Big crowds celebrate surf at Doheny festival

Eric Diamond raised his paddle above his head in victory as he caught a wave and glided to shore on the 12-foot Stand Up Paddleboard, taking first place in a fun race at Doheny State Beach.

The Victory SUP-Cross demo – where paddlers raced from buoys in the water than sprinted on land – was just one of the shows put on in the water Saturday as part of the Doheny Surf Festival, an event that drew big beach crowds on a hot day looking to get relief from the heat while enjoying the surf culture.

“It’s probably the best race you can watch. It’s really hard to catch waves on the race boards, so when you come in you might have four guys on a wave and you run into each other,” said Diamond.

The festival has been going on four years, but this year was expanded to a 2-day, much larger event to raise money for State Parks in Southern Orange County, which include Doheny, San Clemente, Trestles and San Onofre.

“We wanted to involve the surf culture,” said event organizer Kempton said. “We want people to realize that these are treasures we want to protect.”

The area is rich with surf history, like in the 1920s when Lorin “Whitey” Harrison and Peanut Larson came down to discover the new surf break San Onofre, Kempton said.

Or like in 1973, when surfers would sneak into the Western White House – where President Richard Nixon was living – to get to Cotton’s Point. The story goes that his wife Pat told the president: “If you want a lasting legacy, you should make it a state park for all these people to enjoy.”

So he did.

Food trucks offered up grub through the day, and about 100 booths lined the grassy area at Doheny showcasing everything from surf art to custom jewelry to the latest surf-related products.

Leila Endersby – a trainer for Indo Boards – was balancing on an SUP and showcasing how the product can help build core strength to help for those days when waves are flat or the windy is too tough to paddle.

“The Indo Boards are all about having fun, as you are having a great work out,” she said.

Down the way surfboard maker Bill Stewart, from San Clemente, was showcasing his surfboards. He said he was glad to see an event that helps out State Parks, and that surfing is a sport enjoyed by people from every walk of life.

“There’s a bunch of odd, unique people I make boards for – brain surgeons, scientists, bums. The people who surf, they are everybody,” he said. “The common thing is the passion of sliding across the wave. And once you do it, it’s very hard to quit.”

Those areas were free to those who wanted to enjoy the exhibits, though tickets were required for the music performances through the evening, which included Honk and Eddie Money. The headliner for Sunday, Everlast, is expected to bring big crowds.

Down at the water’s edge, there was everything from nose riding to tandem surfers and a group from Wounded Warriors who took to the waves to put on a show for beach crowds.

That’s where Darcy Patch, of San Juan Capistrano, was enjoying the afternoon with her family.

“We just love spending the weekends on the beach, we live in paradise. Everybody wants to go on vacation to the beach and we live here,” she said. “Knowing they had the festival and the bands, we just wanted to come down and I’m sure we’ll be down here tomorrow as well.”