Waterman’s Ball 2003

A sold-out crowd digs into their wallets to help the environment on surfing’s most glitz and glamour night

A capacity crowd of 830 surf-industry honchos (the largest in the event’s history) made a pretty strong argument that this year’s Surf Industry Manufacturers Association Waterman’s Ball was the biggest and best yet. Now in its fourteenth year, the Waterman’s Ball is the most popular component of the Waterman’s Weekend, which also includes a well-attended golf tournament.


The weekend is a two-day fund-raising event for the SIMA Environmental Fund, and this year benefited eight different environmental organizations, including The Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Institute, Wildcoast, Heal The Bay, Orange County Coast Keeper, Surfing Education Association, Alaska Wilderness League, and the Seymour Marine Education Center. In the past thirteen years more than two-million dollars have been raised, and SIMA is confident that this year’s gala will easily exceed the organization’s 300,000 dollar goal.

Once again, the silent auction and cocktail reception had more than its share of friendly bidding wars as the decked-out attendees fought over artwork, surfboards, trips, and more. But the sparks really flew once the crowd moved inside for the live auction and dinner.

Kelly Gibson picked up a full-page ad in Spin magazine on behalf of O’Neill for 27,000 dollars, Globe’s Gary Valentine picked up a two-year lease on a new Ford F150 4×4 Supercrew for 16,000 dollars, and Peter Burke dropped 12,500 dollars on an original Robb Havassy oil painting of Luke Egan.

But the trip that had many drooling wasn’t even on the announced list of auction items. At the last minute Quiksilver put together an absolute dream trip to the Mentawais — to a rarely visited string of isles dubbed Never Never Land — on a boat piloted by legendary Captain Martin Daly. But that’s not all. Gerry Lopez and Jeff Hakman will also be on this trip. After some intense bidding, Craig Atkins scored the trip of a lifetime for 18,000 dollars.

After dinner (and a wait), dessert (and a wait), and coffee, the real meat of the night finally got off the ground with the award ceremony for Environmentalist Of The Year, Lifetime Achievement, And Waterman Of The Year.

Bill and Bob Meistrell, founders of Body Glove, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. “This is a big night for me,” quipped Bob. “It’s a real thrill to be here. Of course, at my age, it’s a real thrill to be anywhere.” His comic timing was perfect, and the line got a big laugh.

[IMAGE 2]”I’d like to thank Bill for inviting me into the business,” continued Bob. “We’ve had a great time together. When you can get up and go to work and just love your work, live close to work, and go diving and surf, testing your equipment: that’s the ultimate life you can have.”

Serge Dedina, co-founder of Wildcoast, received the award for Environmentalist Of The Year for his three-year battle in Baja California against the construction of marinas and hotels. His efforts have yielded true results in stopping the destruction of mythical and irreplaceable surf spots like Scorpion Bay, Punta Abreojos, Punta San Carlos, Punta Canoas, Punta Colonet, and others.

[IMAGE 3]”I took my first real Baja trip in 1979 when I was fifteen,” Dedina told the audience. “My dad and my best friend in our 1964 six-volt VW van headed down Baja’s Highway One. We didn’t have a clue. And after breaking down on the road to Punta Santa Rosalillita we finally made it to the coast. I’ll never forget the first glimpse of that point. You guys all know what it’s like, that epic Baja right point break wave rolling next to a sleepy fishing village without a surfer in sight. That image is what keeps us at Wildcoast motivated to make sure there are still places left on the planet where we can experience a wild coast exactly as it was meant to be, without any human presence or development at all except a few stoked surfers with whalees and dolphins for company. That’s what it’s all about.”

Dave Kalama, when introducing Waterman Of The Year Laird Hamilton, ranked him among a pantheon of surfing legends that includes the Duke, Rabbit Kekai, and Eddie Aikau: “Laird has not only carried the torch for all the great who have gone before him, he has carried it farther up the mountain than anyone thought possible.”


Hamilton was humble, thanking his friends, sponsors, and God for his life’s blessings: “My hopes for the future are that there are animals in the sea to seen by our children and their children, and there waves to be surfed by our children and their children, and things to be done that we haven’t even imagined or seen. I think the environment is a critical thing, but most of all I think we should take care of the humans, so let’s work on that.”