Surf's Up At Bellevue Shop -- Former Pro Launches Another Westport Longboard Classic


Hey, dude, want a custom surfboard?

Head to Bellevue.

OK, so you can't catch awesome waves on the Eastside.

Tell that to the kahuna of Bellevue surfers, Ricky Young. Along with his wife, Kristen, he makes, sells and rents surfboards from the Ricky Young Surfboard Shop near Old Main Street.

Young organizes this weekend's Kahlua Westport Longboard Classic, a three-day surfing competition he started 11 years ago. There are 300 entries for this year's event, scheduled for Friday through Sunday at Westhaven State Park in Westport, Grays Harbor County.

Once ranked the No. 5 male surfer in the country, Young supposedly gave up the sport three decades ago.

"I'd burned out. There wasn't the big money dangling there in the 1950s and early '60s," he said. "There was just surf."

Today, in addition to surfing, there's Kristen, their two children, a full-time job at Meydenbauer Center, occasional carpentry jobs and the shop.

Only open afternoons, the surfing store is considered "core," as in hardcore, meaning it specializes in just surfboards and accessories.

Inside, surfing photos cover the walls. One shows diehard surfers catching a ferry wake on Elliott Bay. Older black-and-white photos show famous surfers of 30 to 40 years ago. Young is in many of those photographs.

The annual Longboard Classic started because of buddies who were merchants in Westport.

"When logging and salmon fishing went bust, I said, `Let's do something to bring in people,' " he said. "The first (Classic) brought in 54 people for a one-day event."

Organizing an event like this is not cheap, Kristen Young said. "We had to take out a very large insurance policy."

This year's competition will include three heats for children 12 and under. It's fine spectator sport, he said, and good for the whole family.

Ricky and Kristen encourage children to surf. Their son and daughter both compete, and Young himself began as an 11-year-old when he lived in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

"This was in 1954, and the boards were 11 feet long and weighed 70 pounds each," he recalled. "I probably didn't weigh much more than 70 pounds myself, but I was able to stand up on the board.

"It was euphoric. I've surfed a lifetime since then."

By the early 1960s, he was a top Southern California surfer. He appeared in a 1962 "Sports Illustrated" with his surfboard when men's swimsuits were featured. He had a movie contract with Universal Studios and had a few bit parts.

After a stint in the army and burning out on the beach life, he became a ski bum. He developed carpentry skills and worked his way to Sun Valley. There he met and married Redmond native Kristen, and they moved to the Eastside.

Even as a commercial carpenter, he heard the call of the ocean, and by 1976, he was surfing in Westport with a handful of others.

Word spread in surfing circles about Northwest waves, and Westport, Ocean Shores, La Push, Neah Bay, along with Oregon's Seaside and Cannon Beach, became hot surfing spots.

Since then, technology has helped more locals take up the sport, Young said. Surfboards have gotten lighter, but the best ones are still long.

"Length is important," he said. "Longboards - at least nine feet - are considered classics and are more maneuverable than short boards. You can become an intermediate surfer faster on a longboard than a short one."

Important for the cooler Northwest waters were improvements in wet suits. They've become thinner and more pliable and give surfers a full range of motion.

The sport has changed in another way. Surfers used to head to the beach and work part-time. Now, he said, they're mostly professional people - doctors, lawyers, Microsoft employees - who happen to surf. They're the folks ordering his custom boards, personalized with colors and designs. They're patient and willing to wait the several weeks for him to carve the board from a foam core and cover it with sleek fiberglass.

Young planned this weekend's event around tide tables. The ocean, he said, should give competitors long rolling waves close to shore. ------------------------------- Catch a wave

The Kahlua Westport Longboard Classic will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Westhaven State Park in Westport, Grays Harbor County. Entries are $35; spectators get in free.