There’s an inside joke shared amongst regular surfers in Los Angeles, it goes: “If you want to be alone in LA, just go to the beach before 9 a.m.” And like all good jokes, there’s a shred of ironic truth in the punchline. The city might have four million people, but you wouldn’t know it when your toes are in the sand while the sun’s still rising over the San Gabriel Mountains.
Too busy clearing foggy heads from the night before, you keep your snooze button too close to your pillow, or you live east of the 405 and you just really don’t want to deal with looking for parking. Whatever the justification, getting yourself down to the beach early in the morning can be tricky. That was not the case last weekend, however. Why? Well, it was the first annual GRLSWIRL Surf Skate Fest, when hundreds of people join our partners and friends, team GRLSWIRL, for a full day of surfing, skating, and amazing times.
More than 100 people met at Tower 25 in Santa Monica last Saturday to start things off. The day’s itinerary was packed: surf contest in the morning, skate contest in the afternoon, concert and drinks in the evening. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.
As mentioned, everything began with a paddle-out and style contest. Surfers gathered at 8 a.m. on a small but clear, crisp, beautiful fall morning. Fresh coffee and pastries were served to help everyone ease into things. Excitement levels didn’t need caffeine or carbohydrate support, however. Everyone was stoked out as could be already… although it was nice to have both on offer.
The surf itself was a bit uncooperative, but everyone was more than ready to throw on their wetsuits and get out there. And despite the double-over-ankle glorified shore break’s best efforts, there were plenty of hang-fives, soul arches, and attempted head dips throughout. The contest lasted the better part of 45 minutes and there wasn’t a frown anywhere in the water. That could have been because they knew one of them was going to walk off the beach with a custom Roxy surfboard.
The lucky winner left the beach with a fresh bit of fiberglass courtesy of some well-timed cheater-fives. And while there weren’t more boards to go around, everyone was grateful for the opportunity to get out in the water with their friends. The day was far from over, however. Up next was the skate contest, held at the Firestone Walker Propagator in Venice.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better venue for a skate competition than The Propagator. The entirety of the parking lot was cleared out to make way for a skate park. Four ramps, a kicker, and a bar to the side peddling fresh food off the grill and chilled Cali Squeeze beers and seltzers off ice. There was a cold Blood Orange, Tangerine Daze, or Lemon Chill in nearly every hand, the sun was out, and the skating was electric. It’s hard to beat a setup like that, and we have to say, if that isn’t a good time, we don’t know what is.
There was also some skate royalty on display, particularly on the judges panel. We were lucky enough to welcome Jeff Ho, founder of Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Skate Team. You may know the latter name by its less formal title, the Z-Boys of Dogtown fame. Joining Jeff was Neil Carver, owner of Carver Skateboards, and Lucy Osinski, the co-founder of GRLSWIRL.
Skaters were judged on the technical difficulty of their skating, style, and “flow.” Basically, if they made the difficult look easy, they were given more points. The winner rolled off with an e-bike, a new deck, merch, and plenty of praise from an absolutely buzzing group of spectators. Shoutout to Di’orr Greenwood for not only coming out on top, but also giving one of the most spectacular acceptance speeches in her native Navajo.
Once the sun dipped below the horizon and things started to chill out, it was time for the concert. Everyone in attendance filled out The Propagator’s patio to enjoy some more Squeezes and live tunes courtesy of Grady Strange. The music was loud, everyone was dancing, and the energy levels were high. Brazilian guitarist Rogê followed up Grady Strange’s fast-paced act with a groovy, acoustic guitar set. It was less garage rock and more samba, but it kept everyone moving.
Overall, the day couldn’t have been a better time. Everything came together beautifully from the morning surf contest to the evening concert. The entire day was a testament to the wonderful community GRLSWIRL has spent years cultivating, and Surf Skate Fest was a highlight for the GRLSWIRL, Venice Beach, and Cali Squeeze families. We can’t wait to see the next event comes to life.