Pacific Beach Surf Club members ride the waves for fun and philanthropy
Club’s initial run was 1956-1963; been going strong since reorganizing in 1994
Surfing is a sport that is almost synonymous with San Diego and the “spirit of aloha,” which promotes the expression of good feelings unto others.
This ideology and identity is encapsulated by the humble Pacific Beach Surf Club, host of last month’s Tourmaline Longboard Classic surf competition.
Club President Ron Greene said he has been surfing since the 1960s, and was previously a member of the Windansea Surf Club.
In 1994, he found himself next to local surfer Glenn Paculba on a flight back from a surfing trip to Fiji. They spoke about the first iteration of the PB Surf Club, which was founded by locals Bobby “Challenger” Thomas and Skip Frye out of Mission Bay High School in 1956. The club went dormant in 1963.
“I asked him, ‘what are you gonna do when you get back to San Diego?’” Greene recalled from their conversation. “He said “You know, I’m going to get back and I’m going to start up the Pacific Beach Surf Club again.’ And I liked Glenn so much, he was one of those people you gravitate towards, so I said ‘I will leave Windansea and start this club with you.’”
Since the club’s rebirth in 1994, Greene has been a competitor and a team captain, and as of five years ago, the club president.
The PB Surf Club is part of the Coalition of Surfing Clubs, meaning its members are able to participate in exclusive competitions along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Through the club and competitions, members are afforded a way to connect with the local community as well as a broader community of surfers around the world.
“We keep it open to everybody,” said club Secretary Vince Bodie. “We get a lot of requests from people who are new to San Diego or new to surfing. And through us people find an avenue to either become a better surfer or to get involved with contests and competitions.”
The Pacific Beach Surf Club is more than just a group of surfers. The nonprofit participates in charitable works and beach cleanups, promoting the idea of “aloha” among its members. Bodie said the organization has two areas of focus.
“We host two contests a year, and we participate in a number of contests up and down the coast with the Coalition series,” Bodie said. “The other side of it is public service and non-surfing related events like holiday parties and taking part in the PB Christmas parade every year.”
Roxy Gunther, one of the newer members, was living in Arizona for 25 years and had no experience in surfing beyond an occasional vacation to the ocean. When she transferred to San Diego for work, she took it upon herself to take up the sport.
“I took a few lessons and looked up some tutorials on YouTube, but I really wanted to be a part of the community,” Gunther said. “I tried out a couple other surf clubs, but when I went to Pacific Beach Surf Club it was very welcoming and open. They were stoked that somebody new wanted to come in and join. I was listening in on what they did and they’re such a big part of the community. That was when I knew it was the right fit for me.”
Gunther has been a member for almost a year and helped organize sponsors for this year’s Longboard Classic.
Greene reaffirmed the idea of giving back as part of the club’s operations.
“We’re just a little, tiny, nonprofit surf club,” he said humbly. “We try to make a difference by raising money and giving it away. We’ve done beach cleanups, surfing and judging clinics. We’ve tried to get the community to see us in a good light and we knock on doors and have people sponsor our events.”
With money raised from previous events, the club donated to the Mission Bay High School surf team and offered a scholarship for one of its senior athletes. The club has also assisted the Pacific Beach Middle School orchestra music program and helped Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina with his WildCoast conservation effort.
The 22nd annual Tourmaline Longboard Classic saw nearly 100 competitors take to the water on June 4, ranging in age from 5 to 75. With their entry, participants were given a commemorative T-shirt, lunch and wax for their boards. The club raffled off two surfboards and entertained attendees with vintage vinyl spun from the inside of a Volkswagen van.
“Our events are very popular,” Bodie said. “Having that concentrated event at Tourmaline, it creates an atmosphere that is unique to our events.”
Treasurer Kris Volk said the club expects to pull about $4,000 in revenue from the event after expenses are paid.
“We haven’t had this particular contest in two years, so there was a lot of anticipation and excitement for people to come out and have fun,” Volk said. “It’s a friendly competition open to everybody that wants to participate.”
Greene said due to club members’ efforts they were able to amass more sponsors for the Longboard Classic than they had in the club’s history.
“It’s a huge effort to put this event on,” Greene said. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers. Roxy Gunther, one of our newest members, she brought in a plethora of new sponsors, something like 35 or 40 of them, which I think is our most, ever.”
Greene said hosting the open competition gives members of the surf community exposure to a more competitive aspect of the sport, another prong of the club’s identity.
Amy Lepine, a club member and former board member, said she has been surfing for nearly 40 years, but got involved with the surf club about 10 years ago because she wanted to compete. She said the involvement with a formal club gives her a more unfettered access to choice waves.
“It’s so crowded right now, it’s hard to keep the stoke for new surfers,” Lepine said. “There’s so many people in the water, that if you’re not an aggressive surfer, it’s really hard to catch a wave. Being in these contests allowed me to have a fighting chance, when it’s just me and five other women in my heat.
“Being a club member opens up so many doors,” Lepine added. “You can’t compete in a lot of these tournaments unless you’re on a team, and there is such a camaraderie that comes with it all.”
Through the surf club and the Coalition, Lepine said she was able to make friends all over.
“I’ve met up with surfers in Hawaii, traveled the world,” Lepine said. “I have a friend up in Santa Cruz who is coming down for the Oceanside contests in the fall. You get to connect on a deeper level, build out a tribe. Everyone opens their homes to each other. I don’t know that many sports that offer that opportunity like surfing does.”
Bodie echoed this sentiment, citing the larger number of people who participate in Coalition events.
“You get a chance to meet people from all over the coast, from all the way up in Northern California and as far down as Baja or even from Hawaii,” Bodie said. “It’s a great way to network with other surfers and meet new people.”
The surf club is still deciding on a benefactor for money raised last month. The PB Surf Club is looking to host another beach cleanup in the coming months, and all are welcome to participate. Its next event, a coalition exclusive, is slated for Aug. 13 in Oceanside.
To learn more about the Pacific Beach Surf Club, its events and meetings, visit PacificBeachSurfClub.com.