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Ucluelet's first annual Longboard Classic smashes expectations

The sun was nowhere to be found, but the wave of enthusiastic stoke that shone down on Wickaninnish Beach over the weekend was as bright as the future of Ucluelet’s surf scene.
An elated Erin Hamilton receives a well-deserved shoulder ride out of the surf at Wickaninnish Beach on Sunday after winning the Open Women’s division final heat at Ucluelet’s first annual Vancouver Island Longboard Classic.

The sun was nowhere to be found, but the wave of enthusiastic stoke that shone down on Wickaninnish Beach over the weekend was as bright as the future of Ucluelet’s surf scene.

The first annual Vancouver Island Longboard Classic charged onto the West Coast’s calendar, bringing competitive comradery and showcasing local talents and vibes.

The competition was launched by Ucluelet surfers Jay Rosene and David Schiaffino in partnership with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government.

“The weekend went super, super, super smooth. Everybody’s glowing,” Schiaffino told the Westerly at the end of Sunday’s final heats. “Everybody’s so happy.”

He added the May 31 - June 1 event met his expectations “100 per cent” and he is amped to see the Classic grow and attract more participants and sponsors as it continues, suggesting the weekend was just the first win of many more to come.   

“What we did this weekend, we made history. We made a great event from Ucluetians to the world,” he said.

He hopes to see more athletes competing next year from across Canada and the world and said he plans to rally hard to secure attractive prizing.

“My full focus is to make this an international stop,” he said. “We have the capacity, we have the waves, we have the infrastructure…We have all that is needed to do things like this. The only thing we need to do is do them…I just love doing things the right way. I don’t like doing mediocre. It’s go big or just don’t do it.”

He said he was feeling “extremely satisfied, happy, joyful” about how the event played out and added that seeing the joy on the faces of the winners brought tears to his eyes.

Along with co-founding the competition, Schiaffino’s West Coast Shapes Ukee and Ukee Poke were pivotal sponsors and he hopes to see more brands dive into the mix after the first event proved the competition’s potential.

“I would like to see more surf brands, especially local brands, come and work together. My door is open for every surf shop to come and join this. As a community, we have to be together, it’s not ‘Me against you, you against me’ We are a family. We are a big family and we should work together for these things because this is an economical boom for everybody,” he said.

Local businesses stepped in to support the Classic, with Howler’s Family Restaurant, Ucluelet Brewing Company and Ukee Poke all hosting celebrations in town.

Ucluelet Brewing Company owner Dennis Morgan said he was delighted to support and enjoy the new competition.

“This was a homerun. It was a great event…It’s good for business, it’s good for image, it’s good for everything.” Morgan said. “Great vibe, friendly, healthy, what’s not to like?..It was really well done and really professionally done.”

Ucluelet’s Erin Hamilton topped the Open Women’s division with a score of 5.8, besting Mackenzie Arndt, 5.2, Amie Shimizu, 4.8, and Izzy Abdurahman, 4.3.

“I am absolutely stoked to be able to show up for our home break. It’s literally everything that I could have dreamed of. I’ve always wanted to compete at Wick specifically just because it’s somewhere that I surf all the time,” an elated Hamilton told the Westerly News moments after her final heat. “I’m stoked, grateful, feeling loved.”

She added she knew she had taken the first place spot during the final heat, but wasn’t sure if she’d held on to the win until she reached the beach to cheers.

“At one point, I did hear I was in first and I just held on with my heartspace, screaming with joy and tears simultaneously. I knew it could change in a heartbeat. I watch surfing all the time, I see buzzer beaters all the time and all the surfers out here are so awesome,” she said. “Kudos to all the ladies, everybody out here, especially those that did multiple heats on multiple days. It’s just good stuff. All the love. So good. So much stoke.”

She added the new Classic was a great venue to bring everybody together and showcase longboarding.

