While the COVID wave has crashed and thrashed a lot of summer events, North Carolina’s Wahine Classic will resurface this weekend, August 15-16, with female surfers of all ages competing as amateurs, professionals and teenie-wahines. Event organizer Jo Pickett had to change the location of the competition this year because of pandemic. Normally hosted at Wrightsville Beach, town management couldn’t give the go-ahead for the classic’s proposed dates.
“I applied for a permit to hold Wahine at Carolina Beach and was immediately approved by the CB town manager,” Pickett says.
For the first time, Carolina Beach will host the 2020 Wahine Classic at the north end Carolina Beach Pier. The Southern North Carolina of Eastern Surfing Association already held three district contests this summer.
While the signup period remains open, Pickett says Wahine has about 65 contestants and 115 entries so far. Surfers can enter multiple categories, from shortboard to longboard, stand-up paddleboard to soft top, and across various age divisions (guppies, girls, junior women, women, professionals, and teenie-wahines).
“I think I will have more contestants than usual [this year],” Pickett notes. “I usually get a rush of entries at the very end of the signup period . . . People are eager to have a familiar social /competitive event, especially since we can do this safely. The fun factor is very high for this event.”
The Wahine Classic has welcomed “teenie wahines” as young as 3, up to women and professional surfers in their mid-60s. Among standouts this year is Callie Hertz (16) who has been surfing for four years. “Level-wise I’d say I’m an intermediate to advanced surfer,” she describes. Hertz began competing in Wahine three years ago and has since taken home three Wahine Classic titles, including Junior Women Shortboard, Girls Under 16 Shortboard and Junior Women Longboard in 2019. Attending 2020’s event is a welcomed sense of normality.
“I really look forward to the positive and encouraging vibes of the friendly competition at the contest,” she says. “The Wahine was my first surf contest, and if it wasn’t for the Wahine, I probably would not have had the confidence to try other surf events. I am very thankful to have a fun, all-girls surf event every year!”
Veteran surfers Trevor Francis and Jesse Heter are among the judges. They will score based on ESA competition rules; each heat will last 15 minutes. Two out of four surfers fro each heat advance to 20-minute finals (pro heats are 30 minutes).
“Surfers are judged on critical maneuvers performed on the best waves in a heat with emphasis on speed, power and flow while executing these maneuvers,” Pickett explains.
After being a gymnast for nine years, Hertz is equipped for the physical challenge of the sport, especially the advanced turns. She’s still working on consistently landing them for this year’s Wahine. “I’d like to start connecting more than two turns on one wave,” she notes. “As far as strategies, I’d say confidence in landing turns and staying positive when I’m not progressing how I’d like.”
While she embraces the challenge of surfing, Hertz also appreciates the peacefulness that inherently comes with it. The whole process is cleansing.
“I love how being in the ocean washes away all the problems going on in the world,” she explains, “which is especially important right now. . . . You sit out in the lineup where it is calm and no waves break, then you see a set start rolling in and you feel a rush of excitement. You make a decision on what wave you want and you start paddling for it. You pop up and the rest is up to you. Every surf session and every wave is different. It is truly an amazing sport.”
Other young standouts include Lucy Fergusson (16), Gabby Viorel (17), Kylee Heath (12), and Bella Faircloth (12). Prizes will be given across multiple divisions, as contributed by local, national and international businesses. There are cash prizes in pro divisions, and any participant can apply to win a one-week surf trip to Costa Rica (airfare not included), courtesy of Pickett and Crystal South Surf Community.
“I have received several wonderful letters from girls ages 12 and up, and am looking forward to offering the Costa Rica trip to those chosen,” Pickett shares. “Girls younger than 15 will be accompanied by a parent or guardian.”
In order to keep physically distant and ensure sanitation practices are followed, families and spectators are asked to stay in their “social bubbles” during the Wahine Classic. Competitors will receive a Wahine mask to wear when approaching the administration tent or other areas outside each contestant’s social bubble.