How did you choose who to put in and who to leave out?

We covered Wedge waveriders spanning over 6 decades. It was extremely tough to decide who to interview. We conducted countless interviews and the ones that made it were the ones that helped tell the story the best. The film, more than anything, shows how the Wedge guys have always been about the wave and the group. It isn’t about the individual. They’re all addicted to the same “drug.”

Did you face push-back from anyone you contacted?

Nope. These guys want the story told and I think they trusted that I would do it the right way.

What was the most surprising thing you uncovered during your research?

The blackball history is so expansive. We didn’t have enough time to get into the details, but I learned how far back blackball has been a part of Wedge culture.

Does the film “take sides” in the blackball fight?

The film is primarily from the perspective of the bodysurfers and captures the sentiments and attitudes of the bodysurfers at the time when the most recent blackball regulations were put in place. 

Anything else surprise you?

I was extremely impressed with memory and depth of knowledge Ron (Romanosky) had about the Wedge. He has a relationship with that place like no other. He narrates the film and we couldn’t have picked a better person to represent the film’s voice. A true Wedge legend. 

Do you have a favorite part of the movie?

No, but the archival footage blew me away. The footage from the early days of Wedge bodysurfing is really unique.  I also really really enjoy the music that our composer Ben Messelbeck put together for the film. It’s absolutely amazing.

What will people learn from the archival footage?

These guys were riding massive waves and there was very few guys in the water. I know a lot of people will have a new found respect for these bodysurfers. They really pushed boundaries because they could. Terry Wade really stood out in the footage and I want people to see how unique he was at riding big Wedge.

Do you also show contemporary footage?

Yes. The infamous Hurricane Marie is part of the Wedge story and we were excited to get some of the young guys who are carrying on the tradition into the film.

When do we finally get to see it?

Dirty Old Wedge is premiering at the Newport Beach Film Festival in mid-April. If you can’t make that show, we are also showing at the San Diego Surf Film Festival in May.

 

DIRTY OLD WEDGE – TEASER from Something Kreative Studios on Vimeo.

 

Perspectives: Hurricane Marie at Wedge

Category 4 Hurricane Marie Photo: NASA
Category 4 Hurricane Marie           Photo: NASA

 

August 27, 2014.

IMG_0547Hurricane Marie.
Wedge.
These are perspectives from some of the bodysurfers
who swam out that day.

 

Matt Larson

IMG_0658Hurricane Marie is one of those rare occurrences where the hype, hope, expectation, and execution all came together. I watched the forecasts and was doubtful of the hype. The storm moved fast at 14-16kts and pretty westerly at that.  That being said, I still cleared my schedule from Tuesday on and hoped for the best. I got to the Wedge Tuesday around noon and saw fun 6-8′ surf, nothing epic but it was only Tuesday.

I swam out a little past noon on Tuesday hoping to get a few waves and loosen up in the water…after doing my own physical preparation regimen at home before hand.  The swell was clearly pleased with my arrival and immediately threw out a solid 10-12′ set and followed it with one in the 12-15′ range. Then another even bigger set broke as a “hurricane style freight train”. By 2pm Tuesday it was on and any doubts had been squashed! I rode solid hurricane Wedge with my oldest son, his buddy Jordon, and one other bodysurfer for 3 hours!

Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning became an exercise in–stay calm–conserve energy(after already surfing my ass off all day)–and be ready!  This became more challenging as my phone began to blow up with calls and texts from 10 different buddies and my brother, who would soon be boarding an airplane for Oregon for the week.  With my wife out of town for a couple days to attend a funeral the responsibility to care for our four children was my last “real life” hurdle to attend to before heading to the W for the day.  So armed with an entire loaf of pb & js, snacks, and gallons of water, we hit the road to Wedge…and so did the rest of Southern California!!

