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Ucluelet draws eyes to Wickaninnish with first longboard-only surfing contest

Rosene and Schiaffino organize longboard contest around International Surfing Association guidelines
The first annual Vancouver Island Longboard Classic will run from May 31 to June 1 at Wickaninnish Beach in partnership with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet First Nation).

A pair of surfers are hoping to push a bit of Tofino’s shadow off Ucluelet to let some light shine through on their local surf scene.

Jay Rosene and David Schiaffino are organizing Ucluelet’s first-ever longboard-only surf contest based on International Surfing Association guidelines.

“Longboard is a very specific type of surf. I personally don’t do it very often and I don’t do it very well, but I really respect the ones that do hone their craft. They can do things on a longboard that people only dream about,” Rosene told the Westerly News. “It’s such a unique thing, longboarding.”

The first annual Vancouver Island Longboard Classic will run from May 31 to June 1 at Wickaninnish Beach in partnership with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet First Nation).

“They will be doing something spectacular,” Rosene said of Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ’s support of the event. “They’ll be doing a prayer at the opening ceremonies on Thursday night at West Coast Shapes and then daily will be doing a dance at Wickaninnish Beach to wish the competitors good luck each day.”

Events will also be held at Ucluelet Brewing Company, Howler’s Family Restaurant and West Coast Shapes.

“We’re really looking for a great, great surf festival weekend,” Rosene said, adding longboarders have signed up from Washington, Oregon and as far as Mexico and Hawaii.

“They’ve never been to Ucluelet. They’re going to see a beautiful, small fishing village on the edge of the ocean with wonderful people that’s still considered a ‘small town.’ It’s going to put Ucluelet on the map for those people when they want to come back and travel.”

Jay Rosene and David Schiaffino are launching a new Vancouver Island Longboard Classic to promote Ucluelet’s surf scene. (@vilongboardsurfcontest photo)

He suggested Ucluelet has a strong and growing surf culture, but hasn’t had a chance to effectively showcase itself distinctly from its Tofitian neighbours.

“I felt like it was a new thing that was needed in this town. Ucluelet has never had a consistent surf contest year after year. This is the very best way to get it started,” he said. “Hopefully this event will go annually from here on in and we’ll just start driving more contests to Ucluelet because they will also drive business to Ucluelet, which is going to be great.”

He added he loves Tofino’s surf community, but Ucluelet deserves some love as well.

“We get along great. It’s just time for Ucluelet to have the focus, the contests, the parties, everything,” he said. “(The surf is) just as good as Tofino or better on some days. There’s days when it’s flat in Tofino and just perfect waves in Ucluelet.”

He said he had no problem finding support for the event from local businesses, like the brewery, Howler’s and the Ukee Rent-It Centre.

“They did so much for us. We couldn’t have asked for this much,” he said, adding he wasn’t surprised to be overwhelmed with support.

“Ucluelet is such a town of people that try to help each other all the time. When we went to the local businesses for some help, they jumped on it right away. Because we’re from town, we all work together and we all benefit from it. I can’t say I was surprised, but I’m very grateful. We all help each other out in this town. There’s still that small town vibe.”

He said a key reason to promote Ucluelet’s surf culture is the rapidly growing movement of local youth getting into the sport.

“The growth of the younger generation in Ucluelet is humungous. It’s never been this big before. From the six year olds to 16 year olds that are surfing in Ucluelet, they’re going to set a benchmark for the future,” he said. “Many of them are regulars on the podium in Tofino and all the contests. The drive to have more competitive surfing in Ucluelet is growing immensely.”

Rosene is a popular local surf instructor who has been surfing the West Coast for over 40 years, having a front row seat to the sport’s massive growth.

“It went from a slacker sport to an Olympic sport,” he said. “It’s changed people’s lives. People have jobs now where they’re just surfing all the time. Whereas, back in the day, you would surf just for fun. The surf industry is growing incredibly. I don’t think we need any more surf shops, but there’s an industry out there just waiting to explode really.”

He added the sport is the perfect activity for local youth and older newcomers to get into.

“It brings physical activity and it brings enjoyment in any way you look at it. From somebody taking a lesson, to somebody catching the biggest wave of their life, or making the biggest turn they’ve ever done. It just brings a progression, which brings you motivation and makes you feel better,” he said.

“It gets you out of the house. It’s a screen-free environment. It’s all the things you want your kids to do: be active, challenge themselves, hang out with their friends in a positive, healthy way. There’s so many things that come with just going to the beach…It’s all good any way you look at it, so it needs to continue to grow.”

He suggested more surf events could be added to Ucluelet’s calendar with ease, adding he’s eyeing a potential shortboard event during next year’s Pacific Rim Whale Festival.

“It could get massive. We could have contests every weekend,” he said. “We could really crank it up. It just has to go by the book, safely and in fun ways. I think it could grow way more than it is now.”

More information can be found at the Vancouver Island Longboard Surf Contest Instagram Page: @vilongboardsurfcontest.

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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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