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September 16, 2013

2013 WILDCOAST Dempsey Pro Am: Conservation, Community, and Pro Surfing

By Zach Plopper
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Ask most Southern Californians what they know about Imperial Beach and you will receive only marginally informed answers. It is, in fact, the southwestern-most city in the continental United States. It is closer to downtown Tijuana than downtown San Diego. And it is just north of the mouth of the infamous Tijuana River. Some may also mention that it is one of the lower income coastal communities in California. That is usually the extent of a largely accurate answer.

But just like media-marred Baja California, there are positive stories coming out of San Diego’s Southland. The Tijuana River Valley is the last intact coastal wetland in Southern California and one of San Diego’s most important ecological resources. Four square miles of the watershed are protected through a federal reserve. WILDCOAST, a bi-national conservation organization that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife, along with partner groups and volunteers, remove over 60,000 pounds of trash from the river valley annually. Just offshore, the legendary Tijuana Sloughs and its breeding leopard sharks, resident dolphins and feeding osprey, are encompassed by the Tijuana River Mouth Marine Protected Area.

Although these conservation achievements ultimately lead to the ecological maintenance of the area’s incredible waves, a more surf-oriented victory for Imperial Beach is the return of professional surfing to IB Pier. Slater, Machado, Dorian, TK and Pat O earned their keep on the World Championship Tour through the legendary Bud Tour during California’s pro surfing heyday, and IB was a fundamental stop. Unfortunately, the Bud Tour faded from the Momentum generation’s travel agenda long before the current realization that there are only two ASP events in the state of California and only a handful of prize money contests.

This competitive void, one that may be responsible for the fact that there are only two Californians on the World Tour, led WILDCOAST to incorporate for the first time a pro component to its annual Dempsey Holder Memorial Surf Contest. Ten years running, the event, this year titled the WILDCOAST Dempsey Pro-Am, is in memory of one of California’s most iconic watermen, Dempsey Holder, who pioneered the Sloughs with Pat Curren, Whitey Harrison and Peter Cole in the 40’s and 50’s. The ancient cobble reef became Southern California’s premiere big wave spot and a crucial training ground for those en route to the North Shore. Like the Bud Tour and Dempsey days, IB once again will play a role in the advancement of exciting surfing.

Pro surfing aside, the Dempsey will continue as the largest surf contest in South San Diego County with over 200 competitors including grommets and geezers, girls and guys, long and short, knees and boogie. Money raised through the Dempsey Scholarship Fund ensures that all kids in need can enter the event at no cost. Many South San Diego youth have grown up through the Dempsey, becoming active WILDCOAST volunteers, expert surfers and college grads. This year’s event will also feature a paddle race in celebration of the newly established Tijuana River Mouth Marine Protected Area.

Community, great surfing and environmental protection all come together on September 28 and 29. Spaces are still available in all divisions and donations are very much appreciated through the Dempsey Scholarship Fund. Come down, participate, spectate or support the cause and be a part of positive progress on the continents southernmost corner at the 10th Annual WILDCOAST Dempsey Pro Am.

Original article from The Inertia.