The six-week waiting period for the 29th Rincon Classic surf contest opens January 21 at the famed Santa Barbara, Calif., point break. The contest -- open only to those calling the 805 area code home -- has showcased some of the best to have ever surfed the "queen of the coast," including three-time world champion Tom Curren, Chris Brown, and Bobby Martinez. Expression sessions and board and wetsuit demos are also scheduled.
The contest is executed over a single weekend. "You look at the swell forecast and once you push go, you go," explained Chris Keet, founder of Surf Happens, the local surf school that organizes the Rincon Classic. "The set-up is pretty intensive. We run two full days from dawn to dark."
As usual, a healthy number of top local riders will participate, like last year's pro division runner-up Killian Garland. Yet the expression session could arguably be the biggest draw, featuring 1977 world champion Shaun Tomson, special invitee Lisa Anderson, Lakey Peterson (2011 girls' 17 and under winner) and, tentatively, Dane Reynolds.
Similar to Hawaii's Eddie Aikau and northern California's Mavericks invitational contests -- minus the big waves -- the Rincon's flexible waiting period means surfing the best waves. Keet said the aim is a "typical Santa Barbara winter day, 75 and sunny, with light offshore wind and eight-foot faces that equalize the tides."
Heats are held in 11 divisions, from "gremlins" (age 11 and under) to men's, women's, master's, and pros. A panel from ASP North America handles judging, although the eventual contest date determines which judges participate. And even though Keet incorporates a single longboarding group, he is adamant that the Rincon "has always been a shortboard contest." In all, the Rincon attracts some 250 unique competitors.
Roger Nance and Jeff White, with help from locals, established the Rincon Classic in 1979, hosting it annually until 1996. Keet assumed control in 2001, resurrecting the gathering after a five-year hiatus. During his tenure, Keet said, community support for the contest has remained strong, and companies like Quiksilver and the hometown Channel Islands Surfboards are routinely involved. "We love the community aspect … and the vibe at the beach with all the families participating," said Quiksilver's marketing director Todd Kline.
Planning each contest -- requiring a four-part permit application process -- begins shortly after the previous year's event concludes. For the most part, pushback has been minimal. The lone exception, explained Keet, was in 2004, when the nearly triple overhead surf provided "by far the best conditions the event had seen," forcing some disgruntled locals to surf out of the contest zone.
This will also be the sixth consecutive year that the Rincon Classic has paired with sustainable waste management company Green Project Consultants to minimize the environmental impact generated by the event. "We coordinate with the vendors to try and reduce the amount of waste that makes it to the beach, [and] stress reuse, as well as a pack it in pack it out policy," said Thomas Oretsky, CEO of GPC.
Following the contest will be an awards ceremony with live and silent fundraising auctions at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.