Riding the waves

Mark Shotwell finished third in the Longboard Masters 50 to 54 Division at the Kahuna Kupuna surf contest on Saturday. The Crockett resident is a regular at Linda Mar Beach. Photo courtesy Brian Feulner

A surf contest for adults ages 40 and above, Kahuna Kupuna brought 90 entries this year, making Saturday’s contest the biggest ever.

Roy Earnest has been coordinating this event since 2000. He’s a gerontologist by profession who studies aging, which gives him a unique perspective on the contest.

“I want to make the world a better place for older people,” he said. “We could use something that celebrates the older generation. It’s a consciousness-raising event.

“I love the surfing community and this raises a lot of money for Pacifica’s Environmental Family. It brings people together and that’s important,” he said.

Fittingly, Kahuna Kupuna means “big chief, wise elder,” said Earnest.

It was a congenial day at the beach for those surfing and those watching. Earnest’s musical selections changed as the day progressed from tunes in the Grateful Dead genre in the morning to Hawaiian music in the afternoon. It attracted many spectators who followed the action as contests were announced and play-by-play action revealed.

Intergenerational teams brought out the youngest competitors. The youngest was Dane Grochowski, 12, on Intergenerational Team NorCal. The eldest was Ron Escoto, 71, on Intergenerational Team Lot B.

Greg Cochran won the prestigious Kahuna Kupuna Award, which goes to the most experienced contestant, Earnest said. He turned 76 on the day of the competition but didn’t compete on a team this year. He organized a team called “Team Cochran,” which included his wife, Karen, but stayed on shore. The Cochrans recently moved to Santa Cruz.

“We miss the wonderful people. The beach has a wonderful tradition of surfing since the ’50s. It’s close and it’s safe,” he said.

Playing the ukulele off the waves, Dave Duncan, 67, is from Reno, Nev. He’s been coming to this contest for 18 years. He surfs in Hawaii twice a year and grew up in San Francisco where he started surfing at Ocean Beach 55 years ago. He remembers visiting Pacifica when it was “the country.” He belongs to Surfrider Foundation in Mendocino County to promote ocean safety and beach cleanups.

“Surfing has been my passion for five decades. I spent several days here to be with my surfing ‘ohana’ (family),” he said.

New to Kahuna Kupuna, Antoinette Cresci de la Torre, 59, owns Bella Luce Healing Center. She started surfing at age 49, taking private lessons, and now she surfs three days a week.

“It was a lot less intimidating than I expected,” she said, adding she will definitely enter next year’s contest.

A competitor who surfs at Rockaway Beach — the one in New York — Gina Heyman, said, “It was great. I caught all four waves right at the buzzer. It’s fun to surf with my peers.”

“The contest is great because it stands for older people to get outside for exercise,” said Myles Kleinfeld, 58, a photographer. “It supports PEF and the local economy. We call it a tribe. It’s special for us.”

Earnest thanked Pedro Point Surf Club and Kahuna Kupuna sponsors. Booths were set up to sell clothing, and nonprofits shared information throughout the day.

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