Soul Surfing - Virginia Longboard Federation & ECSC

The Virginia Beach surfing community makes positive waves of change

By Angela Blue


Their hours are relentless—waking up at the crack of dawn to put in a couple hours before work, then returning just before the sun sets for another go. They’ve taken many beatings, but their passion far outweighs the physical setbacks they’ve endured. Some go on to bigger and better things, even going pro, but for most, it’s not about the money. For them, the feeling that they get when they conquer a wave and the pride that comes from mastering the sport can’t be matched to any monetary value. Each experience is priceless.

Surfing is far beyond a sport—it’s a state of mind. You’ve seen the tanned, blond-haired guys carrying boards around the oceanfront, and deep down, you secretly wish that you could be part of their clan. The way they carry themselves, the laid back attitude and the gnarly lingo is enough to make anyone desire this way of life, but it takes more than a newly purchased bar of surfwax and a golden tan. The hobby becomes a lifestyle, and the soul of a surfer runs as deep as the ocean.

The surfing men and women of Virginia Beach come from various backgrounds, but it’s their love of the sport that brings them together. No matter their age or schedule, somehow they always find the time to trot down to the oceanfront in search of the perfect wave. It doesn’t come easy—surfing takes commitment and dedication, not only to the sport, but to the community. There are many surfing organizations to become involved with in Hampton Roads, and they’re all devoted to making a positive change. 

The Eastern Surfing Association, for example, advocates for safe and clean ocean environments. Extending throughout the east coast, they’re dedicated to the principals of environmentalism, and they pride themselves in giving back to the community by helping young men and women to further their educational goals. Their Marsh Scholarship Fund is the largest and longest running scholarship program in the U.S. surfing community.

The Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championship (ECSC) is a week-long event running from August 22–28 that’s sponsored by the Jaycees. This organization has a long history in the establishment of many important community projects such as initiating funds for the Virginia Beach Library System, starting the Rescue Squad in the 1950s and providing funds for the General Hospital of Virginia Beach.  Its members consist of men and women who work to improve their skills and abilities in areas of public speaking, writing, management skills and financial planning.

The Virginia Longboard Federation (VLF) unites a community through their love of surfing and the ocean. Formed in 2004, by Mary Knight and family friend Zeke Sanders, the VLF began as a way to promote the love of the ocean and the art of surfing. “Surfing in Virginia Beach is more than a wave,” Knight said. “It’s a community of people who love the ocean. They want to protect it and preserve it so that we can share it for generations to come.”

No one within their organization gets paid. Their motivation is to give back to the community through various activities and learning experiences. “Visitors to the area will see the deep love the natives have for the water and will enjoy its fruits at the different breaks available,” she said. Their yearly event, The Steel Pier Classic & Surf Art Expo, was designed to celebrate the birth of surfing on the East Coast and bring the community together. In the past, they’ve supported the Judeo Christian Outreach Center, helped to fight ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, through fundraising and donated to the local charity group, The Noblemen, who are known for helping children in the Hampton Roads area. This year, the VLF plans to put on a surfing contest just for the military to show their appreciation for their sacrifice, service and dedication.

Their organization reaches out to people from all walks of life, and there are no age requirements to be part of this marvelous federation. “We have members that are as young as 10 years old all the way up to 70 years old,” Knight said. “Our group is focused on the family and bringing them together.”

For kids who become interested in surfing at a young age, there’s a special surf camp to participate in, and there’s no one better to learn from than Virginia Beach surfing legend Wes Laine.  His camps began in 2006 and run for 11 straight weeks in the summer. Laine said that it’s rewarding for him to see kids who have never been in the ocean learn how to enjoy the beach and the water. Many kids who participate in the camps go on to compete in ECSC and other competitions. At the camps, Laine teaches kids important rules about surfing, including techniques as well as etiquette. He says the most important rule of surfing etiquette is respect. “That’s multi-faceted,” he said. “Respect for other people and respect for the ocean.”

Even if you and your family have never tried surfing, Virginia Beach is a great place to learn, and now is the perfect time. Former local surfer Nick Alexander says that the waves here are suitable for beginners all the way up to advanced, with more mellow waves in the summer. To this day, Alexander fondly recalls his first surfing memory at the First Street Jetty. “I remember the waves being decent and paddling out and watching a bunch of really good surfing going on and wanting to emulate every move those guys did. I was bitten by the surf bug even though I could barely stand up.”

To learn more about this amazing sport and the impact that these organizations have in Virginia Beach, visit the following websites:

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