HIGH ROLLERS

posted by / News / August 25, 2003

Swapping trunks for tuxedos, an assortment of industry movers and shakers turned out for charity at the 14th annual SIMA Waterman’s Ball Saturday night, part of the two-day waterman’s weekend. Everyone from CEOs to top pros milled about the St. Regis Monarch Resort, dropping big dollars in a night where nearly everything is auctioned off, raising more than ${{{300}}},000 — not to mention a few wineglasses — to benefit Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Institute, Wildcoast, Heal the Bay, Orange County Coast Keeper, Surfing Education Association, Alaska Wilderness League and Seymour Marine Education Center.

The evening began with silent bidding on nearly every type of surf item, from collections of videos to art pieces to surfboards to travel before moving into the formal dining room for the main event. In between bites, still larger prizes hit the block, including a pair of signed surfboards donated World Champs Andy Irons and Layne Beachley, twin 9’6″ guns painted by Drew Brophy, a $15,000 oil painting of Luke Egan by Robb Havessy, plus luxury trips to the Maldives and Tavarua.

But the biggest prizes of the night arrived after dinner, when SIMA handed out its awards for the year, first honoring the 2002 Fosters Pro Surfing Tour champions Jesse Merle Jones and Pauline Menczer. Unfortunately, Menczer couldn’t attend but Jones flew back from the European leg to express his gratitude with a brief “thanks,” warming up the crowd for SIMA’S Lifetime Achievement award, Environmentalist of the Year, and Waterman of the Year.

Body Glove’s Bill and Bob Meistrel stood together to receive their Lifetime Achievement Awards. The twin brothers earned the first in a series of standing ovations, telling the tale of how the name Body Glove came about, inserting a few classic one-liners before pleading with surfers not to fight for waves, insisting that “the lineup isn’t Iraq.”

Wildcoast’s Serge Dedina next took the stage to accept the Environmentalist of the Year award for his work in defeating Mexico’s Escalera Nautica project, which threatened most of {{{Baja}}} California’s major pointbreaks. Serge gave a gripping speech, describing the lives and hard work of the fishermen of Baja, particularly Punta Abreojos, who came together to help defeat the project. He then encouraged all surfers to become warriors who defend “our waves”, reminding the audience that “for every hidden break in the Mentawais there’s a developer with dreams of turning it into a paved paradise.”

And finally, man-of-honor Laird Hamilton charged a clean-up set of applause to accept his Waterman of the Year award. Recognized for his big-wave feats at Jaws and Teahupo’o, as well as his work with the hydrofoil and amazing command of nearly every ocean activity, Hamilton spoke of his Hawaiian predecessors, his father, his mother and most of all the waves themselves, echoing Dedina’s environmental stance — but with one caveat. “All of us here somehow make a living off the ocean,” Hamilton stated, ruling the mic like an outer reef. ‘We should all make sure it’s still around for our children to enjoy, and our children’s children. But maybe first we should focus on the humans.” Matt Walker

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