The largest pro-am surfing competition in the Pacific Northwest returns to Westport this weekend with a new title sponsor and a continuing mission to help keep beaches clean locally and globally.
This year’s 11th annual Clean Water Classic will take place Saturday and Sunday at Westhaven State Park.
The festivities include live music, surfing movie showings, a vendor village, silent auction and raffle, and hundreds of surfers of all ages and abilities.
The event is a fundraiser for Pacific Northwest chapters of the Surfrider Foundation, the grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.
Charlie Plybon, Surfrider’s Oregon field manager, has been to seven past Clean Water Classic events at Westport and has seen it grow substantially in terms of the number of competitors as well as events surrounding the competition.
“In 2001, when the contest first started, we had about 30 surfers and a handful of spectators. Today, we end up with close to 150 surfers and a waiting list,” Plybon said.
The Surfrider organization likewise has grown from three chapters in the Northwest to 11 now in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.
“It really represents a lot of volunteer effort and support to make this happen,” Plybon said. “And it’s a benefit for those chapters and all the work they do in their respective regions.”
The event also will benefit the organization “A Warm Current,” which is a non-profit dedicated to reducing waste in local communities and improving the lives of young people in coastal towns and villages. Its mission is to collect, transport, and distribute recycled and new wetsuits to areas of the world where economic limitations make costs extraordinary.
Participants this weekend are asked to bring used wetsuits to the event that they would be willing to donate to those in need.
Plybon said it’s more challenging to run the event as a benefit this year because the state now charges for use of the Westhaven State Park grounds, and vehicles must bear Discover passes to enter, use or park on the grounds within the park boundaries.
“That has really made our investment in state parks go from $150 in 2009 to close to $2,000 today. They really get us good. It’s not just a benefit for Surfrider, it’s a benefit for Washington State Parks,” Plybon said.
That’s why having Suburu of Puyallup agree to be a title sponsor of the event was important when there was no main sponsor last year, he added. Also, the event secured another “gold” sponsorship with Quicksilver Boardriders, one of the leading surf-related clothing and accessories companies.
The surfing competitions will be Saturday (starting at 6:30 a.m. with a competitors meeting at the beach at Westhaven and heats until 5 p.m.) and Sunday (heats starting at 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.). There will be beach cleanups both days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The event is as much a tribal gathering of sorts as it is a surfing competition.
Plybon called the event a “reunion of Surfrider family. For them, this is a great opportunity to network with other chapters and volunteers and see how things are working in other places, and talk about their respective stewardship efforts and campaigns.”
The surfers adjust with the local conditions and the weather, too.
“Surfers in the Pacific Northwest are pretty nomadic individuals and they find their surf year-round,” Plybon said. “Probably the more quality surf is in the fall when we have more clean swells come through. In the spring and summer, the weather can be real nice and sunny, but a lot of times we get a north wind and the swells can be small.”
There are several new attractions this year, including a photo booth on the grounds where competitors can purchase photos from the event, and several surf board companies will be bringing boards that people can try out on site. At noon Saturday, there will be a special surfing demonstration from a group of Hawaiian longboarders and surfing legends: Kekoa Uemura, Kapono Nahina and Scotty Fong.
Much of the entertainment and many of the surfers will be located at the Islander Resort and Half Moon Bar & Grill, which also is a leading sponsor of the event.
“Really, the whole city of Westport has been great for us in this event,” Plybon said. “All the lodging and accommodations in the local area have given us more support than I can even speak to. They have just been fantastic.”
A Warm Current will be running a kids camp on Saturday. To learn more go to awarmcurrent.org.
To learn more about the Surfrider foundation or find a chapter, visit www.surfrider.org.