40 Years of the Rincon Classic Surf Contest

The Original Santa Barbara Surf Contest

The first Rincon Classic Surf Contest took place in the winter of 1979, founded by Roger Nance and Jeff White, owner of the original Surf n’ Wear surf shops in Santa Barbara. It is the first Santa Barbara Surf Contest in local surfing history. The first year’s contest cost $3 to enter, and featured 25 contestants. 

Rincon Classic t-shirt 1989

For four decades, this grassroots event has brought together surfers from around the world to ride the perfect, long right-handers that make Rincon Point one of the most sought-after waves on the planet. 

From humble beginnings, the Rincon Classic grew into a globally recognized event, attracting some of the biggest names in the sport and showcasing some of the most progressive surfing around, riding the waves of the surf innovations that put Santa Barbara on the map of global surfing in the 1980’s.

Rincon Classic Awards Ceremony 1980s

In the earliest years of the contest, surfers competing included Rincon locals at that time Josh Klein, Tim Smalley, Josh Brolin, Sean and Barrett Murphy, Davey Smith, Dana McCorkle, as a well as a bunch of groms the likes of Chris Brown, Bobby Goodman, Greg Venable, John Pyzel, and Gabe Navoa.

Local Santa Barbara pro surfing legends such as Tom Curren, Kim Mearig, Davey Smith, Bobby Martinez, Chris Brown, and Dane Reynolds competed regularly over the years. During 1988-90, the contest was televised, produced and announced by Gotcha owner Michael Thompson.

Rincon Classic Poster

In recent years, up and coming pro surfer competitors included Lakey Peterson, Conner and Parker Coffin, Demi Boelsterli, and Kilian Garland.

Rincon Classic t-shirt 1987

The Surf n’ Wear crew operated the Rincon Classic from 1979 to 1996. Organizers published a 6-week window every winter for the contest. Legendary local surf forecaster Rea Strange would call the day for the event based on conditions. After a 5-year hiatus from 1996-2001, Chris Keet of Surf Happens surf school resumed the contest and has operated it ever since.

Strange's advancements is surf forecasting resulted in some memorable calls for the contest. He was known to have the ability to predict a change in surf conditions down to the hour. Strange called the event for 17 years from 1979-1996 and again for 6 years during 2001-2006.

Rincon Classic Judge's Stand

The contest features various categories, including Open Men's, Open Women's, Juniors, and Masters. The level of surfing is world-class, while at the same time open to all. The competition definitely takes center stage, but at the end of the day the Rincon Classic is a cherished a local community celebration of homegrown Santa Barbara surf culture, topped off by a beloved award ceremony at various local Carpinteria venues.

Rincon Classic Awards Ceremony Carpinteria
The ultimate enduring legacy of the Rincon Classic is its connection to the community. This is a surf contest that is run by surfers, for surfers, and the passion and dedication of the volunteers who organize the event are palpable.

Rincon Classic t-shirt sustainable

As you watch the competitors paddle out into the waves, you can feel the energy of the event. The competition is fierce, and the camaraderie among the surfers is strong. This is sports at its finest.

Over the years, the Rincon Classic has become more than just a surf contest. It's a celebration of surf culture and the connection between surfers and the ocean at one of nature’s greatest gifts to Santa Barbara surfing history, Rincon Point, the Queen of the Coast.