History of a Surf Contest


Nineteen years ago, while working at Maui and Sons, Rich Richardson decided to put together a small surf contest in Newport Beach, CA and appointed Darren Brilhart, a.k.a. Brillo, contest director. Almost 20 years later, Brillo is still organizing one of the most popular local surf events in California.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch the event grow and evolve for almost twenty years,” says Brillo, who grew up in Newport and now runs an events company from his home in Huntington Beach.

As an ASP 2-star WQS event, the Oakley Newport Beach Pro draws some of the best surfers in the world. But, its roots as the Newport Beach Surf Championships run deep, and the highly anticipated rec division serves as the year’s best opportunity for 144 local shredders to show off in their own backyard, including Oakley’s Surf Marketing Manager Ronnie Nelson, who has won Masters division two years running.

“This contest is different from all the others in Newport,” says Nelson. “The event has such deep roots with Brillo organizing and running the event over the years.”

In 1994, the Newport Beach Pro put itself on the WQS schedule and added a pro division. Since then it’s alternated throughout the years between a QS and a Pro/Am event, save 2001, when it was made into a 4-star event and Andy Irons and Taj Burrows took first and second, respectively. Past competitors include Shane Powell, Kelly Slater, Pat O’Connell, Tyler Knox, Tom Carol and Rob Machado.

“Last year’s race heated up significantly at the Oakley Newport Pro when Nate Yeomans clenched a victory over then point’s leader Dustin Cuizon,” says Nelson. “Although the win didn’t give him the Trifecta Surf Series points lead going into the third and final stop, it gave him the fodder to pull off the win in the end with his strong finish in Santa Cruz. With Macys providing over $30K in cash and Jeep supplying a new car to the winner of the Trifecta Series, Newport is a pivotal stop of the three event series.”

Held in conjunction with the Oakley Newport Beach Pro, the Oakley Pro Junior will attract 48 of the world’s best young surfers competing for $10,000 and points to qualify for the annual Billabong ASP World Junior Championships.

“The very first year we had elementary divisions,” says Brillo. “Anthony Petruso was ten years old. He was the only competitor in that division—he won the event and has been surfing the event ever since. Today the contest is the premiere event for juniors.”

Known as one of the more fickle breaks in Southern California, Newport requires a variety of factors to line up for good conditions.

“The swell direction, the tides, the wind—it all plays a major role,” says Darren. “The last few years it’s all come together. It’s been as good as it gets as far as Newport goes. We’ve had incredible surf. It’s a six-day event, so we’re guaranteed to get a couple bad days, but hopefully we’ll have more of the good.”

Oakley Newport Beach Pro presented by Jeep® will hit Newport’s famed 56th Street Break and go live to the world via webcast (www.NewportBeachPro.com) September 18-23, 2007.


Tess Weaver


September 05, 2007