Big Chill Out Longboard Contest Draws Surfers From Across State

Pacifica is host to the longest running longboard surf contest north of Santa Cruz.

It’s 7:55a.m. on Saturday; I’m lying in bed and looking outside my bedroom window at blue skies and sunshine peaking through the shutter slats. It could be the beginning of one of those famous Pacifica Indian summer weekends we so long for. So many possibilities.

Maybe hang out with the kids on the beach, lay out in the sun in the back yard and then finish it off with a barbecue with friends. All the little things we Pacificans miss during the summer months that other inland Bay Area towns get hot.

Then I realize my surf heat starts in fifteen minutes. I jump out of bed, still in my PJs, throw my board on top of the car and slip into half of my wetsuit and drive down to the beach. I amazingly find a parking spot, run to the check in table and sign in while I pull my wetsuit up, grab my jersey and paddle out. All under the first horn.

Although I was lagging hard, Greg Cochran and the Pedro Point Surf Club were up bright and early to set up the 21st annual Big Chill Out Longboard Contest at .

This is not just another club contest; it’s a very tightly run event organized by a seasoned group of professionals with its roots spanning over twenty years. Pacificans Greg Cochran and his wife Karen, Izzy Szczepaniak and Roy Earnest (to name a few) have to keep this well oiled machined moving forward at all times.

Each qualifying heat in the contest usually consists of four to six surfers surfing fifteen minute qualifying heats. The competitors get a five minute “to go” blast from the air horn and then a final single blast signifying the end of the heat. The top four surfers in each heat advance to the semifinals. Top surfers there go on to the finals to compete for the trophy.

Judges propped on top of a 15 ft. high scaffolding, lacking the high tech computer scoring that the professional tour has, have to rely on spotters yelling out competitors’ jersey colors as they pop up between two loosely placed boundary flags. “Red up, Green up!” and so on…

Teams from as far as Southern California make the annual pilgrimage to surf in the Chill Out. And, as its name implies, fog, very cold water and air temps and marginal waves are usually the norm.

But not on this day: Indian summer indeed was in full effect. Sunshine, blue skies and warm air and fairly decent sized waves. Outside temps were fluctuating between the high sixties and low seventies at times and the water temp was a surprisingly warm (what we consider warm, that is) 62-64 degrees.

As the music played from the judges scaffolding and heat after heat rotated every fifteen minutes, the day was running well ahead of schedule. Throughout the event, boisterous local celebrity announcers called out highlights, heckled the crowd and competitors and pulled raffle tickets for some great, donated prizes including surfboards, wetsuits, artwork and more. All the proceeds of the day’s events were donated to Ride a Wave, a program that provides ocean experiences to children with special needs, the Surfrider Foundation, a coastal environmental activism organization, and the Pacifica Environmental Family, a local environment advocacy group.

One of this year’s highlights was “Rick’s Relay”, named after Rick Eastman, a Pacifica surf veteran. Teams of five or six surfers (co-ed) alternate in a twenty-minute heat. Sort of like a tag team wrestling match on the water. The judges blow the horn, the first members of each team sprints out to the lineup and catch one wave. They run back in, tag their teammate and they go catch a wave; a continuous rotation until time runs out.

Another highlight and surf genre quickly growing in popularity was the stand-up paddleboard surfing class. Last year, the event could barely field enough surfers to fill a heat. This year not only did they fill the heat sheet but such notables as Jeff Clark and Haley Fisk--both Mavericks big wave standouts--were on the roster.

Cochran tries to get everybody surfing at least twice during the day. So, even if you didn’t advance in your heat and weren’t part of the relay, there was a possibility that you’d be surfing in the infamous Salami heat. It’s a loser’s bracket vying for the honor of winning a 2-ft. long Salami.

Yes: real Salami.

As the event wrapped up on the beach, contest-goers migrated to the for the awards ceremony. Tons of stoke, great food and a recap of the day was the focus of the night. Awards were handed out, as were the best raffle prizes, including a couple of handmade longboards from Bob Pearson and other notable shapers.

Every year the event honors local surfers who contribute to surfing culture and beyond. This year was no different. The contest celebrated the lives of Sky Parker, Jim Franco and Lyle Johnson, Pedro Point Surf Club members and longtime Linda Mar surfers who recently passed away. Also honored was Sandy Alesna, who is struggling with a life-threatening illness.

As the champions of each division were announced, some of the biggest hoots went to the winner of the Men’s Division, Mike Forrest, Nephew of Lyle Johnson. Nearly thirty members of Johnson’s family were in attendance to watch his nephew compete and to honor his great spirit and stoke for surfing.

As for how I did in my heat, we’ll just say I did as good as I did last year…

See more photos from the contest and awards ceremony in Pacifica Patch's and check out a video from the event to the right.

To follow news about Pacifica and surrounding areas and stay up on local events, visit Pacifica Patch on Facebook and "like" us here. Follow us on Twitter here, too.

21st Annual Big Chill Out Results

September 17, 2011

For explanations of the different categories, see Pacifica Patch's of the contest.

Junior Women's

1.  Sonya Novak

2.  Michelle Simpson

3.  Amelia McDonald

4.  Rachel Graham

5.  Laura Labrador

6.  Kyla Kemp

Junior Men's

1.  Conrad Wallace

2.  Tyler Ornsby

3.  Colin Nalezny

4.  Brooks Livingston


1.  Asi Ghiassi

2.  Beth O’Rourke

3.  Cathy Meyerhofer

4.  Kristas Howell

5.  Stephanie Phillips

6.  Shawna Foster


1.  Mike Forrest

2.  Tyler Payne

3.  Zach Ehrlich

4.  Todd Johnson

5.  Pat Faughender

6.  Brandon Quilligan

Senior Men's

1.  Ryan Devine

2.  Tait Cowan

3.  Carl Olson

4.  Jason Foster

5.  Leo Goldman

6.  Lawton Smith

Women Masters'

1.  Karen Cochran

2.  Leah Conroy

3.  Lisa Ryner

4.  April Schneider

5.  Arlene Kato

6.  Barbara Ellis


1.  Kevin Rhodes

2.  Matt Micuda

3.  Steve Baker

4.  Jairo Oliveira

5.  Heart

6.  Tom O’Connor

Grand Masters'

1.  Jim Holt

2.  Norm Payne

3.  Shawn King

4.  Hide Minami

5.  Tim Cissna

6.  Robert Barnhill


1.  Joel Baldwin

2.  Dave Zarate

3.  Bill Newlin

4.  John Chiles

5.  Eddie Conroy

6.  Butch Colyear

Super Legends'

1.  Vince Pando

SUP (Stand-Up)

1.  Hide Minami

2.  Larry Bolander

3.  Gil Garcia

4.  Don Potter

5.  Ed Hayes

6.  Shawn King

Rick’s Relay

1.  Team Izzy - Joel Baldwin, Izzy Szczepaniak, Pat Faughender, Ryan Devine

2.  Team Kevin Rhodes

3.  Team John

4.  Team Heart

5.  Team Matt

6.  Team Greg Cochran


1.  Matt Hertzberg

2.  Izzy Szczepaniak

3.  Greg Cochran

4.  Whitney Brooks

5.  Julie Engelmann

6.  Jasmine Oneil-Martin

AJ Kalani December 23, 2012 at 09:28 PM
I had a geat day. I wish to win sum surfboards next Chillie Surf raffle


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