WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH —- Girls will take center stage during the Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic, the popular surf event scheduled for Aug. 19-21. Girls ranging from toddlers to more than 65 years of age will ride the clear, Bimini-blue waves for which this southeastern Atlantic surfing hotspot is known.
The Wahine Classic is one of only a handful of women’s surfing events on the East Coast.
“Girls from Virginia to Florida make their way here to compete,” said Jo Pickett, female surfing legend and tournament organizer. “They love this competition because they get to know each other and learn from each other in a supportive environment.”
On Friday, Aug.19, attendees under 18 can participate in clinics to learn about contest strategy and wave selection.
“These surfers are young, might just be getting started, and need some pointers,” Pickett said.
Packet pickup on Friday is at South End Surf Shop on Wrightsville Beach. Long-time Wahine Classic supporter Blockade Runner Beach Resort will serve as the host hotel.
Surfers may compete in a variety of divisions. The professional shortboard and longboard divisions will each offer a $1,000 purse split between the top four finishers for each board class. Cash purse sponsors are Marine Warehouse and the Crystal South Surf Community.
Amateur longboard and shortboard divisions are divided into age groups, as specified by Surfing America. The standup paddleboard surfing division is open to Wahines of all ages. Winners will receive prizes contributed by local, national, and international businesses.
Judges certified by the International Surfing Association will score the event.
The Teeny Wahine Division, open to surfers ages 10 and under, is the highlight of the weekend for spectators.
“We run it like a real division and put a jersey on each competitor,” Pickett said. “A parent or adult assists each child. Every competitor in the division gets an award and T-shirt.”
Wahine surfing events in Wrightsville Beach started in 1997 and continued through 2011. After a one-year hiatus, the ladies-only surfing competition returned due to widespread demand and support from surfing enthusiasts and the community.
“The girls missed the contest when it didn’t run,” Pickett said. “They always say it is the most fun they have all summer.”
This will mark the fourth year Pickett, owner of Crystal South Surf Camp, has been organizing the event.
“It’s encouraging to see an increase in girl’s and women’s participation in surfing, standup paddleboard, and other watersports,” said Mary Baggett, Wrightsville resident, and co-owner of Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
Pickett said the contest provides a festival-like atmosphere with displays and booths of interest to Wahines and the watersports community. Wrightsville Beach Public Accesses 37 and 38 are the best places for spectators to set up camp and browse vendor tents. Pickett expects around 100 competitors.