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Best Amateur Surf Competitions



We know, summer is over. It’s becoming time to drop the surf talk and focus our energies on a certain boarded sport of the winter variety, but hear us out for a second. Imagine it’s November (as it is) and you’ve spent your whole summer taking surf lessons. In June, you were a complete newbie, barely able to stand on your board in the calm waters of a bay, let alone catch a wave and ride. By Labor Day weekend, you were moving through the water with the skill of a bonafide beginner. You weren’t ready to be sponsored by Quicksilver, but you were progressing and liking it.

Just as you started adapting to surf life, the cold winds of fall blew in and forced you back inside. Now you find yourself staring at your board and grasping for some surf-related event you can look forward to. Those events are amateur surf competitions. Here are four types you might want to look into, depending on your skill and your desire for a challenge.

Winter’s almost here, yes, but another summer’s right around the corner. There’s hope yet. Do your research and get to prepping.

Carlsbad Beach Fest

If you love to surf, but aren’t quite up to competing against boarders that skew more intermediate than beginner, events like the Carlsbad Beach Fest in Carlsbad, California are the perfect low-pressure kind of situations to get your feet wet (both literally and figuratively). Because Carlsbad is part of a larger beach weekend, where there are foot races, food and music, the Carlsbad Beach Fest Pro & Amateur Surfing Contest, though featured, is not the sole focus of the event. Break in your competition muscles in a fun and friendly environment while appreciating some great atmosphere and learning a thing or two from the pros in attendance (don’t worry, they’re in their own competition division). A very low $45 entry fee reserves your spot, gets you a free t-shirt, and an opportunity to win surf awards. Not in the California area and don’t feel like taking a trip? No problem, most beach communities hold some type of amateur surf contest during the summer months. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce office for location-specific deets.

NSSA National Championships

If you’re high school or college-aged and your aspirations reach beyond low-intensity weekend competitions, you owe it to yourself to explore the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA). Divided into nine conferences (Southwest , Gold Coast, Northwest and NSSA JR in California, Hawaii, Northeast, Southeast/North, Southeast and the Florida Gulf in Florida), the NSSA is America’s premiere breeding ground for amateur surfers who’ve got hopes of going pro. Membership is required, but the benefits–including high-profile regional and national surf competitions, awards, sponsorship looks, and potential college scholarship money–far outweigh the membership fee.

East Coast Surfing Championships

Some competitions you do for the love of the sport. Some you do for the exposure. And some you do for the tradition and because you know the very act of participating is historically significant. You enroll in the East Coast Surfing Championships(ECSC) all because of the latter. As the the oldest continuously running surfing contest in North America, the ECSC has risen in prominence from a small, local event founded in 1963 to a modern day surfing utopia routinely attracting over 100,000 spectators. Surfers of both sexes and all ages are welcome but, full disclosure: the ECSC is fairly competitive. In other words, you’ll want to be more of an intermediate before showing up.

International Surfing Association

Any interest in taking your burgeoning skills outside the US of A? We’ve outlined some gnarly domestic options, sure, but wouldn’t it be nice to get involved in some competition abroad? If your wanderlust is luring you to foreign shores, check out membership opportunities at The International Surfing Association (ISA), recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Authority for Surfing. Founded as the International Surfing Federation in 1964, the ISA is the worldwide authority on amateur and pro surfing, hosting the Open Division World Championships, the Junior World Championships, and the Masters World Championships. Headquartered in San Diego, California, ISA members hail from 69 countries on five continents. Once you’ve placed at some NSSA events and made a formidable showing at the ECSC, it might be time to consult the ISA site for upcoming competitions. In the meantime, take a look at Kalani David’s skills. He won Gold at the 2012 ISA World Junior Championships in Playa Venao, Panama. Clearly, you’ll need to bring your A game to any ISA event.

Cover Photo Credit: Fathzer /

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