Six years ago, there wasn’t much opportunity for young, local surfers to show off their skills. So longtime Pismo Beach resident and surfer Walter Cerny set out to make a change and help put Central Coast surfing on the map.
“Billabong said, ‘If you set it all up, we will run with it, and we will get behind you,’ ” Cerny said Friday as he sipped coffee inside Surfside Donuts.
What started as a one-day surf contest has grown into an free event for shredders under 17 and a pro-am that draws some of the top youth surfers on the Central Coast. And you never know who else might show up.
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Two years ago, former surfing World Champion Sunny Garcia and Tom Curren — widely regarded as one of the best surfers of all-time — went head-to-head in the shadow of the Pismo Beach Pier.
“I don’t think some of the kids get it because they might not know who those guys are. Most of us guys who are 30 and 40 were losing our minds,” Cerny said.
It was all orchestrated by Cerny, whose easy-going personality and a Rolodex that includes famous surfing friends Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds have helped him to gain the moniker of “Unofficial Mayor of Pismo Beach.”
Mayors are usually expected to give back to the communities in which they live, and Cerny is no different. In 2014, Still Frothy evolved from an annual contest to a nonprofit that has helped raise money for young community members in need of medical care. Cerny said that last year a fundraiser for Arroyo Grande teen Jarred Springer, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, held at Cool Cat Cafe helped raise $10,000 for Springer’s medical costs in one night. Still Frothy also helps raise money to help young surfers with expensive contest entry fees and gives out yearly educational scholarships.
“It’s really nice to be able to do that. We can’t fix everything, but it is kinda fun to help,” Cerny said.
Just like Still Frothy, Cerny also has seen the surf scene evolve since he moved to Pismo Beach from Hawaii in 1983. And not in a good way.
Cerny says that when he was the president of his surfing club at Arroyo Grande, there were 60-80 members. This year’s team had about 14 members.
“On the younger end of it, surfing has kind of died out,” Cerny said. “I don’t know if it’s video games or phones or computers or other distractions.”
Cerny said the entries for kids 13 and younger is always healthy, “but the 14- to 17-year-old division is always very light, which is kind of weird to me.”
“Around here, for some reason, when the kids hit that teen age, I don’t know what the distraction is, but they tend to go elsewhere,” Cerny said.
Braden Jones is one local surfer who hasn’t gone elsewhere and has benefited from the work of Still Frothy. Jones paired up with Reynolds in 2015 to win the Still Frothy pro-am event and is now pursuing his dream of going pro by competing in events on the World Surf League Qualifying Series.
When he was about 11 years old, Jones went to Cerny because he wanted to become a better surfer. He credits Cerny, who used to be a pro surfer himself, with helping to elevate his skills. Jones competed in his first Still Frothy contest when he was 13 years old.
“Walt knows a bunch of people, and he brings all these great guys here. For our little community, that is huge, especially for all the kids growing up here wanting to surf,” said Jones, now 17, adding that pairing up with Reynolds in last year’s event was the highlight of his year.
Jones said the surfing community also feeds off of Cerny’s enthusiasm, which is where the term frothy comes in. Cerny, who describes himself as a “spaz,” said that years ago he was with a group of friends at the Sand Spit in Montaña de Oro when he got so excited about surfing he ran past his friends toward the waves. His flowing blonde hair and excitability earned him a nickname: Frothy Golden Retriever — a nickname that sticks to this day, though his long blonde hair is gone.
“I don’t know what (frothing) means in the Urban Dictionary, but in surfing it’s a good thing so I just keep it at that,” Cerny said.
Cerny, a self-employed engineer who still finds time to surf five days a week, sees a lot of himself in the kids, or groms, who participate in the contest.
“We give away surfboards every year to some of the groms. It’s always just fun to see those guys’ expressions,” Cerny said. “It’s really cool just to see how appreciative some of the kids are with the scholarships.”
Still Frothy is still taking applications for its Youth College Scholarship Program that will award two $1,000 scholarships and four $500 scholarships. The deadline is July 31.
The Still Frothy Surf Festival returns this year on September 24-25 at the Pismo Beach Pier.