No Contest

Wayne Lynch, Bells, 1968. Photo: Jill Blunk
Wayne Lynch, 1968. Photo: John Witzig
Miki Dora, 1967 Malibu Invitational. Photo: CR Stecyk
Bill Hamilton, Sunset, 1973

Modern surfing had long ago developed a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward competition, a legacy that began with Duke Kahanamoku and continued unchanged with Tom Blake and Phil Edwards. During the shortboard revolution, however, many came to regard competition as the very antithesis of surfing—and few were harder on it than new SURFER editor Drew Kampion. Most contests, he wrote, were “asinine displays,” with judging criteria so meaningless that the winner of any given heat “could just as we...

At times it seemed like surf competition existed just to give the sport’s groovier-than-thou tastemakers something to rail against and make fun of. “Contest clown” was the popular new insult, and a contest montage in a popular surf movie was set to circus music.