There were more clowns in the water than normalSaturday morning over at Sunset, a popular spot for beginner surfers where Sunset Boulevard ends at Pacific Coast Highway. There were clowns, a couple of Vikings, Santa Claus, Madame Butterfly, Silver Surfer and a superhero or two, the evil nurse from Kill Bill, the Grand Poobah and about 80 other surfers in costume celebrating the Fifth Annual Doo Dah Surf Day.
“Back in the spring of 2002,” reads the explanation of the event’s origins, undoubtedly inspired by Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade, on the Web site www.doodahsurf.com, “after a day of frustration at local breaks known for aggro-vibes and hostility, four local surfers decided the best way to get surfing back to its pure and fun origins was to go the extreme of laughing at ourselves.”
This year’s buffoonery started early, with costumed surfers arriving as early as 6:30 a.m. to fuel up on Kurt’s Famous Chili while a ukulele band played and everyone checked out each other’s getups, everything from nuns to businessmen to bumblebees.
They say that the definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but doesn’t — Walter Gorey played the pipes anyway and led a procession of Doo Dah surfers down to the water for a 7:30 a.m. paddle-out.
For the next two and a half hours, the normally placid lineup at Sunset was a riot of costumed surfers taking off on each other (politely), cheering each other on, laughing and crashing into each other, trying to keep their costumes from disintegrating in the sand and the surf.
“We really wanted to see Tiki-Tony take off in his lawn chair on a wave,” said Nick Tarlov about the surfer who had mounted an AstroTurf putting green on his board. “It is incredible that he could navigate that seagoing golf course at all.”
Just up the coast, the annual Malibu Boardriders Club Call to the Wall had more than 300 competitors scratching around in one-foot waves. Sunset actually had a couple of waist-high waves, and the number of participants was solid: “Someone counted about 80 people in the water,” said event organizer Michael “Tupper” Uhlenkott. “With the nonsurfer participants, I imagine there were about 140 all together. Last year we had a swell with bigger waves, and the numbers were more, around 200 or so.”
There was no entry fee for the Doo Dah Surf, but the sale of $2 raffle tickets raised around $500, which went to the Malibu Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. At 10 a.m., Santa Claus, the evil nurse, several Vikings, a masked Mexican wrestler and a guy dressed as an oil slick came out of the water to check on their raffle tickets and try their luck in the costume contest.
The celebrity panel of judges included SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, author and performer Charles Phoenix and KPCC’s Off-Ramp host John Rabe.
First prize, “the DooDahsomest,” was awarded to longtime Sunset local Steve McCambridge, who patched together a wetsuit and painted it into a getup that could only be called the Wetsuit of Many Colors.
“My three Neo-Pop neopreneoutfits were made from scraps stolen out of the Body Glove dumpster at their old location in Hermosa,” McCambridge said. “One of my comic suits, with the shark drawing on my right chest, can be seen briefly in the 1990 movie Men at Work where Charlie Sheen plays a garbage man who wants to surf. The Body Glove family members and I met at their Dive ’N Surf store, and Mr. Ron Meistrell autographed my 1990 suit made of his stuff. He also gave me permission to go to his new factory location to get more, newer-tech wetsuit scraps.”
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McCambridge was feeling emotional over his victory since his dad, who taught him to surf, had died recently. He also has a strong connection to this stretch of beach.
“I’ve surfed Sunsetfor 16 years, and on February 2, 1995,” he said, “I rode my personal largest wave there, about a 23-foot face. I also had my 1981 Honda Accord stolen while surfing there on a sunny Sunday afternoon in March of 1996.”
The “DooDud” award for worst costume went to a guy dressed as an oil slick. He turned out to be a neurology resident who, like McCambridge, learned to surf in Massachusetts.
“The idea for the costume hit me like a bolt of lightning,” Tarlov said. “I wanted to be as shocking as I could. The plastic tablecloth that makes up the oil sludge comes from Party City. All the plastic animals that are caught in the oil slick come from a 99-cent store. Unfortunately, I could not find any endangered species, except a plastic great white shark, to put in the sludge. I would have been willing to use a piece of road kill or a dead seagull to make the oil sludge more realistic. It also occurred to me that instead of dressing up as an oil spill, I could actually be an oil spill if I carried some gas cans and dumped motor oil or gasoline in the water. But the Surfrider Foundation probably wouldn’t like that.”