Every great city that boasts of its cultural heritage has quintessential events that encapsulate just what the city is all about (though opinions may vary). Locally, Camarillo has the Casa Pacifica Wine and Food Festival and the Camarillo Fiesta. Ojai has the Ojai Music Festival and the Ojai Wine Festival. Oxnard has the Strawberry Festival and the Salsa Festival. Port Hueneme has the Hueneme Beach Festival. Santa Paula has the Citrus Classic Balloon Festival. And Ventura, well, Ventura has a number of events but nothing quite steals the show the way the Surf Rodeo does, a legendary event that hit the brakes after five years in 2001. But finally, after more than a decade-long hiatus, it’s returning to Seaward Avenue beach this weekend.



Eric Eurbano floating to victory in the 2000 Surf Rodeo.


“We are bringing it back,” said John “JD” Drury, founder and creator of National Lampoon’s Endless Bummer, a story about a Ventura teen who had his surfboard stolen.

Over the years, city officials have tried to place Ventura on the map for a number of things: the beach, the music scene, the art world. The founding crew of the Surf Rodeo, however, never questioned what Ventura was in 1997 when they pulled off the first event — Ventura is sand, sea, surf, music, beer and a classic country feel.

“The magic comes when you are surfing, when you’re playing,” JD said. “Music and surfing go hand in hand.”


Photo by John Foronda
Vince Felix (beach marshal) and Kelly Slater, Surf Rodeo 2000.  

Vince Felix and JD spent most of their formative years in the Pierpont beach community, surfing, schooling and doing things kids do living close to the beach. Years later in 1997, Felix was working for JD at the Beach Hut, a surf shop that is now Surf ’n’ Yogurt, when they had a thought — they should throw an event that represented the community, their community.

The event was just primarily local yokels for the first few years, bands and participants. But as the event’s popularity grew, so did the participation. The Surf Rodeo went from a one-day event to two days, from local bands to world-class acts and surfers such as Jack Johnson and Kelly Slater, and from a thousand participants to a few thousand locals and people flying in from all over the world. Felix, JD and the rest of their crew had made it, through blood, sweat, tears and some near sleepless nights: the Surf Rodeo was a success and had received global attention.


“Every time we had it, it was like hammering and painting in my backyard and, on the day of, hauling to the beach. We would be starting at 7 o’clock every morning. We got very little sleep,” JD said.

“As it gets going, naturally it has a flow,” said Felix, Surf Rodeo beach marshal and pro surfer. “And when all the music is done and we got beers in each hand, we would [look at each other and say], ‘We did it!’ ”


Photo by Jim Martin
Ryan Milne showing nice form riding on an
obligatory old-school board in full regalia. 

In 2001, when the event had reached an ultimate cool peak, JD  decided to take a year off, or two.

“We stopped because I was challenged. I was challenging different things, like Red Head clothing (a brand he created). But I also lost [money] on the last one,” JD said. “I really didn’t think we would take off so long.”
In the last year, JD said the temperature started rising and was hitting a boiling point — he knew it was time for the Surf Rodeo to make a comeback.


Surf Rodeo alumni Toby Emery stampedes the "Bootyard Stage"
with his electrifying punk-ranchero band JACKASS Saturday, July 13 at 4:15 p.m.

“It was getting warmer and warmer and warmer,” he said. “There were some seriously passionate people about it. This was the legend of the Surf Rodeo — what they thought they saw may have been bigger than what it was,” he said. “We did a good job — how are we going to top the last one?”

With an army of volunteers working with JD and Felix, the event is looking comparable to, if not better than, the last one. With more than two dozen bands, including surfer/singers Tom Curren and Timmy Curran, and special guest Makua Rothman coming from Hawaii, several surf contests for men, women and children, plus the ever-superfluous greased-pig contest (picture surfers covered in baby oil from head to toe and then trying to catch a wave), two beer gardens, bikini cowgirl contest, mechanical bull riding, prizes, the raffle of a 1964 Ford Falcon to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura and more, it’s sure to blow the last one out of the water, pun intended.


And the only reasons any beach-loving, beer-guzzling and/or bikini fan should miss the event are that they were out of the country, in jail or dead. Or if you are just looking for a rocking time and family friendly event over the summer (and inexpensive at $15 pre-sale, or $20 at the door for a weekend pass), come on down. Just remember — cowboy hats aren’t mandatory but you will be sure to stand out without one.

The Triumphant Return of the Surf Rodeo takes place this Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14, at South Seaward Avenue in Ventura. Weekend pass is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.surfrodeo.org.


The story of the 1964 Ford Falcon

Raffle item to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura

Generosity can be overwhelming if you ask the right people for the right reason at the right time. And so it goes for the 1964 Ford Falcon in need of much TLC as it resided on the corner of the Interstate Batteries lot on Ventura Avenue. As JD, founder of the Surf Rodeo, hit the street for the right raffle item, he met with his friend Rich of Interstate Batteries.

“You should take that car of mine and fix it up,” Rich told JD.

Rich handed him the keys, and Martin from Double R Towing towed it to Matt Noble of Noble Fabrication to fix up the engine. From there, George Harrison from E.J. Harrison and Sons loaded it up on his trailer and hauled it to Oscar’s Electronics, where Oscar installed a stereo and speakers. Then Harrison took it to Quality Upholstery where the owner, Selso, upholstered the front and rear seats. After that, Harrison towed it to Little People’s Customs Automotive, where the Falcon underwent body restoration and a new paint job. Motion Tires then installed four new tires. And at every single stop for the Falcon, every person, every business donated the parts and labor. The rags-to-riches story of the 1964 Ford Falcon is that is now a prized raffle item valued around $8,000.

“When everybody heard it was for the Boys and Girls Club, there was no hesitation to help,” Harrison said.

Raffle tickets cost $20 each with all proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura. The refurbished Falcon will be unveiled at the Surf Rodeo.