Learn to Surf Normal- by Matt Bellina

Learn to Surf Normal

By: Matt Bellina

Recently, the annual NKF contest wrapped up after another good year. I didn’t do so hot, but it doesn’t matter at all. The contest did good, and that’s all that matters. And over the years that contest has given me a lot of memories.

Matt Bellina

I grew up in the era of Craig Carroll’s CFL ESA. 1A, 3A, the Lopezes, the Hobgoods, Joe Terry, David Glasser, David Speir, Pete Mendia, etc., etc. It was serious stuff. In the early eighties I got a longboard. The reason was because I always stood up with my legs crossed, and a local guy had said I would do a lot better on a longboard. That guy was Bruce Walker, and I had met him surfing at Tables. I got an Ocean Image longboard that was really a small windsurfer from Jeff Haney’s brother, Bill, which led to meeting Bob Strickland a few years later, after I couldn’t get boards from Kech and Brazington’s factory anymore. But that’s a whole ’nother story. Years later I would see Bruce again doing a demo on longboard skateboards with Jim McCall when Ocean Juice opened in the old Quiet Flight. Bruce asked me if I had surfed in any big contests yet and I replied only the Easter Fest and ESA, but not the new NSSA because my grades weren’t good enough. Also, never on my longboard and I still sucked at shortboarding. Bruce told me this new contest called NKF might have some longboarders and I should try it.

Turned out the contest was right down the beach from where I lived. So I went. They didn’t have a longboard division, but this guy Pineapple let me enter on my longboard anyway. My friends and other people from Roosevelt hassled me pretty hard. My longboard was 9’8”, but there was this 20’ halo around me on the beach that no one would enter. It hurt my feelings and made me pretty mad. I ended up making the final. I didn’t win, but came close. A guy named Fred Smith was the only one who congratulated me, mainly because the other guys complained that it was unfair that I surfed on a longboard. He told me I should come back next year and there would be some longboarders.

I don’t care what anyone claims, there were exactly three longboarders at the time in Cocoa Beach – Rick Super, Tom Black, and Randy Caldwell. The next year all three were there, and a few guys from California. They had a longboard division, and I didn’t place. The judges told me that I needed to learn how to surf “normal” and  the “right way” on a longboard. Fred was there once again, and told me to let it go in one ear and out the other. Fred also gave me a beer, and I was pretty stoked. That went well with the freckle tattoo I got on my arm from the one-legged surfer in the convertible school bus from Texas, just so that I could see what a tattoo felt like.

For many years after that, I had more fun hanging with Fred and helping set up and tear down the contest scaffolding than actually surfing. The NKF was something I looked forward to every year. Of course I surfed every year into the early nineties, and every year I heard the same thing. “Learn how to longboard the right way.” I think ’92 was the last year I tried hard. All I did was nose ride. I still didn’t win. But I did have a heck of a good time.

Sadly, Fred and Rich are no longer here. I miss them but enjoy getting to see Phil and the rest of the characters at the contest just as much. I’m still learning a lot from those guys. I surfed in the event this year and didn’t place. I didn’t even make it out of my first heat. A young guy in my division told me that I had the basics down but needed to learn how to surf a longboard the right way if I ever wanted to do good. I thanked him for the advice and let him know he’d better watch out next year!

If I have not learned how to surf a log the right way in almost 30 years, I probably never will! But to have been blessed at the NKF every year with the experiences that shaped a lot of my decisions in life was definitely worth the effort. Pushing 40 with a new 11-month-old son has definitely made me more reflective than usual. I realize now how much the people and the time at the NKFs over the years have meant to me. More than I’ll ever know.



  • Nice article Matt…….lots of great memories at the NKF and nice to read how the contest shaped some of your surfing style! Surf on Rich and Fred! See ya next year the contest.

    Alden3 October, 2013
  • Love the surf story…

    Kelli30 May, 2014
  • Different strokes for different folks. Never fit your style into what others think you should be. Surfing is about FUN! Seems to me that you have that part down.

    Great article by an even greater person!!

    Fight the good fight Matt!!!

    Just an FYI that Matt was recently injured and could use everyones PRAYER!!! 5.30.14

    Dave Hartner30 May, 2014

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