Waterman’s Ball Raises $250,000 For The Environment

If you missed out on your high school prom (god forbid), Saturday night was your chance for redemption. More than 800 people came dressed to the hilt (but minus the corsage) to raise money for the environment at the twelfth annual SIMA Waterman’s Ball.

Considering the crew on hand — the “I Love VZ” girls, the boys from Electric, that wild group from Board-Trac — the night was surprisingly mellow. No dancing on the tables, no dice, no drink-offs — even Globe’s Gary Valentine opted not to best his Dr. Evil outfit from last year. (Fernando Aguerre, with his French Foreign Legion ensemble, was the winner of the best-dressed contest this year.)

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So the vibe was comfortable if not uproarious but the upshot is we’ll likely be invited back to the brand new St. Regis Hotel in Laguna Niguel for next year’s ball. And that’s a good thing. The hotel was great — a big improvement from the Ritz Carlton (and that’s saying something).

Anyway, the purpose of the night wasn’t to get wasted but to raise money for the Surfrider Foundation, Heal The Bay, the Wilderness League, the Ocean Institute, SOS Hawaii, and the American Oceans Campaign. Along the way, everyone got to shake hands, kiss babies, throw shakas, and honor two very important people in the surfing community: activist Donna Frye and pioneer surf-filmmaker Bud Browne.

Frye, who was recently elected to the San Diego city council, was honored as Environmentalist of the Year. Frye, wife of legendary shaper Skip Frye, has dedicated more than three decades fighting for clean water and pro-environment legislation. Frye founded Surfers Tired of Pollution (STOP), a group dedicated to preventing the exploitation of the ocean and other natural resources. Additionally, she has been appointed to several environmental committees, including San Diego’s Clean Water Task Force, the Environmental Health Advisory Board, and the Center for Marine Conservation.

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Browne, surfing’s original filmmaker, was honored with the Waterman Achievement Award. At 89, Browne has been dedicated for more than 40 years to bringing surfing to the big screen, having made fifteen surf films, including a twelve-year span from the mid 1950s to 60s where he made one movie annually. He was the first to show us Makaha and later opened our eyes — and jaws — to Pipeline, inspiring generations of surfers.

Browne was introduced by another surf filmmaking legend (and past Waterman honoree) Bruce Brown, who shared some classic stories and shenanigans with the audience. Browne, frail but stout with confidence, was a joker himself (even if he didn’t realize he was funny). “I am honored to be called a ‘Waterman’,” he said. “I had something else to say, but I can’t remember what, so I guess I’m done.”

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In addition to honoring Frye and Browne, SIMA also recognized Mike Parsons, Peter Mel, Ken Collins, and Brad Gerlach for their breakthrough Cortes Bank expedition. Gerlach thanked his father for inspiring him, and Mel begged his wife to let him go on future big-wave odysseys. You could tell that Kelly Slater, who introduced the foursome, was just itching to do some tow-in surfing.

At the beginning of the three-course dinner (which included an incredible butter-knife tender filet — just ask the evening’s emcee Salema Masekela) attendees opened their wallets for the live auction. A Gary Linden agave wood gun went for 3,750 dollars; a Skip Frye quiver pulled in 4,300 bucks; and someone dished out 3,100 clams for a tow-in (suicide?) session at Todos with Mike Parsons.

In all, the live auction raised more than 65,000 dollars — with Kelly Slater contributing 12,800 of the lot with his purchase of a new Mazda sport wagon.

As of Monday morning the total proceeds from the golf tournament, dinner, and auctions had yet to be tallied, but it seems likely that it will top 250,000 dollars. Not bad considering that the SIMA Waterman’s Ball has raised more than 1.5-million dollars foor environmental organizations in its twelve year history.

After the two-and-a-half hour auction and dinner, Spearhead put on a live performance. A few people stuck around to cut a mean rug, but most decided to duck out — either to use their last five-dollar drink ticket at the Bacardi-sponsored bar (no whiskey … the nerve!) or to wait in line for the valet. In other words, the night was fun, comfortable, and productive — but pretty damn long.

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Check out our slideshow of the night. Just scroll back to the top and click on the photo session icon on the right.