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Endless Summers

Cape Cod Oldtimers Longboard Classic

For over four decades, surfers and beach lovers have gathered together for the annual Oldtimers Longboard Classic. This year’s event is August 12th at White Crest Beach in Wellfleet. Photo by Justin T. Bourassa

Surf’s up for the 44th year of the storied Cape Cod Oldtimers Longboard Classic

In the waning hours of an August afternoon, a line of nearly two-dimensional, vaguely rocket-shaped monoliths rises from the sands of Wellfleet’s White Crest Beach. Maybe 25 of them? Towering a good head or two, taller than anyone in the throng of some three or four hundred people who scurry and move about the sands with unexplained purpose. A megaphone barks out messages that carry and dissipate in the sound of waves, breeze and the chatter of voices all speaking at once. It’s sometime just after five o’clock, and an uninformed observer bearing witness from the mountainous dunes of the scene down below could be forgiven for wondering why so many folks have gathered when the beach has just closed for the day. The tide should be ebbing, about midway out, into the prevailing southwest breeze, and the collision of water and wind should charge the waves, pump up the chop.

Although over two hours remain before the sun ducks behind these dunes, already the landscape feels and looks somewhat magical, and some monoliths gleam in bright, festive colors, like lifeguard red, while others offer varnished wooden surfaces that wink in the sunlight. To the observer from a perch on high, the scene looks ritualistic, tribal, a Stonehenge on the beach, before the vastness of the Atlantic and its waves rolling in from the east. Now people are standing directly in front of these monoliths, and the crowd hushes as announcements ring out. There’s a pause as the assembled raise their phones or actual cameras, then the announcer continues. Suddenly, the people before the monoliths turn, embrace the sides of these structures, sling them under their arms, and dash into the water with them. The Cape Cod Oldtimers Longboard Classic is now live.

The Cape Cod Oldtimers Longboard Classic is an event that everyone who’s in the know understands, but to outsiders, it defies convention, and perhaps classification. As Peter Hartley wrote in a 1977 article for the Cape Cod Times, “Exactly what the third annual Cape Cod Oldtimers Surfing Contest was [as it was then named] never became completely clear—and it wasn’t even important.” Of real importance was, and still is, the overall vibe, the scene, the love of life, of the beach and of surfing. Now, in its 44th official year—47th if you include the three from 1971-1973—Oldtimers is like the beach itself; even though its sands have shifted over time, its essence remains true to its conception.

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