Fun for the Ocean

by | Sep 27, 2021 | Nonprofit, Surf City

Celebrate Surf City’s wave-riding heritage and help protect the ocean at Surf City Ocean Fest 2021 on October 8 and 9.

Mark Anders is truly addicted to surfing. He goes almost every day. But his passion goes far beyond sport. It’s the ocean that he goes for. It helps him heal both mind and body.

“It’s brought so much positivity to my life,” Anders explains. “I wanted to do something to give back to the ocean.”

That’s the reason he founded Surf City Ocean Fest in 2019.

For the last 15 years Anders wanted to do something to bring awareness to the ecological concerns facing not only Surf City, but all of North Carolina’s precious coast and natural resources. He realized there would never be an easy time to pull something like this together, so he just went for it, with the help of friends and fellow surfers Cody Leutgens of Surf City Surf School and Cory Sydes of Topsail Island Longboard Association. With just a month and a half planning timeframe, they were able to pull together the first event.

Surf City NC Ocean Fest

“Sometimes when you’re doing something for the right reasons, it just ends up that everything comes together,” Anders says.

In October 2019 Surf City Ocean Fest’s inaugural event exceeded expectations with a crowd size estimated at 5,000.

The 2021 event is scheduled for Friday, October 8 and Saturday, October 9, with the kickoff party on Friday and the surfing contest and main festival on Saturday. True to the festival’s mission statement, attendees will be there to surf, protect and party.

The 2021 festival will bring back the popular vintage surfboard contest presented by Salty Turtle Beer Co. that draws riders from all over the area.

“It’s a different way to host a surf competition,” Anders says. “We ride vintage boards from the ’60s and ’70s of all shapes and sizes. Some are harder to ride than others, and you don’t get to pick your board.”

Riders draw between two dozen popsicle sticks with the name of each board written on it. The contest is not like a traditional one. It is all about whoever has the smoothest ride. The winner gets mostly bragging rights and a financial donation made to his or her ocean-based charity of choice. The contest is for all ages, with everybody in the same division.

Even if you are not a surfer, you can appreciate the boards themselves, which are individually unique pieces of art. “It’s like having a museum of vintage boards,” Anders says.

In addition to the vintage board surf contest, the organizers will host an Adaptive Surf Experience clinic to share their love of surfing with others. The 2019 clinic, with the support of the Tom Moorefield Memorial Fund in association with Ocean Cure and Del Mar Center for Behavioral health, teamed children with disabilities to surf instructors. This year, the free adaptive clinic, with the support of Ocean Cure, will be for a pre-selected group of disabled military veterans who will be treated to a day on the water.

Save Our Sea NC

Above all the fun, fellowship and surfing is the root cause of the event: giving back to the ocean. According to Anders, “A lot of people just aren’t aware of the environmental issues that are harming our oceans.” The festival will feature advocacy booths from area eco-centric organizations whose focus is on bringing attention to the ways we can make our oceans healthy, including Plastic Ocean Project, Surfrider Foundation, North Carolina Coastal Federation and Coastal Carolina Riverwatch. In addition, Ecological Marine Adventures in Surf City will be there; owners Amber and Taylor Maready are instrumental in organizing the advocacy set up for the festival and much more.

“One-hundred percent of the proceeds goes to all of the ocean-related charities,” Anders says. “Everything about the event is giving back. When you are transparent, it makes the event more genuine.”

This year’s event features a 5K and 1-mile beach race presented by Fat Tire— run entirely on the sand at the #18 Beach Access — as a way to involve other attendees who love the beach but don’t surf. “So many people love the ocean for so many different reasons,” Anders says. “We want the whole community to come together.”

Ocean Festto Surf and Protect

The main event takes place at the Surf City Welcome & Event Center all day on Saturday. The street will be blocked off, and a stage set up for the live music festival. Other festival activities include the Fat Tire beer garden, a street fair, food trucks, a kids’ zone and more. A silent auction and raffle help raise additional funds.

Another big draw is the arts and crafts village. Many of the vendors feature ocean-themed items and are committed to promoting ocean conservation through their use of recycled and eco-friendly materials.

Want to go?
Surf City Ocean Fest 2021
Friday, October 8, 5 to 9 pm; Saturday, October 9, 8 am to 8 pm
Admission is free.
Facebook @surfcityoceanfest
Vendors, sponsors and volunteers are needed. For information contact

About the author

Melissa Slaven Warren

Melissa Slaven Warren

Melissa Slaven Warren is a freelance writer who lives in Southeastern North Carolina. She earned her BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and is currently pursuing her Masters in Liberal Studies from UNCW. She’s been a freelance business writer, feature article author, non-fiction essayist, technical editor, entrepreneur, product and brand manager. Her work has appeared in Our State magazine and she is a regular contributor to local publications. In her spare time Melissa enjoys water sports and coastal living with her husband Bill and 110 lb. rescue dog, aptly named Bear. Visit her website at