Long Beach resident TJ Gumiela has been riding the waves for 14 years, but never before has he been involved in a surfing event like the one that is headed to his hometown in September.
The city’s surfing enthusiasts such as Gumiela have reason to celebrate, as the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour will hold a competition, called the Quiksilver Pro New York. It will take place Sept. 4 to Sept. 15 and feature the world’s best surfers competing for $1 million in prize money. Long Beach is the first East Coast town to hold the event, and the sixth stop on the tour.
“It’s pretty much the best surfers in the world coming to our home base,” said Gumiela, who will compete in the surfing trials of the competition.
He said he’s excited that he will compete against the top surfers in the world.
“My whole life I’ve been waiting for this,” said the 20-year-old lifelong Long Beach resident. “This has been my dream — to be on the world tour with the best surfers — since I was 12 years old.”
Gumiela said that the prize money is the most offered ever in a surfing contest, and he anticipates a large showing of surfers and fans.
“It’s going to be nuts,” he said. “They’re coming to my home base so that we could show them how we surf.”
Dave Juan, owner of Unsound Surf, at 359 East Park Ave., a sponsor of the surfing competition’s trials, said even though the contest is about seven months away, it is already creating a tremendous buzz in the neighborhood.
“I think it will be a much-needed boost for everybody,” said Juan. “We’re going to have lots of good things going on around the whole town. This is a great opportunity for the locals and everyone who loves surfing.”
He explained that two separate trials would each see 24 surfers competing against one another, with the winners being invited to go up against 34 of the top surfers in the world. The first-place finisher will win $300,000, second place $100,000 and third place $50,000.
Luke Hamlet, owner of Long Beach Surf shop, at 70 West Park Ave., said the competition should give local business a tremendous lift.
“Oh for sure it’s a boost for the area,” said Hamlet. “The restaurants will be packed every night. People will come from throughout the East Coast, Manhattan and probably California, just to see it. They will have to find some place to stay.
“It will extend the [beach] season a little. Usually, they hold it in Hawaii, the south of France or Australia.
“This is big,” added Hamlet. “I think it’s just great. They’re like putting a $1 million prize out there.”
John Specter of Long Beach, who considers himself a causal surfer, said he is cancelling all of his personal events so that he could watch the competition.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Specter, a photographer and guidance counselor at Lynbrook High School. “It’s going to be incredible to see [surfers] out there in Long Beach who you see on TV.”
He said Long Beach would be even more alive with the huge crowds expected to arrive for the contest. In addition, during the 12 days, there will be music, arts and skateboarding exhibitions.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Spector, who has been surfing for six years. “I can’t even imagine what it will be like in Long Beach. It’s going to be packed. Everybody is already talking about it. Hopefully we will get good waves.”
City Council President Thomas Sofield, Jr. said he is thrilled that Quiksilver Pro New York has chosen Long Beach as one of the venues on the world tour.
“These professional surfers will see first-hand what the local surf community gets to appreciate every day — our beautiful white sandy beaches and some of the best waves around,” he said.
The 12-day period in September is one of the best for sizable surf in Long Beach, according to Surfline.com, which completed an independent 15-year wave study for just this purpose. September also averages 3-plus hurricane swells, typically with at least one three-to-four-day swell.
“This was a very fascinating study,” said Sean Collins, chief forecaster and president of Surfline.com. “The surf climate in Western Long Island is greatly affected by the underwater Hudson Canyon offshore, which can turn average surf into very high quality surf comparable to many of the best surf spots in the world on the right day. We are also in a La Nina year, so we expect the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season to be a little more active and hopefully we can score great surf with the world’s top surfers in one of the best cities in the world.”
The competition dates will include the Quiksilver Pro Trials presented by Unsound Surf, in Long Beach on Sept. 3. This will be followed by the Quiksilver Pro New York WT competition window, set for Sept. 4-15.