Waterman’s Ball was wonderful

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

On Saturday August 5, The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) honored inspirational professional surfer Bethany Hamilton as Waterman of the Year; Parley For The Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch as Environmentalist of the Year; and all- around surf industry legend Herbie Fletcher with the Lifetime Achievement Award.  

A Special Recognition Award was also presented to the International Surfing Association (ISA), the world governing body for surfing, for its unwavering and successful efforts in getting surfing included in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

The 28th Annual Waterman’s Weekend was held at one of my favorite venues, The Ranch at Laguna Beach. This year the entire event was held at The Ranch with the Waterman’s Golf Tournament at Ben Brown’s Golf Course. The tournament took place on Friday, August 4 and featured a 3-club and barefoot format.

On Saturday, August 5 the industry gathered under the stars at The Ranch for the Waterman’s Gathering to celebrate this year’s honorees, raise money through silent and live auctions and enjoy a farm-to-table meal with friends.

Click on photo for a larger image

Laura Buckle with Bethany Hamilton

I was lucky enough to be invited along once again to cover this fabulous night for Stu News and as always the event did not disappoint. 

The Award Winners

Waterman (woman of the year) Bethany Hamilton: Bethany Hamilton is known around the world as the inspirational pro surfer whose determination, heart, and skills brought her back to competitive surfing after a shark attack in 2003. The attack left her without her left arm, however she overcame the odds to return to surfing at the highest level. 

Hamilton’s story has reached far beyond the surf community. Following the release of her autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board (2009), and later with the release of the feature film Soul Surfer (2011) she inspired millions with her story. Hamilton continues to be an inspiration through her pro surfing and big wave accomplishments, and as an author, wife, and mother. 

I was lucky enough to talk to her and meet her beautiful family briefly where we discussed her life and her remarkable “just get on with it” determined attitude.

My children encouraged me to ask her one question, which was “Are you afraid of anything?” her answer was not being a good enough mom or a good enough wife is the only thing that scares her. She was truly deserving of this marvelous award and it was a complete pleasure talking to her. 

Environmentalist of the Year

SIMA’s 2017 Environmentalist of the Year was German-born Cyrill Gutsch who is a designer and creative entrepreneur based in New York City. At first glance, not what one would expect in an ocean environmentalist honoree, but a life-changing meeting with Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society inspired Gutsch to commit his life to protecting the world’s oceans back in 2012. That meeting was the catalyst for founding Parley For The Oceans, a non-profit network that seeks to facilitate collaboration across the fields of business, government, activism, art and science – with the ultimate objective of conserving the earth’s oceans. Gutsch has worked tirelessly in connecting many walks of life, people, cultures and businesses in order to create change, from pro surfers Greg Long and Ramon Navarro to Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth to companies such as Adidas and Corona. Gutsch is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure the health of the earth’s oceans.

Click on photo for a larger image


“While he may not be widely known in the surf world yet, I can tell you that Cyrill is without question someone who is a friend of surfers around the world,” said Paul Naude, SIMA Environmental Fund President and CEO of Vissla. “Simply put, Cyrill is an agent of change, and his work to create a forum and network of others who want to protect our oceans is what the world needs right now. And the surf industry needs it more than ever. We couldn’t be happier to award Cyrill with the Environmentalist of the Year award.”

Lifetime Achievement Award: Herbie Fletcher

A Southern California native, Fletcher has continued to re-invent himself and the industry since he began surfing in 1948. In 1976 Fletcher created the revolutionary peel-and-stick Astrodeck, and went on to become an icon of self-promotion. In fact, his first foray into film in 1985 (Wave Warriors) was a self-made promotional movie for Astrodeck, and was followed by with four successful sequels. Fletcher was not only behind the camera, but also starred in several surf films in the 70s and 80s.

As the patriarch of the famous Fletcher clan (wife Dibi, sons Christian and Nathan and grandsons Greyson, Lazer and Jetson), Herbie remains as integrated in the industry as ever. His most recent projects include a RVCA + Astrodeck collaboration, and creating fine art pieces from broken surfboards.

Special Recognition Award – ISA – Fernand Aguerre

In August 2016, the announcement was made to the world that surfing would be included in the Olympic Games after decades of hard work and dedication from the ISA. SIMA honored the work of the ISA with the 2017 Special Recognition Award as the surfing community prepares itself for its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The award was presented to ISA President Fernando Aguerre who has tirelessly spearheaded ISA’s Olympic Surfing movement, a vision first pioneered by Duke Kahanamoku who is widely regarded as the “father of modern surfing” and was a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming.  

Fernando was the life and soul of the evening’s event, both he and his wife were the most colorful people in town with smiles to match their fabulous outfits.

Click on photo for a larger image

The Ranch provided exquisite food

Mark Christy and the team at The Ranch pulled out all the stops for this event. The venue was beautifully presented, the organization ran without a hitch and the food we ate on the fairway of hole nine was exquisite. Not only did I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for the winners but also for The Ranch, which is proving itself to be one of the most fabulous venues In Laguna Beach.

A little bit about SIMA

The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) is the official working trade association of more than 300 surf industry suppliers. Founded in 1989, SIMA is a non-profit organization that serves to promote awareness of the surf industry and participation in the sport of surfing through public relations efforts and a variety of services, educational programs and research. 

In addition, SIMA actively supports oceanic environmental efforts through its 501(c)(3) charitable environmental foundation, the SIMA Environmental Fund. In the past 27 years, SIMA’s Environmental Fund has raised more than $7 million for environmental groups seeking to protect the world’s oceans, beaches and waves. 

The SIMA Humanitarian Fund, also a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, was established to award grants to various surf or boardsport related social and humanitarian non-profit organizations whose efforts are focused on improving the quality of life, health and/or welfare of people. Since 2004 the SIMA Humanitarian Fund has raised and donated more than $1.7 million to surf-related non-profit humanitarian organizations. For more information regarding SIMA, visit www.sima.com.