I used all the back alley tricks I know to reach 12th street by 9:30 but that’s where we came to a roaring halt! 11th St. 9:45, 10th 10:05… 9th at 10:30 and I was losing my mind! Calm was dead and gone! We need to be at Wedge now!  Finally we made it where a back alley opens up, the location of which I will keep a secret, and hauled ass all the way to C street through the back door, and re-entered the mayhem without delay with the help of crossing pedestrian. We scored a parking spot on Miramar directly in front of the Piani residence and were back on track and back in my realm.

The surf met a very lofty expectation. Wedge that day was one of the best solid size days in recent memory.  What really made it special was witnessing an entire generation of upcoming Wedge Crew riders earn their stripes. Also, its always great to ride solid, clean, and consistent Wedge with a core group of riders with which I have had the privilege to do so for the last 3+decades.  It was a rare day where everyone’s stoke tank was overflowing and the day passed without any significant conflict or injury–a rarity at Wedge unfortunately.

Hurricane Marie was definitely one for the ages and I look forward to meeting her sister 🙂

 

Chuck Olson

Chuck
Photo: Hank Haldeman

My first thought on big Wedge swells is… will it be clean? I don’t care how big it is, if it’s not rideable, I’m going back to bed! The crowd always brings another level of energy…something you feel immediately. Parting the crowd to get to the berm’s edge is always a trip…people’s first reaction seems to be one of annoyance when you ask them to get through. They think you’re going to cut in front of them for a front row seat to the mayhem. When they see you are about to enter the water you can almost feel the attitude change to, “Oh, it’s one of those crazy fools about to die.”

On days like the one we just went through, one of your first “warm-up” waves may be a 15’+ closeout peak…so warming up comes quickly so you have to be focused from the start. On these days, the real warming up takes place on the beach.

It was a great showing by all of the Crew! Nice to see the youngest guys maintaining the Wedge Crew bravado. I won’t rate this swell compared to others, you can’t. Too many factors which dictate a good vs. great swell to consider…but it was big and clean! A little bigger is always better! 😉

Sean Starky
For big Wedge swells, I usually sike myself out and tell myself it’s going to be a lot smaller than forecasted. On Aug. 27th, I watched the first set roll in and it was a hell of a lot bigger then I thought it was going to be. I tried to stay focused and study the conditions. I watched each set looking for the cleanest waves and the ones that were best shaped for bodysurfing.

When I finally swam out, I felt amazing. That’s the only thing that calms me on a big day. It forces me to slow everything down and focus on the surf. One of the reasons I love bodysurfing Wedge and other heavy spots is it forces me to block out all the bullshit of life and just focus on my surroundings.

After I took the first set on the head, I realized how much more playful big hurricanes swells are compared to big southern hemi swells like the one in 2009. I knew it was going to be a fun day for all the boys. I was really impressed with all the young Wedge riders, they all stepped up to the occasion and rode amazing…and Chris Kalima is a BEAST.

Teddy Bandaruk

Photo: Hank Haldeman
Photo: Hank Haldeman

When I first arrived at Wedge I was blown away by the amount of drones in the air. I was impressed by the size of the waves, but I was more impressed by how good the in-between ones were.  Some of the peaks were moving pretty fast so it took getting out in the water to feel out what was going on. When I hopped down the sand berm I was stoked to see all my boys swimming out with me at the same time.

The first wave I caught, I didn’t make because it broke on top of my head. The hold down wasn’t bad but on the inside there was a lot of water moving almost pulling you back to where the biggest part of the wave broke. That happened to me a few times which wasn’t a good time. I will remember all the boys charging and leaving the beach stoked on great, big Wedge. Great day for everyone.

Christopher Kalima

IMG_0754I arrived at 6:30am and couldn’t believe how clean it was. I wasn’t living in California when Linda hit in 1997, so I can’t compare the two swells, but it was easily the biggest surf at the Wedge I’ve ever witnessed. I was pumped. There were so many waves rolling through, I knew everyone would score. The outside was super crowded, so my plan was to sit inside and pick off the medium ones until the crowd thinned a bit. I ended up wearing most of the bigger sets, but found a lot of funs ones in between. Honestly, we so rarely see any waves of consequence in Southern California that getting caught inside actually got me really excited. I love that shit.

