Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Lorton Mitchell Surf Fest a Great Success

Submitted by Chris Searles

After a two-year hiatus, Coronado surfers from across generations converged at Shipwreck Beach on Saturday, November 27th to participate in this year’s Lorton Mitchell Surf Fest. Now in its fifth run, the “Lorton” remembers Lorton Mitchell, the master home builder who also gave his time generously to shore up the foundation and structure of future generations of Coronado surfers as a middle and high school surf coach, and an all-around beacon of positivity and surfing stoke.

The seal that joined us at sunrise to kick off the Lorton. Photo by Chris Searles

The day began with a beautiful sunrise and a little visit from a curious seal who, as if on cue, swam through the breakers and came on to shore to get the event underway. Family and friends welcomed the long-awaited chance to settle in on the beach and the boardwalk and catch up over coffee from The Henry, breakfast burritos from Night and Day, and bagels provided by Caroline Haines.

Surfer Girls: Dana Jennings. Kalista Searles, Alexis Hammond, Rylie Brenden, Marianna Dick, and Zoe Searles. Photo by Elsie Hammond.

There has been a surf contest on Thanksgiving weekend in Coronado for nearly 40 years. Like the contests of years past, the Lorton is an event that draws family and friends from as close as down the road, and from the corners of the country to give folks a chance to stay connected to the past, present, and future of the Coronado surfing community. No matter how the waves shape up for the contest, it’s always a great event.

Luke Johnson – Clean Line. Photo by Derek Emge

As it turns out, the waves were at times powerful and crunching… and while plenty of shoulders came through, it was definitely a day to showcase wave riding skills as well as one’s ocean awareness as contestants navigated the occasional rogue set wave! The day would see incredible feats of surfing prowess with competitors dancing across their boards, sliding along the ocean pulses with style and finesse (most of the time!). There was a division for everyone from kids under 13 all the way through to the Master’s division. Rob Molt from Emerald City Surf Shop provided his always entertaining commentary at the microphone as he called out the best maneuvers and shared a story here and there. The action broke for a mid-morning “expression session” that gave a brief respite for the judges and surfers paddled out together just to enjoy the waves and cheer each other on. An adaptive surfing exhibition highlighted surfers Quinn Waitely and Ruby Melchior who brought their teams into the water and gave everyone on the beach a chance to see adaptive surfing in action. Quinn will follow up her Lorton session with a trip up to Pismo Beach in December for the World Adaptive Surfing Championship! Between the good food, good waves, and good company, the surfing day was an unqualified success!

Shane Gillard – All Style. Photo by Derek Emge

The day moved to night, and after sunset the gathering headed over to the VFW for dinner, awards, a raffle and silent auction, and an all-around great time set to surf rhythms provided by DJ (and competitor!) Kristian Kocherga. Aside from being a sentinel event for the Coronado Surfing Association, the Lorton is a fundraiser for the Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research Foundation which funds research to fight the cancer that took Lorton Mitchell. The event also helps to fund the Coronado Surfing Association’s Surfing Scholars program and its commitment to the environment and support of the surfing culture in Coronado.

The awards ceremony is always a good time with some gentle ribbing all around as contestants move front and center to accept their trophies and prizes. The Women’s Open, which is always a crowd favorite, was as competitive as ever with Trudie Nixon taking the top spot followed by Bianca Dootson, Katie Jacobs-Bonnett, Sydney Zoehrer, Monique Phillips, and Susana Cianetti.

The Men’s Open is always hotly contested and the year-long bragging rights that come along with the 1st place trophy are priceless. This year, recent CHS graduate Cole Quinlan made his way back from UC Santa Cruz to come out on top. Close behind was Nico Espinoso, followed by Bryan Guter, Shane Gillard, Pete Cuffaro, and Bruce Gillard.

Emiliano Mendez – Best Wipeout. Photo by Chris Searles

Although a new winner reigned in the Men’s Open Division this year, the Men’s Masters Division found John Campbell falling just behind repeat winner Mike Gillard. In 3rd place was Memo Mendez followed by Chris Searles, Jon Massie, and Steve Farguson.

Owen Berta – Most Inspirational Grom. Photo by Chris Searles

Judging by the incredible turn out of youth surfers at the Lorton, the future of surfing in Coronado is looking very bright indeed! The winner of the Boys Under 13 division was Liam Powers. Second place went to Austin Iversen, followed by Bohlen Kuperschmid, Owen Berta, Ryan Calepas, and Jedidiah Preston.

Shane Gillard – Best Noseride. Photo by Chris Searles

The competition was fierce in the Junior Men’s Division (14-17 years old) but it was Shane Gillard that was left hoisting the winner’s trophy at the VFW. He was followed closely by Shane Cannon and the division was rounded out with Luke Johnson, Noah Pierre, Ryder Albin, and Koehn Kavanewsky.

Zoe Searles – Smooth Operator. Photo by Derek Emge

The girls were certainly not to be outdone by the boys. The Junior Women’s Division (13-17 years old) is always highly competitive and this year Rylie Brenden took the top spot. The rest of the field included 2nd place finisher Marianna Dick, followed by Kalista Searles, Zoe Searles, Alexis Hammond, and Dana Jennings.

Carolyn Mitchell and Lena Capetanakis – For the Win. Photo by Derek Emge

Finally, it must be said that some of the heaviest waves of the event landed in the Women’s Masters Division heats making for some challenging conditions! Coming out on top was first place surfer Mary Ellen Rogers, followed by Carolyn Mitchell, Lena Capetanakis, Dawn Nguyen, Lisa Thompson, and Cheryl Woodhouse.

With the last trophies awarded, the rest of the evening was filled with music, dancing, and prizes. Carolyn Mitchell closed out the evening and thanked all for making the day a special one. Surfboards from Boardworks, a SUP from Isle, a bicycle from Holland’s, surf art from artist Terry Gillard…  and many more prizes left with partygoers as the night finally wound down.

With the final fundraising tally still on the way, there is no doubt that this was the most successful Lorton yet with more participants taking part than in any year past. Thanks to Emerald City for its ongoing support of the Lorton and the Coronado Surfing Association throughout the year as its Marquee Sponsor. Thanks also to the CSA’s Annual Supporting Sponsors this year: Lorton Mitchell Custom Homes, and Isle Surf and SUP, and to all those who donated to the event this year! Finally, our sincere gratitude to the many volunteers who helped make this year’s event possible!

For more information and photos of the event, visit the Coronado Surfing Association website at

Submitted by Chris Searles


Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]