Surfing Super Heroine Swoops in to Help Fight Cancer

One chilly grey Saturday in December, a usually quiet corner of beach was taken over by a strange cast of characters. There was a big yellow banana, a green dinosaur, a retired basketball player sporting a purple afro, a couple of walking beer kegs, a twirling pink fairy, William Wallace, a super heroine, and even the man himself, Elvis, all toting surfboards of various shapes and sizes who volunteered to be absolutely smashed by sand grinding, seaweed tangling, low tide closeouts, all in the name of charity. The beer kegs didn’t surf actually. They sat on the beach, as beer kegs tend to do, and cheered for the antics on display.

The Surfing Super Heroine

Before you give up on figuring out how this came to pass, perhaps a little explanation is in order. Back in August of 2005, the Ratopia Charity Fund was established after a local surfer, 22 year-old Denny Bales, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. To accomplish the goal of providing support to Denny, raise community awareness of leukemia and lymphoma, and to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the Ratopia Fund held a contest dubbed the Ratopia Surf Classic. Through the first annual event, $20,000 were raised and contributed to the LLS.

Nick Webber, President of the Ratopia Charity Fund

This year’s event included a boy’s, men’s, longboard, women’s, and even a costume division (it’s all making sense now, isn’t it?). Like everything worthwhile, competing in this event wasn’t as easy as showing up and donating an entry fee. There was a solid NW swell on the rise and a brisk onshore wind adding it’s own two cents. That, combined with a steady low tide and blankets of sea weed coating the shore break, made for very challenging conditions. No one expected fighting cancer to be easy and smiles permeated even otherwise frustrated faces. Hilarious wipeouts were many.

The Peninsula High School Women’s Surf Team

Mark Evans, showing his support.

Kirk McNulty was a standout all day.

Danny Williams didn’t mind the closeouts!

In the final hours of the day, the sun finally popped through and warmed the beach a few degrees. The tide came up just enough to keep a few waves from closing out, and allow the finalists their best opportunity of the day to amuse the judges. Chris Bredesen stole the show on his longboard, making very un-longboard-able surf actually look fun.

Nic Vaughn caught the best waves in the boy’s final and landed a few difficult floaters to win the heat.

Natalie Anzivino dominated the women’s heat as she’s been doing all year in the South Bay Surf League.

Natalie, on her way to first place.

I entered myself in the men’s division for the sake of a challenge and just missed making the final.

Maybe I should have tried to find waves that didn’t close out.

Garth Engelhorn drove up from San Diego last year to win the inaugural event and showed up a second time to successfully defend his title.

Through the contest entries, silent auctions, and donations the organization raised another $15,000 for the LLS. It was a silly, challenging, and inspiring day. I’m already planning my costume for next year!

For more information on the Ratopia Charity Fund, visit

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