By the time Andy Nieblas’ fellow Californians and Duct Tape Invitational co-finalists were done showering the SoCal switch-stance maestro with champagne, a few things had become abundantly clear regarding Joel Tudor’s traveling alt-surf sideshow. One: with a stacked field of international talent competing in the Basque Country—a good portion of whom would have to play “Hey Mister” in order to drink in the United States—a changing of the guard in the log-centric surf universe may soon be upon us.
And two: after nearly a decade of celebrating classic surfing through competitions held in a dozen or so countries, each one showcasing the intersections between art, music, board shaping and surf culture, in general, The Duct Tape may not yet draw like a WSL event, but it’s relevance is undeniable.
“It’s really cool what Joel has done—giving everyone a platform to display their surfing,” said Dane Reynolds, who was on hand to share a couple of distinctive handshapes and indulge in the area’s playful beach breaks. “[The Duct Tape invitees are] a really tight knit community. There are only so many really good long boarders and they’re all here."
For three days, crowds swarmed the beachfront promenade-turned Duct Festival site in Zarautz, where afternoons of surfing, in which the general public was invited to test out an eclectic batch of custom handshapes made by surfing luminaries like Tanner Gudauskas, Dane Reynolds, Lee Ann Curren, and Alex Knost, were soundtracked by Ray Barbee noodling through some jazz scales, Lee Ann Curren’s polished electro-pop sounds and others. All of which seemed to flow seamlessly into into the main event, the 16-man Duct Tape Invitational, where an international gaggle of fresh faced newbies like Frenchman Nathan Sadoun (19), Californian Zack Flores (17), Floridian Saxon Wilson (17), and Spain’s Nico Garcia (14), competed alongside an eclectic mix of DTI veterans like Justin Quintal, Alex Knost, Tyler Warren and Ryan Burch.
“In the beginning we were trying to create a show that would inspire kids. And that’s what happened,” said Tudor reflecting on the impact of ten years and fourteen Duct Tape Invitationals. “I kind of saw it coming. But Al [Knost] and [Ryan] Burch and those guys have been traveling for years and they’ve seen it…The kids look up to those guys. They’ve inspired a whole new generation.”
“The kids now are just better than when I was a kid,” said former Duct Tape winner, Al Knost, who made it to the finals in Zarautz, before being edged out by first time winner, Nieblas. “They're really mature. A lot of them are shaping their own boards… It’s pretty mind-blowing to see.”
But although the youngsters impressed with enlightened approaches and composure in the heavy, vexing surf, the "old guys”, pretty much ruled the early rounds, dispensing all of the young guns, save Kai Takayama, before the semis.
Every surfer’s performance in the talented field, however, was overshadowed by the frenetic creativity of Nieblas, whose fin-first theatrics and switch-stance wizardry was ultimately too hot for the rest of the competitors in the all-California-final to handle. The champagne shower, compliments of his fellow finalists Warren, Burch and Knost seemed enough to cool young Nieblas down, momentarily.
Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational Zarautz Results: