‘The competition is pretty high’: Surfers 40 and older showcase their skills at Linda Mar Beach  

The 23rd annual Kahuna Kupuna surfing contest took place in Pacifica Saturday, giving a chance for veteran surfers to showcase their skills. 

More than 70 surfers gathered at Linda Mar Beach to compete in an event that organizers say is the only amateur surf contest in the world specifically designed for surfers over the age of 40.

"I’d go to a lot of surfing competitions in the ‘80s and ’90s" said Roy Earnest, the contest’s creator. "I noticed the older divisions were named the ‘geezer division’ and the ‘old fart division.’ I decided I wanted to create a contest that respected older surfers."

The name Kahuna Kupuna comes from Hawaiian, meaning roughly "Big Chief, Wise Elder." The event has been taking place since 1999, missing only one year in 2020 because of the pandemic. It acts as both a competition and benefit event for Pacifica’s Environmental Family, a nonprofit that works to discover and care for natural resources on the coast. 

"This is my first time competing," said surfer Steve Heimuli. "I’m in my 50s. I’m not sure how I’d do, but I’ve always been drawn to the ocean. I’m in the 50-55 category. It should be fun."

The surfers are split up into specific subdivisions depending on their age. They are then allowed to choose to surf for the longboard or shortboard subdivision in their age group. 

"It’s just a great day to be out here," said surfer Eric Beckmann. "I’m in my 60s. This offers us a little bit of competition and a chance to be out here in our community."

Surfers like Beckman compete in heats with up to six other surfers in seven total heats. Each heat takes about 15 minutes during which surfers tried to catch four waves to demonstrate skills. 

"My goal is to get all four waves," said 61-year-old Kerri Gardner. "Now, how I’ll do, that’s another story. But seriously, this is just great to see people in their 60s and 70s standing on boards and surfing."

Organizers told KTVU the goal of the contest is to encourage older surfers to continue their passion, promote healthy aging, and foster an "aging friendly" community.

Organizers emphasized that the event was welcoming to everyone no matter their surfing ability or to which surf break one is loyal. 

"I’m considered a junior," said 41-year-old Nick Plurkowski. "I’ll take it! There are some seasoned veterans out here and just watching them, seeing a lot of fancy footwork and stuff, this competition is pretty high."