One weekend per year, the boys step aside, and surfer girls of all ages take center stage at the Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic. Open to newbies, amateurs, or professionals from around the globe, the annual classic returns August 11-13, 2017. Long-time Wahine Classic supporter Blockade Runner Beach Resort will serve as the host hotel.
“There are only a handful of surf competitions on the East Coast for ladies,” said Jo Pickett, event organizer, surf teacher, and former US National Shortboard Champion. “The Wahine Classic at Wrightsville Beach is recognized as one of the majors, in good company with Jacksonville, Florida, Folly Beach, and Virginia Beach.”
Along with new entries in 2017, Pickett expects most participants from last year to return. “Girls from Virginia to Florida make their way here to compete,” said Pickett. “They love this competition because they get to know each other and learn from each other in a supportive environment.”
2017 competition includes the Shortboard Divisions for guppies, girls, junior women, women, open, and pro; Longboard Divisions for girls, junior women, women, and pro; plus the Teenie Wahine, Tandem Longboard, and SUP Surf Divisions. Division winners will receive prizes contributed by local, national, and international businesses. A cash prize is provided in the Pro Divisions.
Activities begin on Friday, Aug. 11, with registration pickup and “a meet, greet, eat, and surf evening for competitors and their families at South End Surf Shop,” said Pickett. Saturday’s competition is scheduled from 8 AM until 4 PM. Sunday is slated from 8 AM until 3 PM followed by an awards ceremony on the beach. Online event registration will close at midnight on August 9.
Spectators are welcome. The best accesses to the beach are 37 and 38, or just a short walk on the beach from Blockade Runner.
“The mission of Wahine Classic is to empower girls of all ages, build their self-confidence and self-esteem, and to promote physical, mental, and emotional wellness,” said Pickett. “While having a fun weekend of learning, teaching, and friendly competition, the girls and ladies develop mutual trust and lasting friendships. We believe that time spent in the ocean has a positive impact on our lives.”
2017 Ambassadors for the Wahine Classic are Oak Island, NC native Swain Curtain, a UNCW student and Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) Surfer for the past four years; University of North Florida Student Kat Neff, a two-time East Coast Junior Women Longboard Champion and three-time ESA Regional Champ; and, Wilmington’s Leah Thompson, named the Carissa Moore Rookie of the Year in 2016, the 4th place winner in the NSSA Nationals in Huntington Beach, CA, and first-place winner in the under-18 ESA Mid-Atlantic Regionals.
ISA certified Bradley Rose and Steven Mangiacapre will serve as Head Judges, assisted by Judges Eric Knight, Jed Jeffries, Dylan Stone, and John Sideris.
“It is encouraging to see an increase in surfing and other watersports opportunities for ladies and girls,” said Mary Baggett, Wrightsville resident and co-owner of host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort. “With surfing as an Olympic sport starting in 2020, one day we hope to see our Wahine Classic girls on the podium wearing gold, silver, or bronze.”
“Last year we switched our awards to medals,” said Pickett, owner of Crystal South Surf Camp. “When I hung the medals around the younger’s girls necks I told them, “This is just like the Olympics because surfing is in the Olympics in 2020.” They all lit up. They just thought that was the coolest thing.”
Designated charities for the 2017 Wahine Classic include Roots to Recovery, an organization that supports women with children dealing with opioid and other addictions, and the Southern North Carolina District of the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA).
One week following the Wahine Classic, on Monday, Aug. 21, Surfers Healing returns to Wrightsville Beach. Surfers Healing was founded 20 years ago by professional surfer Izzy Paskowitz and his wife Danielle for their son Isaiah after he was diagnosed with autism. Paskowitz, whose son experienced the positive impact of surfing, now shares this unique therapy with other children diagnosed with autism. Wrightsville Beach is one of 21 locations on the 2017 tour from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and coast-to-coast in the Continental United States.