VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The surf is clean and the judges’ stage is nearly complete. The East Coast Surfing Championships is sure to make a splash at the Oceanfront when it kicks off Sunday.
“I think it's pretty cool,” said tourist Donnie Hankins. “I didn’t even know they surfed on this side of the country.”
Hankins, a first-time Virginia Beach visitor from Akron, Ohio, said he’s looking forward to seeing what the ECSC is all about.
“I'll definitely check it out, and I can't wait to see some... I see some guys out here now practicing,” Hankins said.
The Coastal Edge event, now in its 59th year, is the longest-running surfing competition in the world. The ECSC draws surfers – pros and beginners – and fans and visitors from across the globe, country and right here in Hampton Roads.
The ECSC is an economic driver. Historically, it has had the biggest economic impact to the resort city. An analysis done by city officials in 2019 showed that in 2018, the event generated an estimated $26 million in revenue from hotels, food and entertainment.
Businesses like Ocean Eddie’s Seafood Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue are hoping to bank on the event’s anticipated big crowds.
“This is the time of year where college kids start going back to school and we actually see business start to decline a little bit, but then the ECSC comes into town, business picks up again,” said Jeff Hague, the owner and manager of Ocean Eddie’s Seafood.
Last year’s competition was scaled down due to COVID-19. No spectators were allowed, international surfers didn’t compete and the event’s concerts were nixed.
Restaurants and bars were hit hard last August after the governor imposed new restrictions, forcing eateries and pubs to close early and limit indoor dining, and alcohol sales were cut off by 10 p.m.
“Last year, ECSC definitely didn't have the same feel to it,” Hague said. “It wasn't as much of an economic impact for us because of all the restrictions.”
But this summer, there’s a renewed sense of hope for Hague and other business owners.
“We're excited about this year because things are kind of back to normal, so we think it'll be like old times – lots of crowds and people having fun,” Hague said.
Ocean Eddie’s Seafood will be hosting the ECSC after-party.
The ECSC kicks off this Sunday at the jetty with beginner surfers. The pros hit the waves starting Tuesday.
The event runs until August 29.