Billabong art competition draws surfers and fans

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California artist Andy Davis checks out the entries. California artist Andy Davis checks out the entries. OCEAN CITY — When it comes to surfing, it’s all about the waves, so naturally, the theme of the art contest sponsored by Billabong and hosted locally by Heritage Surf and Sport Shop July 10 centered on swells.

The competition, called Waves, attracted nearly two dozen competitors and even more spectators at Heritage’s West Avenue location. For the sponsors, it was more than just an opportunity to solicit local talent and creativity.

A meet and greet, which coincided with the event, featured surfing artist Andy Davis and lots of prizes, including signed posters and trucker hats.

“We try to inspire the kids to do art, but at the same time we like to promote the idea of community,” said Royce Cansler of Billabong’s public relations division. “Anytime we can get kids away from the computer, off the Internet to create something artistic and then get everyone to come out and interact with others, it’s a good thing.”

“We try to encourage people to interact, be with others. Surfing is like a family. We’re from all walks of life, we could be from different parts of the country, but our common denominator is the sport of surfing,” he said.

The first place prize in the contest went to John Baker, second prize to Gloria Capron and third prize to Matt Long. Baker received a signed Andy Davis print.

Billabong is hosting an East Coast tour, stopping at surf shops from Key West to New England.

“We started in Florida over spring break,” Cansler said. “We had three separate legs, the first two were in Florida, up to Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The third tour started in Ocean City, Md. and Delaware, and now here we are in New Jersey.”

Billabong, Cansler noted, has been a major player in the surfing industry since 1973.

“The tour has been very interesting,” he said. “Some of the surf shops were nervous that no one would come or no one would create the art. They’re always amazed at the local talent.”

Jim Hennessey, the manager of the Ocean City store, spent the evening feeding the large crowd, cooking hotdogs and hamburgers on a grill set up outside.  He said he was more than just a little impressed.

“I was pretty blown away with the quality of the art work,” he said. “We started planning this on, literally, the last day of school. The artists didn’t have much time, but look at their work!”
Cansler said the entries came from across the spectrum; from budding artists 7 or 8 years old to seasoned professionals. While it’s hard to imagine so many different interpretations of a wave, Cansler said surfers are so passionate about surfing and waves that their creativity has few boundaries.

“I think this is a great way to inspire some future artists,” Hennessey said, adding that he had no idea how talented some of his wave-riding customers are.

“It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve had a much stronger showing than I ever imagined,” he said. “Next year we’ll start a little sooner and try to get more artists involved. It’s been very exciting here today.”

“I’m not surprised, but I am stoked that Ocean City has so many artists,” said Rob Kelly, a 2008 Ocean City High School graduate who works for Billabong’s East Coast division and is also a professional surfer. “It’s awesome. Andy Davis is from California, but a lot of surfers on the East Coast know who he is and were excited to meet him.”

Kelly said he is enjoying life, touring the nation for Billabong, never far from his surfboard and big swells.

“I set up the tours,” he said. “I am enjoying the benefit of professional surfing and preparing for the future by learning the surfing business. It’s a win-win situation.”

Cansler said Billabong benefits, as well, because of Kelly’s success and strong ties to the East Coast, particularly New Jersey.

“I feel really blessed to do what I do, and travel to all the places I do,” Cansler said. “The common denominator is the waves, and surfing. We always have something to talk about.”

Andy Davis at work. Andy Davis at work.

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