Classic Rides Get Dusted Off for ALO’s Classic Contest

By JON COEN | Aug 01, 2018
Photo by: Kyle Gronostajski Defending James Contreras will return to defend his Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic title.

The mid-60s was surfing’s first boom. New materials had ushered in modern surfing 10 years earlier. Bing Surfboards offered the Nuuhiwa Noserider. Dale Velzy had a model simply called The Pig. The Weber Performer was hugely popular. Hansen had the Mike Doyle and the 50/50, Greg Noll had Da Cat, Rick Surfboards had a UFO, and Yater had the Spoon.

It was the golden age of waveriding, and the surfboard was the ultimate symbol of surfing worldwide that would play a part in youth culture overall. And it excited young people on Long Beach Island as much as anywhere.

As surfing changed in the ’70s, boards changed. They became shorter for a different approach to a wave. A few decades later, surfers wanted lighter boards made with far less fiberglass. They were better for performance, but they didn’t last as long.

The early boards were durable and heavy, hence many of those original boards are still around – the Bings, Hansens, Webers and Nolls. And many of them will be out this Saturday, Aug. 4 in Ship Bottom for the 10th Annual Alliance for a Living Ocean LBI Longboard Classic, a celebration of these boards and the time they represent. (ALO has the option to move the event to Sunday if conditions are going to be considerably better.)

The event began in 2009 when Tom Beaty, then executive director of Alliance for a Living Ocean, LBI’s grassroots environmental organization, decided the Island needed a contest to celebrate surfing’s past. He aimed to raise funds for ALO, and awareness for their work.

It didn’t just represent a celebration of the bygone era, but it ushered in a new era on LBI. Just two years earlier, Jetty had held the inaugural Clam Jam. Prior to that it had been 15 years since there had been a locally based surf event. That year and the following would see paddle races, art shows and fundraisers that have become traditions. Today, the sense of community thrives on LBI.

The idea was simple, to recreate a vintage surf tournament. Competitors have to ride boards from the ’60s, at least 3 feet taller than the rider. Leashes are not permitted. Waves are judged on classic surfing, favoring graceful footwork, noseriding and smooth turns.

Today, ALO’s current event director, Kyle Gronostajski, holds the reins of the event.

“My first year involved in the contest was 2014 and I was mainly a competitor. I had heard of the Classic before but wasn’t usually able to surf it because I was working as a lifeguard,” he explained. “Tom laid the foundation for a great event. The rules have remained the same, old boards, no leash, and some classic style. Most importantly, the event is about having fun.”

ALO continues to have a strong presence and it serves to remind the community of the threats to waterways and the work being done to protect them. Through the years the event has grown. There are now 48 spots in the Open Men’s Division. There is an Open Women’s, a Boys and Girls Under 15, and a Tandem Division. There’s also an AARP Award for the surfer over 55 who makes it the farthest. Rick “Aloha” Anastasi handles MC duties. South End Surf ’N Paddle provides the judges for the day.

“It’s our biggest single fundraiser annually so we take it seriously in that sense, but it’s just a good time. We receive so much support from not only our local community in the form of surfers and businesses – and surfers who own businesses and compete – but also from the surf communities to our north and south,” added Gronostajki, who has made the finals of this event himself.

Ship Bottom’s Kyle Scheibner won the Men’s Open in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Surf City’s Mikey Gaudioso took the title and then had to hand it over to his younger brother, Mitchell, in 2016. Last year, James Contreras of Manasquan perched himself on the nose in perfect longboard conditions to leave with the trophy. One of the favorites of the day is the Tandem Division. Roman Schwoebel and Maggie Bucci will be on hand to defend their tandem title.

“Everyone down in LBI seems like they’ve been friends and acquaintances for a long time. They come together for the smallest events, and that sense of family and commitment are always present when I come to the Island,” said Contreras this week.

Contreras has been an ambassador for locally based surf and skate apparel company Jetty for five years and has become a fixture at Island events.

“It’s beyond nice to feel welcome coming from a different town, into a strong community that has amazing talent and heritage that may not have been known outside of the Island years ago. The scene down there will continue to be strong, with people that are beyond committed to keeping the culture alive.”

The event will be on 16th Street in Beach Haven and starts at 8 a.m. with round one of the Men’s Division. If the contest is moved to Sunday, ALO will keep updates on the event Facebook page. Pizza from Speakeasy is included for competitors and available for non-competitors to buy.

Ship Bottom Shellfish will have cold clams and oysters on the beach and the Woo Hoo will have ice cream. In the event of no waves or poor weather, the event will be held Sunday, Aug. 5. There are public bathrooms at the nearby municipal building.

“The event has had some talented individuals over the past decade, but there are a lot of people into classic longboard style, not only on heavy vintage boards, but on newer single fin logs as well,” added Gronostajski. “We have a whole contingent that comes up from the Ocean City area now, a bunch of guys from Monmouth, and they’re all really talented. This also makes spots go quickly, people are excited to compete. The event is a lot of work to put on but I can’t imagine not surfing it as well and throwing myself into the mix.”

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