As the sun sets on the summer season, the waves are just starting to heat up in Long Beach. Surfers are stoked at the start of September as the annual Unsound Surf Pro tournament begins at the beach at Lincoln Boulevard, running Tuesday through Saturday.
More than 45 pro surfers from around the world ride waves in competition with each other in an elimination-style tournament sponsored by Long Beach's Unsound Surf shop. The purse is $5,000 with $3,000 going to the top winner.
"Long Beach is a little wave magnet," says Unsound Surf co-owner/co-tournament director Dave Juan. "If a hurricane swell comes in, the waves can be absolutely perfect, making it one of the top places in the world to surf."
Crowds watch from the beach or in the bleachers on the boardwalk, where food trucks will be stationed. Four-man heats are run over the course of three days during the week (the tournament allots five days so competition can run during prime conditions) with two people advancing each round. The contest consists of six rounds, each lasting 20 minutes. Four certified judges rate the surfers' performance from 1 to 10.
"If the locals get further on in the contest, it can get pretty crazy toward the finals," says co-owner/co-tournament director Mike Nelson of Unsound Surf. "You can feel the tension on the beach. Everyone is holding their breath hoping they win."
Here are three surfers to watch for:
Stack grew up surfing in Long Beach and won the Unsound Surf Pro in 2010 when he edged out his buddy Michael Dunphy from Virginia in a close competition.
"The Unsound is my favorite win because it was at home," says Stack, 23, of Long Beach. "It's great having all my friends around and people from my hometown."
Today he's surfing all year long, traveling on the pro circuit from North Carolina to Australia.
Gumiela entered the Unsound Surf Pro at age 15. He made it past a few heats and improved through the years, making it to the quarterfinals. This year he's focused on taking the title.
"I'm there to win. It's my home break where I surf every day. I know the waves and where they come in," says Gumiela, 25. "There's nothing like surfing at home."
Gumiela is known for his 360 air reverse where he comes off a wave into the air, spins around and lands back down.
Carlson is a pro veteran whom both Stack and Gumiela grew up watching. He is one of the top aerialist surfers in the world who catch major air while riding. The 6-foot-3 pro surfer took second place in the Unsound Surf Pro in 2000, but today he doesn't ride to compete but rather just to have fun.
"With surfing there's always a learning curve. You are never going to master it," says Carlson, 33, a former Long Beach resident who lives in Huntington Beach, California. "It takes a lot of work and it keeps you humble, but there's no other feeling like it."
On Saturday spectators can see a surfer that rides the waves with four legs on the board. Norm, a black Labrador, holds a surf expo at 3 p.m., wearing a life jacket and showing off how he surfs to shore. Norm is a service dog who works with special needs kids at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach. A collection will be taken up for Camp Anchor to honor Norm's efforts, and the friendly pup will be available for photos.
Evening activities include a party at Barrier Brewing Co. in Oceanside at 8 p.m. Thursday. On Friday, there's a free movie and pizza night at Unsound Surf shop in Long Beach where pro surfers will meet fans. On Saturday, take an end-of-summer cruise from Point Lookout aboard the Sea Hawk at 7:30 p.m. with an open bar, dinner and live music. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at Unsound Surf shop, 359 East Park Ave. in Long Beach, or call 516-889-1112.
UNSOUND SURF PROWHEN | WHERE Sept. 1-5 (check the website for surf condition updates), on the beach at Lincoln Boulevard, Long Beach
INFO 516-889-1112, unsoundsurf.com
ADMISSION Free to view from the boardwalk but access to the beach costs $10