Salty Air

A-Mung The Happy Surfers – “A Celebration of Summer Itself”

Written by Brian Tarcy

WELLFLEET – In order to surf in water thick with seaweed, competitors in the 40th annual Cape Cod Oldtimers Longboard Classic surfing contest, held Sunday afternoon at Whitecrest Beach, had to run across a football field length of what surfers call, “mung” – thick-packed seaweed, a foul-smelling muck.

“You’re all still going to smell like mung three days from now,” said Edward Gurnett into a megaphone. Gurnett, 57, of Eastham, was the joke-a-minute color commentator, who was seated in the lifeguard chair for a good view of the event. (SEE SLIDESHOW BELOW)

Old Time Surfing See the story Cape Cod Wave did of this event last year – Poetic Beach Boys Go Surfing.

Gurnett cracked mung jokes as he watched surfers climb out of the water covered with seaweed. Their smiles seemed even bigger than his big grin. There are, after all, five senses. Smell is merely one.

In this surfing contest, there was lots of mung and hardly any waves. No one cared.

“The waves are horrible, the sandbars are horrible,” said Brendan McCray, 44 of Orleans. “It’s not a surfing contest. It’s the farthest thing from a competition. It’s a get together.”

In fact, there are nine categories in the surfing contest including, “Puppies” (21-29); “Bitties” (women 21& over); “Yuppies” (30-39); “Corporate Types” (40-49); “Oldtimers” (50-61); and “Social Security” (62 and over), plus various categories of lifeguards. And each year, one particularly non-courageous surfer is named “Chicken of the Sea.”

This gathering of old friends under the auspices of a surfing contest is actually a celebration of the 1960s culture of surfing. The “Oldtimers” name is not from the age of the surfer, but rather the age of the surfboard, or at least the style of surfing. “No wetsuits, shortboards, or leashes” is the rule, just as it was years ago when surfers on longboards called this stretch of beach “4-Mile.”

Jim “Duke” Papadonis, 61, of Brewster said, “This is a lot of old-school Wellfleetian surfers. It’s my favorite day of the year. I see all my old friends.”

And Gurnett, the funniest man on Cape Cod for at least this one day a year, paused for one serious moment to reflect on the event. “It’s a celebration of summer itself. It’s a celebration of people we’ve known all our lives,” said Gurnett.

On the lifeguard stand, he called play-by-play of mung fights – mung being thrown by the surfers at each other. There were more mung fights than there were waves caught.

And yet, there is evidence below that some mung-filled waves were caught. One surfer even did a headstand on his board.

Hundreds of of people watched the event, along with several curious seals. At the end of the day, as if on cue, a full moon reflected off the water.

Here are more Cape Cod Wave surfing stories.


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— Brian Tarcy

About the author

Brian Tarcy

Brian Tarcy is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. He is a longtime journalist who has written for the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, the Cape Cod Times and several other publications. He is the author of "YOU CAN'T SELL RIGHT FIELD; A Cape Cod Novel." He is also the author or co-author of more than a dozen mostly non-fiction books, including books with celebrity athletes Cam Neely, Tom Glavine and Joe Theisman. His previous book was, "ALMOST: 12 Electric Months Chasing A Silicon Valley Dream" with Hap Klopp,who created the iconic brand, The North Face.
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Brian is a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan with a long-running NFL predictions/political satire column connecting weekly world events to the fate of his favorite team, now at

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