OLDEST SURF CONTEST IN COUNTY
HONORS CORONADO SURFER
Jimmy Reilly died in 1983, but is immortalized by his friends each year in the
Jimmy Reilly Memorial Longboard Surf Classic.
The oldest continuous longboard surfing event in San Diego County takes place Saturday, November 24, in Coronado – the Jimmy Reilly Memorial Longboard Surf Classic. The event will take place at Shipwreck Beach, at the Coronado Shores parking lot across from City Hall.
Thirty years ago a handful of Coronado youth created the surfing memorial when a friend, Jimmy Reilly, died in a car accident. “It was just something we felt it necessary to do,” said Ray Martin, who came up with the concept three decades ago.
“Jimmy was a very special person. We all loved him, and we miss him still. This was our way to keep his memory alive, and how wonderful that it has turned into such an ongoing tribute not just to Jimmy, but to other friends who didn’t make it this far,” said Martin.
Past winner of the Jimmy Reilly Memorial Longboard Surf Classic, Mike Gillard,
is seen here doing a soul arch on the nose of his board.
Over the years the event has taken on a life all its own. Now, while still remembering Jimmy Reilly and other surfers who have died, it has become a massive celebration of the ocean, the beach, and of surfing. This once-small surfing tribute has become an annual, and much-anticipated reunion of sorts, finding people from all parts of the world returning to the one thing that bound them together in their youth – surfing in Coronado.
The first heat at this year’s Jimmy Reilly Memorial will begin at 7 a.m., and surfers will be competing in the water until about 1 p.m. An awards ceremony will follow at the Coronado Yacht Club complete with food and drink, and live music from the 1969 Rock ‘n’ Roll band, the West Coast Ironworks.
From the innaugural Jimmy Reilly Memorial Longboard Surf Classic (1983) are the winners, and where they are today. From top left, clockwise, Donald McLeod (commercial airline pilot), Petey Johnson (owns surfboard company), Timmy Coon (sailing instructor), Jimmy Scanlon (property manager and globetrotting big wave rider), Tommy Harris (school educator) and John Gillem (owns custom home building business).
Competition this year will be held in various divisions. There will be a men’s open event, a women’s open event, a junior men’s (15-18), a junior girl’s (14 and under), and a junior boy’s event (14 and under). There will also be a legends heat (age 55 and older), which is always the crowd favorite.
“We are extremely proud of this event,” said John Gillem, past president of the Coronado Surfing Association, and major force behind the longevity of the JR Memorial. “We’ve succeeded in keeping Jimmy Reilly’s memory alive, and along the way we’ve created a solid funding source for our Coronado Middle School and High School surf team that allows us to put something back into the sport we all love.”
One of the success stories stemming from the Coronado junior surfing programs and the experienced coaching and camaraderie provided by the older surfers, is Coronado's Taylor Jensen. He is now the current World Longboard Champion, and traveling the world defending his title.
Current world longboard champion, Taylor Jensen of Coronado, with fiancé Nava Young. Photo by Joe Ditler.
Admission to compete in the JR is $65 for open, legends and women’s divisions, and $25 for all other divisions. All entries must be received by Nov. 20. Late entries will be required to pay $10 extra, while space remains. Entries may be sent to “Coronado Surfing Association,” P.O. Box 181212, Coronado, CA 92178, or dropped off at 1 Pine Court, Coronado. Entry forms are available at both Island Surf and Emerald City.
Donations are already coming in from area businesses as prizes for the competitors. More donations are being accepted. Two new surfboards will be given away and the public can purchase raffle tickets to be eligible to win one of the surfboards, as well as many other valuable prizes.
For more information, or to donate a raffle item or receive an emailed entry form, contact John Gillem at email@example.com, or call (619) 437.8040.
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