The Marie swell is the standard that all future hurricane swells will now be measured against in my book. Big, consistent, and the winds actually cooperated the entire day. I was psyched to see everyone charging, some in their 20s, others in their 50s, it was awesome to watch. Plus I found some new lineup markers that I filed away for future reference, I might have to write them down so I remember 20 years from now.

Thomas Van Melum

IMG_0634When I arrived, my first thought was, “What a circus!”  — if you’re going you may as well be dressed as a clown. I love the circus down there. I was happy to see A BUNCH of randys and news trucks around — to hear the grumpy old men talk about how it was in ’88, uncrowded — nervous because my feet were cut to shit from too much bodysurfing the week before on that TS Lowell swell. Hurricane stuff isn’t scary (Southern Hemis are a different story). But even then, I grew up here. I’ve spent a lot of time here. I don’t feel nervous or scared or anything when it gets big. As big spots go, this place is honestly pretty tame. Shit, there’s a fucking harbor on the other side, it can’t be that gnarly.

Preparing to swim out, you want to stay calm — so I walked right over to Sexy Jeff and jokingly said “I’m going to do a flip off this berm, then if I hurt my foot, I have an excuse to not go out.” I want to put on a good show — I want the crowd to get their monies worth. Once I saw the sets, I knew how epic the day was going to be. I decided right then and there I was going to stay out as long as I could, I may not get another chance at swell like this at The Wedge Street.

I took a mini freight on the head less than 10 minutes into my session…we all did. I dove 10+ feet down, and felt NOTHING. Could have been in a swimming pool for all I knew. Easy peazy japensezy. I always take the first wave that comes to me in the beginning of a session — helps get a feel for the day and set the tone. The first wave I caught was small and rippable — it solidified my feelings that today was THE DAY. This day has been a dream of mine.

The sequence that sticks out most in my mind was this: I took the first wave of a set. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arch nemesis, SHREDDER. I popped up all smiles. Then I saw Matty Larson taking off on the next wave. BALLS, that wave was epic. He was getting tossed around like a rag doll on this wave but still bodysurfing it. I could really see him doing everything in his power to ride, but I could also see that there was very little within his power he could do to ride. He made it to the end of that wave and got a GIANT barrel riding the foamball. That was a good 30 seconds.

Overall, I’ll remember how much fun it is to bodysurf with your friends — after all I’m in a different spot in my life, my daughter took her first steps the night before. While most people were watching videos of Wedge getting bigger and bigger, I was watching the video of my daughter’s first steps over and over again. Timing is a funny thing.

Tim Burnham
I had to ride my bike down from my house for this swell because the traffic was so bad from all the hype. I didn’t get down until 2 because it took me an extra 40 minutes to ride down after I got off work. When I first pulled up most the other Crew guys were done with what I hear was an epic session.

The waves were pretty damn big so I rushed to get my gear on. I talked Matt Larson into going out with me for another session and right when we were about to jump in a set of about 10 waves piled through. I’m in pretty bad shape from all the desk work I’ve been doing lately so at that point I was questioning my intelligence of going out haha. We ended up paddling out right after the set and got out in the lineup pretty quickly.

Once I got out there the current started going mad. It was a constant battle to stay in position for at least 45 minutes. I got one “ok” wave and then had to pull some kid onto the lifeguard boat that panicked. I ended up getting out pretty soon after that once I realized it wasn’t getting any better.

The thing I’ll remember most about this swell is Matt Larson going on a bomb freight train set that I thought there was no way he’d make down. He did. And he did it with a smile on his face. That guy is a beast. I was also pretty stoked on all the younger crew guys like Teddy Bandaruk that stepped it up this swell too. The future of the Crew is looking stronger than ever thanks to guys like him.

 

Special thanks to Hank Haldeman for the use of his epic photos from that day.
He can be found at:
Hank’s Bodysurfing Blog
Hank Haldeman on 500px