With more than 180 participants, the 6th Annual WiLDCOAST Dempsey Holder Memorial Ocean Festival and Surf Contest was the largest surfing competition ever held in South San Diego County. On Sunday October 18 on the south side of the Imperial Beach Pier, more than 500 spectators lined the beach to watch surfers from all over San Diego County surf beautiful 2-4' waves.
"We were absolutely stunned by the record number of participants who turned out and the amazing Aloha spirit of the crowd," said Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WiLDCOAST. "This was by far the most successful event we've run so far. And we were blown away by the spirit of giving by the County of San Diego and Billabong and by community members and businesses who sponsored dozens of children who able to participate free of charge."
The annual event was made possible by support from Billabong, whose CEO Paul Naude also donated a beautiful Rusty surfboard. A County of San Diego Community Enhancement Grant was made possible thanks to the support of County Supervisor Greg Cox who made an appearance to meet contest participants. Additional major sponsors included TNT Surfboards, Novak Surfboard Designs, Morey Boogie, Pacific Realty, Emerald City Boarding Source, Adept Process Services and Alan Cunniff Construction. Additional supporters included Katie's Coffee, Cowabunga, Surf Hut, Oakley, Volcom, Osiris, GoPro, and many others.
In a competition presided over by Dempsey's son and honorary event chairman Peter Holder, surfers battled it out in the mixed swell sets that poured in all morning. Groms and adults surfed the clean morning conditions Although the wind turned less favorable in the afternoon; competitors were not deterred from ripping to the top in each of the 50 heats that went down on Sunday.
An early stand out was El Cajon's Vito Roccoforte who, despite not advancing his Junior Men's heat, nearly pulled a radical reverse on a south site left-hander. In the Junior Men's final, Mason Darleux dropped a 7 with two powerful forehand cracks on a pier bowl right but it wasn't enough to catch Jay Christenson who also won the Boys division final. Former Women's Longboard World Champ, Kristy Murphy, made two finals; winning the women's division and placing 5th in the Open SUP. Vincent Claunch was a standout in the Menehune Boys Expression Session with stylish lip blasts and fin hucks. Mike Gillard made three finals, placing 2nd in the Masters, 1st in the Longboard and 3rd in the SUP. Drew Erichson won the stacked bodyboard division and Jahvin Bowman took home the top rated amateur award and a year sponsorship with Morey Boogie. Erik Leksell won the top rated youth award and a slew of gear from Morey and Churchill.
This year the Dempsey highlighted the progress that has been made along the U.S.-Mexico border to clean up the coast. With a new sewage treatment plant under construction on the U.S. side of the border, three new sewage plants operating in the Tijuana-Rosarito Beach region, and the signing of legislation by Governor Schwarzenegger to fund cleaning up Tijuana, the WiLDCOAST "Clean Water Now" campaign has made a significant contribution to protecting our coast and ocean.
One of the highlights of the event that demonstrated the true Aloha Spirit of the Dempsey came during the awards ceremony, when young men's standout Jay Christenson donated one of two surfboards he had won to Imperial Beach grom Robert Tschackert a longtime WiLDCOAST volunteer. "I was blown away by Jay's generous spirit," said WiLDCOAST staffer and WQS competitor Zach Plopper. "He really showed us why the Dempsey is more than just a surfing event but a festival to celebrate our positive community-based coast and ocean conservation movement."