Beach Break: ECSC, the Longest-Running Surf Contest in the World

Coastal Edge’s East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) in Virginia Beach will celebrate 60 years as the longest continually run surf contest in the world.

As temperatures heat up and waves begin to thrash, Hampton Roads locals know it’s that time of year again. The Coastal Edge East Coast Surfing Championships (ECSC) will celebrate its 60th consecutive year this August, making it the “longest, continually run surfing championship in the World.” 

Hosted by the city of Virginia Beach, the event attracts more than 100,000 people to its Oceanfront each year. From beach concerts and block parties to skate competitions and bikini contests, ECSC is a summer event you won’t want to miss!

How it All Began

Surfing is often associated with the West Coast and Hawaii due to the Pacific’s more consistent waves and generally warmer weather. But the East Coast’s warmer summer waters, more substantial fluctuations in wave size, and winter storms make it a prime destination for surfers seeking a unique challenge.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of Virginia Beach surfing, the birthplace of East Coast surfing circa 1912. The ECSC as we know it began in 1963, with the local Jaycees chapter sponsoring the Virginia Beach Surfing Carnival. The sport was brand new but growing in popularity, and spectators were eager to watch surfers take on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Concessions were limited to hot dogs, and people with guitars played to the growing crowd. 

Hanging Loose at the Oceanfront

Within three years, the event became known as the East Coast Surfing Championship, attracting competitors from north and south to central, Mid-Atlantic locations. In the 80s, a humble community event transformed into a festival. 

With full-fledged concerts held at the beachfront and additional sports like volleyball added to the lineup, the ECSC had evolved into one of the largest surfing events in the world. In 2021, it became the longest-running surf contest in the world after an Australian event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not hard to see the original competition’s beach party atmosphere in today’s iteration of the event. You can catch hundreds of pro and amateur surfers competing for cash and prizes. While the ECSC is a surfing event first, it’s also Virginia Beach’s annual excuse to hang loose. Expect a wide range of drink specials, plenty of music, and good vibes all around.

The festival’s longstanding relationship with the Jaycees also provides financial support for the organization’s social projects and charitable contributions. Virginia Beach not only gets some summer fun but tangible, long-term community investment also.

Plan Your Visit

ECSC will be held from Sunday, August 21st, to Sunday, August 28th. Surf heats begin bright and early, but you can catch a live stream of each event on the official ECSC Facebook page. The competition will be stiff, with a $70k prize purse for this stop on the World Surf League tour. Expect to see appearances from legendary locals like 2014 ECSC champ Michael Dunphy.

If you’re heading to the Oceanfront in person, peruse Vendor Village for the latest surf and skate gear, plus creations from local artists. See who takes the crown at the Coastal Edge Miss and Mr. ECSC swimsuit pageant. Take a detour to the ViBe District’s 5th annual Mural Festival, just steps away from the boardwalk. When ready to refuel, head to Waterman’s Surfside Grille for Orange Crush cocktails or delectable options from local food trucks. Close out the evening with a bit of live music. 

Live Music from Ava Max, The Offspring

There’s no shortage of other exciting events happening over ECSC weekend. Free performances from rock group The Offspring and pop star Ava Max are sure to entice music lovers to the Oceanfront.

Millennials and Gen X-ers likely have fond memories of The Offspring, who made their name in the burgeoning skate punk and alternative scenes of the 90s. Smash hits like “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and “Self-Esteem” were inescapable on the decade’s alt-rock and college radio stations, and a more traditional sound with songs like “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” kept them on the rock charts well into the 2000s.

Their latest album, “Let the Bad Times Roll,” was released in 2021 and saw the band experimenting with more contemporary sounds and polished production.

Hampton Roads Roots

Ava Max’s music takes a decidedly more poppy and electronic approach. She first received mainstream attention when her song “Kings and Queens” went viral on Tiktok last year, but she started her career in Norfolk, Virginia. Her first gig was at the Norva; she told the Virginian-Pilot

“I don’t even remember who I opened for,” Max said in a phone interview with reporter Amy Poulter. “There was about 200 or so people there, but I sang ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and I really gave it my all.”

While Max now calls Los Angeles home, she continues to work with talent based in Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach’s J. Kash produced the song “Tattoo,” track four on her album, and her “Sweet But Psycho” video was directed by Old Dominion University grad Shomi Patwary. Co-founder of Virginia Beach’s Illusive Media, Patwary has directed videos for Beyoncé, Diplo, A$AP Ferg, Ty Dolla Sign, and Pusha T.

Beach Break: ECSC, the Longest-Running Surf Contest in the World
Alexandrea Sumuel

Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel a little easier.