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The Famous 1967 Leucadia Stone Steps Invitational Surf Contest and Love-In Began Right Here

RDP Stone StepsSan Diego has had a fair share of historic surfing events but nothing was more fun than the event started in 1967 in Leucadia on the beach at Stone Steps.

Stone Steps Surf Contest, Leucadia, CA

Stone Steps Invitational Surf Contest, Leucadia, CA, 1967

“While I continued to work seasonally at Hansen’s making boards, our store manager, Jim (JJ) Jenks, and I collaborated on creating the Stone Steps Invitational Surf Contest and Love-In,” recalls Richard (Slick) Dowdy.

“We put on the event at Stone Steps in Leucadia, simply because we thought a summer’s day party and a surf contest would be a good idea. I started with the ’33rd Annual contest’ to give it a sense of history,” he laughs. “It became an annual event where big-name surfers competed for trophies created by the local surf shop workers. A requirement was for the contestants to drink a cardboard resin bucket of beer (82 ounces) before going out to compete, which gave those familiar with alcohol a distinct advantage as they advanced through the contest. Eventually, we added a band that played on the sand each year that attracted a huge crowd. It was nothing but fun.”

Stone Steps Surf Contest at Leucadia, CA Guys on boards, Stone Steps Surf Contest at Leucadia, CA

Posters were plastered all over the beach community. At its peak, there were about 400 people packed in having a good time. “We had some local, famous participants, including the first (33rd) winner, Solana Beach local surfer Doug Erickson. He was followed by international surf stars that included Butch Van Artsdalen, Mike Doyle, the late Donald Takayama (a five-time winner who surfed better the more he drank) and maybe Hawaii’s Owl Chapman,” says Richard, though no one is sure because the very nature of the event was so illusory that no permanent record of the winners was kept by the organizers.

“I made a big perpetual trophy with the names of the first 32 winners–all fictitious, of course–and named it the Sorrento Valley Yacht Club as the title sponsor, as the yacht club idea came from Hansen surfboard shaper Willie Clark who lived in a small shack in Sorrento Valley where he was building a yacht.” It was all meant for a good time–and with no permits, no lifeguards, no sheriffs, it came off year after year without a hitch.”

Crowd shot, Stone Steps Surf Contest at Leucadia, CA Girls & guys at the Stone Steps Surf Contest at Leucadia, CA

No fights, no trouble, just fun in the sun and the promise of the Goodyear Blimp passing overhead–which it finally did in 1972, to the delight of the crowd and the utter amazement of Richard, who on every year’s poster he promised the blimp would come down the coast.

Stone Steps Surf Contest, Leucadia, CA

Butch Van Artsdalen Wins

Richard and Jim kept the contest going through the years after Richard moved to Balboa Island to work as a writer for Capitol Records in Hollywood. About four years later, he returned to Encinitas and went back to work for Hansen’s as their art, photography and marketing person, creating ads and catalogs.

Stone Steps video by Richard Dowdy on YouTube








The posters created for the event were on display at the Oceanside Surf Museum for Hansen’s 50th anniversary in business.

Richard Dowdy, Principal, Photographer, Writer, is our walking storyteller of history, places, people, events and places to eat. His selective-retentive memory has us all intrigued and always eager to hear another story. All photos are owned by Richard Dowdy. For more pictures, permissions and stories, contact him at (760)729-8205 or

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