The roots of the Longboard Union dig deep into Santa Cruz culture and its reputation as a Mecca for surfing. The SCLU has been around more than thirty years, and its community contributions and accomplishments are numerous and admirable.
by Jen Coco
In 1981, as David Preovolos recalls, the world was FINALLY remembering their longboard roots so he wanted to start up Killer Cowells Surfing Affiliation again. After some discussion and deliberation, he and Alan Souza decided that a whole new establishment was the way to go. So the Longboard Union name was initiated.
The original crew consisted of a collection of guys who came together from various clubs that had previously existed in the area, that's where the Union part of the name comes from, and had put in their time surfing in Santa Cruz in the 60s. These clubs included the Santa Cruz Surfing Association, Pleasure Point Surfing Association, West Wind Surfing Association, Killer Cowells Affiliation, North Side Surfing Association, Oldies But Goodies Surfing Association, and the Younger But Better Surfing Coalition.
All the earliest members, therefore, were good surfers. The club was not open to just anyone, you had to know the ins and outs of surfing, and actually pass a series of test questions about Santa Cruz history in order to be invited into the Union.
The first President of the club was Geoff McCormack, followed by David Preovolos, and then Dennis Taku. The first meeting was held around mid-late September, 1981 at a J.J.s Pizza on the East Side. They showed the Endless Summer, and, as David recalls, half the crowd had never seen it on tape. Some faces at the meeting that day included Red-O, Gary Venturini, Dave Sultzer, Randy Selby, and Tony Mikus.
David and Alan made up twenty-four original T-shirts and offered up the idea to meet again some time in the future. Pretty much on the spot, the group decided to make it an official club. Alan remembers the enthusiasm that surrounded the start of the club. He says, It was all about having fun and seeing your friends once a month, we had a great time.
In the spring of 1986, a few of the members broke off of the L.U. and created a group called the West Side Longboard Coalition. The group disagreed with the rapid growth of club membership, which now extended to non-locals. There was also a conflict with regards to contest direction, as the club had gotten more involved in hosting competitions. But eventually the rifts were resolved, the Union became united once again. Since then, the L.U. has grown in membership and community involvement and participation.
Major accomplishments of the club include the preservation of our beloved West Cliff Drive. At one point, the city of Santa Cruz wanted to bisect Lighthouse Field and close off West Cliff near Steamer Lane. Thanks to active members like Kim Stoner, who had extensive knowledge on city codes and agreements, the Union helped prevent the cut-off of the leisurely, scenic route that hugs the Santa Cruz coast from the Boardwalk up to Natural Bridges.
Another major innovation that can be traced back to the Longboard Union are the stairs that you see that connect the cliff to the surf breaks below all along West Cliff. Their vision and hard work lead to easier access to the best waves at places like Cowells, Indicators, Steamer Lane, and Its Beach. Surfers today should be thankful that this driven group of guys has made our wave access today so much more pleasant and danger-free!
In 1986 the Surfing Museum on the West Side of Santa Cruz opened to the community, giving locals and visitors alike a glimpse into the history of the sport. SCLU continues to add to the Museums history and preservation. The Club also contributes to the upkeep of the lighthouse, which so eloquently houses the museum. The members also put on fun days with local contests, BBQs, and lackadaisical surf sessions with friends.
The Longboard Union continues it's spirit of community support by donating the proceeds of its Annual Memorial Day Invitational Surf Contest to local nonprofit organizations like Ride a Wave (RAW). RAW was founded in 1998 in Santa Cruz and is known for its mission to give children with special needs the chance to experience the fun and thrill of surfing. The SCLU provides volunteers at the numerous successful events that take place annually at Cowells Beach. For more information on Ride a Wave, go to www.rideawave.org.
The Club is still going strong, with over one hundred active members. We currently meet once a month in downtown Santa Cruz at a local taco bar to discuss the latest news and new, upcoming plans. The passion and fun of the club still revolves around surfing and love of longboarding. This passion brings us together both in and out of the water, to share, laugh, and help our community. We want to do what we can to upkeep our beautiful city, and give thanks for the waves we are privileged to ride each day, as I'm sure the original members felt when they started the Union in the first place.