- Linda Van Zandt with Chip Hasley
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WINDANSEA SURF CLUB MENEHUNE CONTEST TURNS 50!
When several hundred young surfers charge the water this October 3rd at La Jolla Shores it will mark the 50th anniversary of the WindanSea Surf Club Menehune Contest. Yes, youth-oriented surfing has deep roots in the San Diego County, dating back to the early history of the WindanSea Surf Club, founded in 1963 by Chuck Hasley. Back then, the surf club was a group of older teenagers and twenty-to-thirty somethings that wanted to form "the greatest surfing club ever" to compete in a longboard competition in Malibu, Calif.
Three months later, the surf club's then-executive director, Thor Svenson, decided to develop a Juniors program for kids under age 17. The youngest members recruited were Hank Warner and Ricky Ryan, both 13 at the time.
The Menehune program began in 1965 when Thor directed his club to put on a contest for kids aged 12 and under. His motivation was three-fold: generate revenue for the cash-strapped club; put the juniors to work building skills he knew would serve them later in life; and finally, to create a source for new talent that would be the future of the club if its competitive edge was to survive. The event's inaugural winner was an 11-year-old La Jolla phenom by the name of Margo Godfrey.
As the only female competitor, Margo surfed against the boys. She solidified her reputation as a serious competitor the following year by successfully defending her title, once again against an all-male roster of competitors. Margo was invited into the club and eventually went on to become a world champion in professional surfing.
By 1968, the menehune contest was attracting worldwide attention with contestants coming from as far away as Florida, Hawaii and the Gulf Coast. A young surfer from Hawaii by the name of Michael Ho won top honors in 1970 before the contest scene went dark when the 1970’s ‘soul surfing era began.
In 1999, the Menehune contest was revived big time when Ozstar Dejourday, then-president of WindanSea Surf Club, with the help of vice president Buzzy Dephilippis, brought back the event. Citing the fond memories from older club members involved in the contest as kids, the club's main motivation was to bring that same "stoke" to a new generation of surfers. . In 2003, committing to the tradition of the "aloha exchange" with the Hawaiians, the club sponsored a team of deserving, lower-income youngsters from the islands to participate in the event.
Although the Menehune contest has evolved over the years from an exclusive, highly-competitive contest to one now geared more toward fun and friendship, the quality of surfers that have participated in the Menehune contest over the years includes an unprecedented number of immensely talented surfers including Jojo Roper, Lucas Dirkse, Ricky Cunningham, Nathan Strom, Tiare Thompson, Emma L’Huillier, Remy Juboori, and Skip McCullough, who was described at the time of his entry as “a hard charging 10 year old who has already racked up an impressive resume of winning contests”.
The event is now host to over 200 groms from all over California, Baja, and Hawaii. In keeping with tradition, former junior Steve Jenner has sparked a resurgence among the Club’s younger members to return the contest to its roots as “a surf contest by the kids for the kids”.