Classic longboarding events worth watching in person

There was a time when longboards were simply called “surfboards.” They were fairly heavy. They all had one fin, and the principal objective was to stay on your line and have fun.

Ryan Burch, hanging plenty at the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational. Photo: Courtesy of Watts/Vans

By the end of the 1960s, boards had changed radically. It was the start of the Shortboard Revolution, which would lead us on a path to modern performance surfing. Longboards were largely obsolete until they enjoyed a resurgence in the ’80s. Longer and with more floatation, they were favored by older surfers who just wanted to catch waves.

Ten years later, performance longboarding took hold and lighter longboards with thruster fin setups started to follow shortboarding’s progression, although the resulting aesthetics were questionable.

James Contreras on the nose, Matt Aniski out the back at the ALO LBI Longboard Classic. Photo: Courtesy of Kyle Gronostajski/ALO

Not that it has ever gone away, but the last decade has seen a major movement back to classic longboarding — specifically noseriding and an emphasis on old-school style. There are more young surfers riding logs today than at any time since the ’60s. And with that has grown gatherings that celebrate surfing’s golden age and the style it was known for.

The most high profile, of course, is the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational, which offers cash to an invited A-list of some of the best classic longboarders in the world. Tudor has always been a proponent of this type of log riding, even in his days as the ASP World Longboard Tour champ. The Duct Tape has been a popular part of the East Coast Surfing Championships, the U.S. Open (until this year) and the Mexi Log Fest.

Tommy Witt knows why these events are so much fun. Vans Duct Tape Invitational, Mexico. Photo: Courtesy of Watts/Vans

Surprisingly, the East Coast has had proponents of these events for some time, with several grassroots gatherings throughout the year. The Manasquan Classic Longboard Contest celebrates its 25th event in 2017. This is the original East Coast longboard event, started by the Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation at Manasquan Inlet. It set the tone early: Boards must be ’60s classics, no leashes and no whining.

Virginia Beach, Virginia, has its own slightly warped version of a classic contest called Logstradamus, an all-single-fin, mostly longboard event that takes place at the First Street Jetty each June with a similarly warped lineup of bands and “semi-formal” attire in the water.

Will Sizemore, styling his way to a win at Logstradamus in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Photo: Courtesy of Howard Tarpey

“To me, it’s all about getting together with friends to celebrate the creative and offbeat side of surfing and surf culture. There’s always some wild stuff to be seen and heard out there. I love how it brings longboarders and shortboarders together, so long as they’re riding single-fins,” says John Streit, an annual participant.

Florida has had its share of longboard events, and of course there are the club team events at Malibu, California, that most perfect of longboard waves.

Next week, the ol’ logs will hit the water for the Alliance for a Living Ocean Long Beach Island Longboard Classic. This serves as the primary annual fundraiser for regionally based environmental group ALO.

The aforementioned Manasquan Longboard Classic will take place on Sept. 16. Over the years, it has played host to some of surfing’s royalty and become a serious tradition. On the same day, some 3,000 miles away, the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club will host the Old Mission Surf Longboard Classic on the north side of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach, California — sure to bring out San Diego’s classic characters.

Mitchell (left) and Mike Gaudioso, goofing around at the Alliance for a Living Ocean Longboard Classic. Mike won in 2015; Mitchell won in 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Kyle Gronostajski/ALO

The Duct Tape Invitational has now expanded to a full Duct Tape Festival. In June, surfers, artists and shapers gathered at Cox Beach in Tofino, British Columbia, for a full day of talking shapes, sharing ideas, engaging in sustainable living through Surfrider Foundation workshops and, of course, surfing. That also included the presence of pros Tanner Gudauskas, Alex Knost, Joel Tudor himself and one Dane Reynolds (who can certainly ride a longboard when the occasion arises). Vans will likely be doing more of these.

The bottom line is that surfing’s early days were pretty important ones, and while progression will always have a place, classic style is classic for a reason.

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