With a record-breaking 200 contestants and a non-stop 2-3’ pumping southwest swell at the Imperial Beach Pier, the 16th Annual Dempsey Holder Ocean Festival and Surf was “a tremendous success,” relayed WILDCOAST Conservation Director Zach Plopper.
“The surf really came through all day with pulsing southern hemi sets for just about every heat,” according to Plopper. “Considering that we had to postpone the event from September 28, due to bad water quality conditions, we were super stoked that this year’s Dempsey was the biggest ever.” Surfers from around the world enjoyed the classic fall conditions on the north side of the Imperial Beach Pier including a record 23 competitors in the Kneeboard Division.
“The stoke level was super high and it was amazing to have over a hundred participants rally for clean water during the event,” said Plopper. “In addition to the surfing, the goal of the Dempsey is to highlight the need to keep our beaches clean on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.”
All of the proceeds from the event support the efforts of WILDCOAST to protect the most beautiful, iconic and ecologically important coastal and marine ecosystems in California and Mexico.
The family-friendly Dempsey Ocean Festival and Surf Contest is the border region’s largest and longest running surf event, with divisions for all ages, levels, and approaches to wave riding. It is inspired by the legendary Dempsey Holder, one of California’s most iconic watermen who helped pioneer big wave surfing at the infamous Sloughs Reef, now called the Tijuana River Mouth Marine Protected Area.
This year’s performance highlights included Jr. Women’s winner Makayla Moss, Kneeboard winner Chris Beresford, Boys’ winner Trevor Rector, Kahuna winner Jeff Knox, Grandmaster winner Mike Gillard, Bodyboard winner Miguel Torres, Longboard winner Mike Gillard, Menehune Boys’ winner James Fowler, Masters’ winner Paul Pugliesi, Men’s winner Jay Christianson, Jr. Men’s winner Jack Stewart, Women’s winner Tiare Thompson, and Menehune Girls’ winner Maria Jose Ramirez.
The 2019 Dempsey launched the Baja Bound Surf Series, a binational surf contest series that includes two additional events at Baja’s famed surf spot San Miguel. The events in Baja include the Walter Coloca Invitational in December 2019, as well as the Baja Surf Club Invitational in January 2020. “We are excited about the next round of competitions in the Baja Bound Series,” said Alfredo Ramirez of United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO), who is helping to coordinate the world’s only binational surf contest series.
Thanks to WILDCOAST’s continued partnership with the United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO), surfers from Baja California and throughout Latin America were well represented at the Dempsey, making it a truly international event.
This year’s event is supported by the Port of San Diego and the County of San Diego (via Supervisor Greg Cox), Baja Bound, South Bay Urgent Care, Pizza Port, Emerald City Surf Shop, Yoga With Shawna, IB Pet, Bold Brew, San Diego Seals Lacrosse, and other local sponsors.
The event would not have been possible without the generous in-kind donations from Pyzel Surfboards, Jetty Clothing, Wipeout Coffee, The Nomadik, Active Skin Repair, Air and Surf Cafe, Guahan Grill, Novak Surfboard Designs, Legalault Traction, Billabong, Patagonia Cardiff, Bocario, San Diego Yoga Festival, Latinos Unidos, Viva La Vacay, Picture Organic Clothing, Raw Elements, Bing Surfboards, CaliBaja, Epic Tide, Carve Visionaries, Hakuna Wear, Empulse Clothing, Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, and Bluewater Grill.