Photography by Jeremiah Klein, JP Van Swae and Paul and Jason Naude
A pandemic-induced hiccup in the space-time continuum has held back the Vissla Cosmic Creek Surf Festival for the past two years. But the wait was certainly worth it as a southern swell lit up Dana Point this weekend just in time for the return of America’s most vibrant surf experience.
“Everything fell into place: the beach, the waves, everything,” explains Eric Diamond. “The artwork and beach layout was a collaboration between me and Curly. We anchored floating planets beyond the range, so you were surfing through the solar system.
“It was six foot Creek the whole time, there wasn’t a single heat that had a lull!” marveled Diamond, Captain Trips of Cosmic Creek. “It was like a saddleback eventing in 1978 against Boothy.”
The third act to play on Saturday afternoon, Widowspeak offers soulful and groovy jams. Earlier in the day, artists Vaguess and Toner took the stage, bringing a festival vibe to the event. Music played into the sunset.
Part surf contest, part surfboard celebration, Cosmic Creek has been keeping things very groovy for 24 years now. On the eve of its silver anniversary, much like surfing, the vibes were on the rise. The unique Creators & Innovators division, which saw surfers/shapers assemble their own handmade crafts, brought out the best in legends – from Tyler Warren on his Lily-inspired fish to Paul Naude on his green tailed machine. MR twin-fin bat.
A lapel hammer similar to a meteor shower from Creators & Innovators division winner Tyler Warren. “We had more shapers than pros,” Diamond jokes. “It really has become the who’s who of shaper/surfer events.” Warren also finished 6th in the Pro Division, riding a Lis-style goldfish.
Besides the self-formed Creators & Innovators boards, other surfers jumped between single-fin or double-fin designs, depending on how hot they were. There were divisions for everyone – from groms to girls to salty pros, former astronauts. And for those who weren’t keen on donning a swimsuit, the midday Bodysurfing expression session sponsored by DaFin was a veritable free-for-all in surfing.
In the Sistr Revolution division, Dana Point soul rebel Lulu Erkeneff led the charge on a T&C Kealoha twin-fin shape model by master craftsman Craig Sugihara. She put all her local knowledge and classic style to good use, winning top honors.
And to add to the fun in the water, the waves buzzed Saturday afternoon with live music from the Waves, Toner and Widowspeak, which tuned into Bluff Park overlooking Salt Creek.
“It was one for the books,” Diamond surmised. “I know we say this every few years, but come on. It was special.
Top row: Ashton Pickle, Dave Boehne, Noa Mizuno, Cliff Kapono Bottom row: Chris Ward, Ryan Daley, Cole Houshmand, Paul Naude
Read more: Misfit Surfboard Island
The Vissla Cosmic Creek is especially special for surfboard enthusiasts. From single blades to double skegs, it’s all about tapping into that classic feel. Noa Mizuno came from the South Shore and ripped the whole event to a Dick Brewer form. Positive Vibe Warrior Frankie D’Andrea, counting the flippers. A meeting of the minds: Cliff Kapono and Josh Sleigh talk about surfboards.
With plenty of southern swell, surfers had a chance to see what their boards could really do at high speeds.
View: Salt Creek Camera
The Electric Shrine raises the temperature in the midday sun. “We always have bright young musicians on the beach during the day,” Diamond says. “They play right in front of the shaping bay on the beach.
Local Dana Point ripper Hans Homan, halfway between Jupiter and Mars on a Dick Brewer round-spindle single-fin.
Scenes from the Cosmic. Monofins, one-feathered birds and aquatic life. “That’s all I was trying to achieve,” Diamond beams. “String theory, flutter and no straight lines. There are no straight lines in space.
Top: Paul Cernich, Patty O’Conner, Kolton Sullivan and his friend, Josiah Amico Bottom: Max Beach, Jabe-Swierkocki, Chris Ward, Cosmic Gremmie
Andrew Jacobson goes into orbit on a 1985 Local Motion twin fin.
Shaper Donny Brink with a high-five as he goes for a bodysurf. Pageant mastermind Eric Diamond and his 1970 Mickey Munoz shaped Hobie Positive Force 4 diamond McTavish v-bottom. Vissla combo board with Rob McCarty and Bobby Lockhart. Indie Hoffman continues the family tradition. Cliff Kapono, Mark Cunningham and a young friend sharing the aloha.
The first time Miguel Sinclair shaped a board was at Cosmic Creek a few years ago. Today, that’s pretty much all he does, so experience counts. Barrett Miller and Donny Brink also worked hard behind the planer. Brink is largely the genius behind the beach fitness trail.
Da Fin Bodysurfing’s expression session was held every day at noon. “That’s what we do during our lunch breaks at our competitions,” Diamond points out. “We all bodysurf together.”
Final Pro Roster: Tyler Warren, Wilem Banks, Chris Ward, Simon Hedrick, Cliff Kapono, Ian Gottron.
More than just a day at the beach.
Rising inside, Kolton Sullivan reaches terminal elevation on a channel-bottomed double fin Windansea.
Faces in the Cosmic Galaxy (Clockwise): Andrew Jacobson, Diamond and Jack Denny, Josiah and Simon Hedricks, Final Lineup for the Nirvonic Symphony Division with Hans Homan, Rod Brewster, Pat Ryan and Uncle Ted
2022 Vissla Cosmic Creek Finalists Top: Sistr Revolution (girls), Cosmic Gremmies (14 and under), Stormriders (19-24), Crystal Voyagers (25-34), Nirvonic Symphony (35-44) Bottom: Super Sessions (45-54), Easy Riders (55+), Creators, Pro, Space Nomads (15-18).
The two men who make things happen, Paul Naude and Eric Diamond, all smiles after two successful days under the sun in Creek.