Pismo Beach officially lands professional surfing event

A surfer competes in the 2016 Still Frothy Surf Festival contest held at Pismo Beach.
A surfer competes in the 2016 Still Frothy Surf Festival contest held at Pismo Beach.

Andy McKay had just finished surfing when he got a text he had been waiting for: The Pismo Beach Open was officially a go.

After courting sponsors for months to try to bring a World Surf League event to Pismo Beach, McKay received a message from local radiologist Steven Sonnabend. Sonnabend said he and a group of doctors from Dignity Health had been able to rally support for the event and wanted to purchase the naming rights; the Dignity Health Pismo Beach Open was born.

“I was super stoked,” said McKay, who owns Surfside Donuts in Pismo Beach. “It has been a long process.”

With the main sponsorship secured and the go-ahead received from the World Surf League, McKay now has the minimum funding needed to put on the Qualifying Series 1,000 contest that will host about 100 surfers from around the world at the Pismo Beach Pier. It’s scheduled for Nov. 17-19.

The World Surf League shares McKay’s stoke.

“Getting events isn’t easy, and Andy was starting from scratch,” said Brian Robbins, the league’s North American tour director. “It will really help the surfers in the region. He did an outstanding job. We are really looking forward to it.”

The Pismo Beach Open will be the fourth men’s WSL qualifying series event in California this year, with the other three all being held in Huntington Beach. A Men’s Champion’s Tour event is also scheduled for Sept. 6 in San Clemente.

McKay said the sponsorship money raised so far — which includes Central Coast Surfboards, Sylvester’s Burgers and Martin Resorts — will go toward putting on a men’s event, but he will continue to look for more money with the hope of putting on a women’s event and a live webcast as well.

The biggest question mark now, McKay said, is the Pismo Beach Pier. Construction that began in March is not expected to be completed until 2019, but McKay said he hopes he will have access to the first section of the pier during the contest.

With three surfing contests scheduled to take place at the pier from now until November — the Still Frothy Surf Festival, Surfing for Hope and Wine, Waves and Beyond — McKay said he will try to learn from how each event handles the pier construction and other logistical challenges in order to make his event better.

Surfers will soon be able to register for the Pismo Beach Open at

Travis Gibson: 805-781-7993, @TravisDgibson