The 4th annual Intergalactic Body Surfing Championship, more commonly known as Whomporama, will be returning to Carolina Beach on Saturday.
The event, put together by a local company called Surf Wise Web Design & Social Marketing in close partnership with the Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation, costs $25 to enter and is open to all ages. According to one of the main organizers, a man who goes only by the name Bigfoot, the oldest participant in last year’s competition was 70 years old, while the youngest was just six.
“It’s a big, family-oriented event,” said Bigfoot. No experience or equipment is needed to compete, but Bigfoot said most people who body surf use hand planes, which help to navigate the waves. This year, those hand planes will also play a big role in another event they’re holding on the beach: a ping pong tournament called Whomp Pong.
The catch, according to Bigfoot, is that instead of using normal paddles, players can only use hand planes. They can either bring their own or use one donated from companies around the world. The cost to enter is $5, and the winner will get a custom hand plane made of mushrooms from a California company called Enjoy Handplanes.
The other hand planes that have been donated will be raffled off. Prizes will also be given for the body surfers in three categories: youth, women and men. Twelve trophies in total will be given out, all of which were handmade this week by Bigfoot and his organizing partner, El Surfo, out of recycled lumber and Barbie dolls.
If the details of the event sound ridiculous, Bigfoot said it’s meant to be that way. After all, Whomporama (which comes from slang used by the California surfing culture in the 1950s and 1960s) is headed by two guys who only want to go by their nicknames and will be hosted by guys who are “basically comedians.”
“It’s the silliest event you’ve ever been to,” said Bigfoot. “The only rule is there are no rules.”
Each year the event has a different theme. Last year it was lucha libre, or Mexican wrestling masks. This year the theme is monsters.
“You’ll be seeing a lot of people running around the beach with monster masks on,” Bigfoot said.
Another group of people you’ll see running around the beach are kids and kids at heart asking tourists for their trash. Whomporama is an environmentally conscious event, with volunteers doing a beach clean-up before, during and after the championships.
“One of our biggest things is that we leave a negative carbon footprint,” said Bigfoot. “We’re trying to promote people coming to the beach and not bringing a lot of garbage.”
As part of the zero waste effort, people who come with non-disposable plates and utensils will get free food, and those that bring reusable drink containers will get free coffee. All the electronic equipment will be powered by solar generators, and any extra money left over (Bigfoot estimates anywhere between $500-$1000) after the event will go to the Surfrider Foundation and their environmental efforts.
In addition to their partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, Whomporama is also working with local non-profit Ocean Cure and The Wounded Warrior Project this weekend. According to Bigfoot, the groups will help wounded veterans try their hand at surfing for the first time.
For Bigfoot, one of the best things about the event is that so many people come together and get involved, from the mayor and other officials of Carolina Beach to local businesses, to do something positive and most importantly, have fun. In fact, the biggest prize of the day doesn’t necessarily go to an actual competitor – it goes to the person who makes the most of the event.
“The ‘King of Stoke’ is our main award,” said Bigfoot. “It goes to the person who has the most fun, who’s enjoying themself the most.”
Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Hamlet Street entrance. There is no early registration, so those who want to participate have to get there early as the field is limited to 40 surfers. Previous years have seen body surfers come from as far away as Florida, California and even New Zealand. The competition begins at 9 a.m. and will go until 3-4 pm. An awards banquet will be held later that evening at the Lazy Pirate, Whomporama’s biggest sponsor.