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Major surfing contest coming to Long Beach

World Surf League's pro Longboard Tour to be held Sept. 6-12

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The largest professional surfing competition since the Quiksilver Pro New York nearly a decade ago is coming to Long Beach in September, part of a stop on the World Surf League’s international Longboard Tour.

The league, formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals, announced Feb. 22 that Long Beach would be the third of four stops on the pro tour, following competitions in Noosa, Australia, and Galicia, Spain.

The event, scheduled for Sept. 6-12, is expected to attract some of the world’s best surfers, who will be on their way to the Taiwan Open World Longboard Championships, where 24 men and 24 women will compete for a $60,000 prize purse in their respective divisions.

“This is a major step for the WSL to grow its professional longboard surfing platform, which it has decades of history with in crowning the sport’s world champions since 1986,” renowned surfer Devon Howard, the event’s tour director, said in a news release. “The additions of events in Noosa, Galicia and New York will now bring an exciting title race for this traditional discipline of waveriding to four distinctly different regions that are all well-suited for the world’s most stylish longboarders to display their impeccable footwork.”

In December, the WSL was awarded a $254,000 grant through New York state's Regional Economic Development Council initiative to launch what the state described as a “landmark” professional surfing competition. According to the state, the league will use the funds to promote New York and Long Island and highlight the region as a “family surfing and coastal destination.”

“This grant will show the world what Long Beach already knows — that we are the best kept surfing secret on the East Coast,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said in a statement.

"The Longboard Tour is an exciting expansion our existing longboard events and Longboard World Championship as we look to further develop this very important aspect of surfing,"  Sophie Goldschmidt, the WSL's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "We would like to thank Tourism and Events Queensland, Discover Long Island and the New York State Division of Tourism and I LOVE NY for their support to help bring this tour together."

The Los Angeles-based World Surf League, the governing body of professional surfing, last came to Long Beach in 2011 for the Quiksilver Pro, the sixth of 11 events on that year’s world tour, in which 34 of the world’s top surfers — including 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater — vied for an unprecedented $1 million prize purse.

The surf shop Unsound sponsored the Quiksilver Pro New York Trials, and local pro Balaram Stack became the contest’s local favorite when he was named the first wild-card entrant and competed against Slater and other venerated pros.

The contest, which was nearly canceled after Tropical Storm Irene, attracted nearly 100,000 people, helped put New York surfing on the map and was considered by many to be a boon for local businesses and the economy.

Professional big-wave surfers Will and Cliff Skudin, who own Long Beach-based Skudin Surf, which is hosting the WSL event, said they worked with city and state officials and the league to attract the Longboard Tour to town.

“Since I’ve been on the council, I’ve been working with Cliff [Skudin] to bring the World Surf League back after Quiksilver, and to see if there was a way to do it on a smaller scale,” said Anthony Eramo, the City Council president. “I think it’s a huge benefit to the community, in part to help address our fiscal challenges by bringing people to the city to purchase beach passes, and visit our restaurants and shops.”

Both Eramo and Cliff Skudin said that the WSL could have chosen Montauk or Rockaway to host the event. The WSL, Skudin said, is using its longboard competition as a “steppingstone” for potential future events in town, such as another shortboard pro contest on the level of Quiksilver.

“When we were talking to them, they had a few choices, and we lobbied the WSL to bring it to Long Beach,” Skudin said. “For the first year, they want to do the Longboard Tour and grow from there. They wanted to come back to New York, and this year they want to really focus on the surf community and its surfing history.”

Eramo said that the Longboard Tour would not be as large or attract the same crowds as the Quiksilver Pro, but would include a week of events around town. He credited the success of a professional stand-up paddleboard competition in Long Beach last year with helping to persuade WSL officials to choose the city for the Longboard Tour. “Hopefully it could be another event that Long Beach hosts annually,” he said.

Will Skudin said he had the chance to speak with event organizers over the past few years while competing on the WSL’s Big Wave Tour. “We’ve been pulling for them to return to New York with an event,” he said. “With the support from the City of Long Beach and the local community, we’re honored to host their return to our backyard. It’s just the beginning!”

Each Longboard Tour event will award 6,000 points toward the world championship rankings, and offer a $30,000 prize purse in men’s and women’s divisions. A longboard is at least nine feet long, and the Skudins said that longboard surfing has a rich history in town.

“Longboarding is where surfing started,” Will said. “It’s more of a dance, with grace and flow, than your traditional short-board, high-performance surfing. One isn’t better then the other; [they’re] just two totally different disciplines and ways of riding a wave. The good thing about a longboard event is that you don’t need the waves to be that big to run. It allows organizers and surfers more opportunities to plan in advance.”

Johnny Barnas, co-owner of Moku Surf NY in the West End, which has held an annual Longboard Classic each September since 2014, said local surfers will have an opportunity to compete in the WSL event, and that Moku would be involved in a trials competition.

"Locals will have an opportunity to compete either through our contest or through the trials," Barnas said.  “There are some unbelievable longboarders in this town, and we're super excited to give them the opportunity to show the world what they are capable of here in New York.”