Welcome to the Wild West of surfing. Around here, bitchin’ tans and bleached hair are replaced with wetsuits and tattoos. The land of blue collar surfers and right-hand points is arguably the point where SoCal ends and the Central Coast begins. What would you expect of a place nicknamed “Ventucky” other than a music festival-surf contest hybrid known as the Surf Rodeo?
Nestled in the local beach community of Ventura, surrounded by urchin boats and oil fields is where you find the Rodeo. For one weekend a year, you will find the likes of professional surfers, a slew of bands from every genre you can imagine, bikini-clad beauties, and a mechanical bull I call “George.” The madness that ensues for the next two days is as Cory Arrambide puts it, “the funnest weekend of the year.”
The Surf Rodeo was the brainchild of one of many local legends, John “JD” Drury. Drury has lived in the village of Pierpont since the 1970s and has undertaken several eclectic projects, often egged on by friends over many a beverage of the barley variety. The idea started as a few bands playing on the beach and morphed into a surf contest…”With cowboy hats…and girls, yeah, lots of girls,” and “maybe some games and beer, of course, but family friendly.”
Somehow that evolved into, “We’ll need a petting zoo. Because what’s a surf contest without a petting zoo, right?”
Drury sees his beach the way innercity youth see a basketball court: a place of trials and tribulations, where sand was kicked and hearts were broken. “Every beach community has tons of pride, we want to celebrate it,” he says. “At [the Surf] Rodeo there is a lot of history and heritage here. We’re proud of our home, once in while we open the doors and show others our community.”
The best I can describe being at the Surf Rodeo myself is to explain what Thanksgiving would be if it happened in the summertime. At least in Ventura, it’s that one time of the year where, like clockwork, friends, family, and community pull out of the rat race for a minute and have a cold one.
The 2019 Surf Rodeo is July 13 and 14 in Ventura. For more information check out surfrodeo.org