The 9th annual Surf Slam was held on September 8th through the 10th at Tierra Del Mar Beach public access located a mile or so north of Pacific City, Oregon. This competition was the 4th of four events sanctioned by the IFWA. This is truly an International event with the other three competitions hosted in the United Kingdom, France, and Portugal. In addition to the hunt for the Blowsion Surf Slam championship honors, riders from all over the world competed for the possibility of a cash purse, prizes and points towards the International IFWA World title this November in Japan. When Sunday came around and the official results were in and announced the Professional class podium honors were, third place Zack Bright, second Mark Gomez, and with the top spot looking very strong this weekend was Abraham Hochstrasser.
Competitors numbered over 100 riders, Rookies, Amateurs, and Professionals all had the top prize in their minds when getting their skis ready. Competitors competed a in the head to head double elimination format. A panel of expert judges scored them 50% for their wave surfing and 50% for their aerial maneuvers. As a photographer I tend to dwell on the actions of people. I saw riders and families making ready for each day in their own ritualistic way. Getting to the beach area early and maneuvering vehicles to prime spots more than likely thought of the day prior, some trying for areas as close to the competition entry point and others were more concerned with linking up as close as possible to friends. Once set in place out came the chairs, canopies, and the all of the creature comforts needed to make each day comfortable. I saw sons, daughters, moms and dads, there were dogs of many breeds out and about, some on leads and others allowed to roam free.
The competition flags gave riders at least 300 yards of lateral options, the surf for both days gained in height as the tide swept in, all riders were loving the size and break the ocean water provided them. And although I didn’t get the pic, I witnessed one rider surfing his ski in the tube! It was as sick as I have ever seen, the crowed went as wild over that stunt as most any of the huge air tricks played out during the head to head action. Weather Saturday war pretty good to start, as the afternoon rolled along the clouds bunched up a bit and gave some mist that at the very end could have been considered light rain. Sunday however could not have been more perfect, light breeze, full sun and for Oregon standards it was downright hot.
In addition to the competitors, there were countless other people in the freeride community there. I am confident in saying that at any given time to the left of the competition area there were 40 plus riders practicing and playing in the surf. Surf Slam was a free event for anybody wanting to watch, hundreds of people were on hand to watch in amazement the action and excitement put on by these fearless men and women. I was watching a few riders that I have met through the Westcoast Surf Riders group, looked to me like Brian Wells pulled a few no hander and no footer tricks out of a bag, you may want to remember that name because given the opportunity he will sneak right up and find a podium spot just like he did at the recent Grayland Open held in Washington State weeks earlier.
An interesting occurrence happened here as well, being that there were only 14 Pro class riders, the event coordinators needed to match some of the Amateurs to Pro riders in head to head competition. I watched Amateurs win some preliminary rounds over their Pro competitors. It was easy to see that our new stock of young riders is gaining experience and high level skills that will keep the sport growing. Rookie class riders were no less stellar, also doing some amazing tricks, how cool is it that we thrive on each other in competition and nurture our new riders with encouragement and advice.
After regular competition, Sunday surf action ended with a Big Air shootout. Riders who entered were given three attempts within a two-minute period to do the biggest, sickest, and craziest big air trick. One rider with a transponder reported that he and his ski topped 24 feet above the waves… when all was said and done it was Jake Bright that took that honor. Absolutely huge!
Demian Morgan wrote: “Still in shock at the amount of people that drove from our inland hometown to the coast last weekend for the 2017 Blowsion Surf Slam. Getting to share the sport of freeride with so many friends along with making new friends at each event is such an amazing part of the sport! From pulling out new tricks and sharing both the competitive & fun side of freeride with so many great friends and family made the weekend the best Surf Slam yet even without placing where I’d like to have. Cannot express how grateful I am for such awesome people and support!”
Jake Bright told The Watercraft Journal, “Stoked to take out this years big air contest! That’s been a goal of mine since I started riding and to come back to the slam after missing it for a few years and take the win it really felt good! Thank you so so much to all my sponsors, family and friends for all the support and the love, I couldn’t have done it without you guys!”
Surf Slam was started by John Dady over twenty years ago, it was a somewhat organized beach party for people within the freeride community. The passion for the sport and the freeride life bonded riders and their families together, it was that spirituality that kept it rolling and gaining momentum, popularity, and ultimately what it is as of now the 9th annual IFWA sanctioned Surf Slam. John was a driving force to keep this event going year after year, it was because of him and those he had as part of his team that built the foundations of this event with the local community to ensure the City of Pacific Beach could play host to such a wonderful gathering of people.
The freeride community felt a great loss last year when they heard the news of John’s passing just three weeks prior to the 8th annual Surf Slam. It was the decision of the event coordinators to go on with the event in his honor. Riders and staff were able to pay tribute to John during the event, there was a wreath made from items John loved and in true freeride fashion it was placed just beyond the competition surf. Over 20 riders and loved ones paddled out and set the wreath, each having an opportunity to say a few words in remembrance. It was a beautiful moment.
Surf Slam is here to stay. I highly recommend that this should be on your list of events to attend. The West Coast has some great venues for this freeride life, the Pacific Northwest is a particularly unique place to be especially in the summer months. The coastline and beaches are beautiful and the surrounding areas are adventurous. Come out and play with us, take a few extra days and explore!