“Just to have that is so special. David (Schiaffino) has built his dream up so that we could live out our dreams. This is everything I’ve ever dreamed of. I watch WSL all the time, just frothing over competitive surfing. I just love every aspect of it, all of the qualities, all the uniquenesses, how the ocean changes all the time,” she said.

She suggested longboarding has a uniqueness that’s worth celebrating outside the more mainstream shadow of shortboarding.

“I just don’t think it’s gotten enough credit in the past. It’s a whole different style. I shortboard as well as middie and longboard. I feel like I’m dancing. I grew up as a dancer and I feel like, on a longboard, I’m riding the wave with more, to be honest, that yin quality; more of that feminine grace of Qigong and Tai chi,” she said.

“Shortboarding is more yang. It’s more aggressive. It’s more of that intensive thwapping. You can hit the nose Twelve O’Clock on your longboard, but it’s just different. It’s a dance. It’s an art. So, to bring it here to have its own event, I think, just showcases its uniqueness.”

She added she was ecstatic to see her home Ucluelet score some of the West Coast’s spotlight as well as the waves of Wick Beach that can be unheralded compared to Tofino’s Cox Bay.

“To have it here is special just to really highlight the uniqueness. Every surfer’s unique, every beach is unique and so to really highlight the peelers that Wick can have and to showcase that even though it’s a beach break we can still have sick rides,” she said. “You can elevate your surf skills on a beach break when it’s not something that’s a consistent point break. I feel like I’ve grown so much just because I surf all conditions and that’s how you get better, practice.”

Tofino’s Asia Dryden won the Men’s Master division, scoring 8.0 in the final heat and topping Angus Tokarek, 7.5, Jeff Duncan, 3.25, and Jeremy Bowery, 2.1.

“Everybody that’s in the finals is a good surfer. So any of us could have won it,’ Dryden told the Westerly after his final heat. “The waves were really challenging out there today. It was really weak swell and a lot of wind, so just really challenging conditions. It was nice longboarding because it was small and clean, but it was definitely challenging with the storminess and the coldness.”

Dryden said he was thrilled to see the longboarding community showcased, suggesting it offers a “nicer, mellower culture” that’s more accessible and also helps athletes expand their skills.

“A lot of kids learn how to shortboard and they’re really so focused on it and then they get on a longboard and it slows them down and actually gives more depth to their surfing,” he said citing surf icons Pete Devries and Michael Darling as “amazing longboarders.”

“They have a smoother style and that’s probably part of being on a longer board, slowing your surfing down and being more in tune with the waves versus trying to dominate the wave with a shortboard.”

He added he hopes to see more events bring the community together to help build and nurture a positive beach culture on the West Coast.

“We need to build more of a culture here of surfing and bring people together, so I think it’s great,” he said.

“You build a culture, you build a scene…Beach culture is multi-generational. It’s not a bunch of 20-year-olds doing airs. It’s everybody. It’s the old guys, it’s the kids, it’s just supporting more of a deeper culture of surfing.”

Jean-Laurence Vachon Vigneault took the Open Men’s division with a score of 11.0, followed by Rusty Goyer, 10.7, Andrew Sadler, 7.3, and Andrew McCurdy, 7.0.

Amie Shimizu took the top spot in the Women’s Master division with a 7.0 in the final heat over Nicole Gerbrandt, 6.6, Dawn Batenchuk, 5.3, and Genevieve Fuji Johnson, 3.5.

Luke Payne took the Men’s U18 crown with a score of 9.8 followed by Clay Chiovitti, 8.4, Gus Chong, 7.8, and Kye Sale, 6.2.

Ocea Green topped the Women’s U18 podium with an 11.5 final heat, besting Sofia Bruwhiler, 10.0, Ella Wallace, 7.1, and Jade Rosene, 5.5.

Charles Nuccio won the Last Chance Champ crown finishing the final heat with 7.0, followed by Anaïs Gourvès, 6.5, Benjamin Musician, 6.0, Kerry Harwood, 5.4, Sophie Cormier, 4.7, and Joey Rotenberg, 4.5.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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