Stab Magazine | Good Feels: Young, Tyler Gunter's Newport Beach Event For Children With Cancer

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Good Feels: Young, Tyler Gunter’s Newport Beach Event For Children With Cancer

Four years in the running and $10k towards the battle.

news // Apr 30, 2017
Words by Jacob Tellkamp
Reading Time: 3 minutes

At a brisk 14-years of age, Tyler Gunter had a simple, philanthropic idea.

Using surfing as his diesel he set out on his path to be an advocate of change. Around the dinner table, one night in 2013, he told his family that he wanted to throw a surf contest that benefited a cause that’s has affected nearly 100 percent of the population, cancer. But, more importantly, children who are fighting the disease. 

Now, going four years strong, Tyler, with the help of his family and contest director, Darren Brillhart, organised a charity event that avails the Young and Brave Foundation; a non-profit institution that supports children’s fight with cancer.

“I knew I wanted to do more than post a photo on Instagram,” Tyler told Stab. “I thought how much I enjoyed surfing in the two local contests we have every year in Newport and how cool it would be if there was a third contest that I got to run.”

Tyler grew up competing every weekend. By the time he hit his teens, he was already a regular face at amateur events scaling the California coast. 

“The city told us that Brillo had all the permits and we asked if we could use one,” said Tyler. With Brillheart sorting out the logistic nightmare of obtaining the rights between the jetties at 54th Street, Tyler centred on obtaining sponsors, products to raffle off and raise money for the cause.

Tyler’s talent earned him sponsors from an early age including RVCA, Doc Surf Prescriptions, Futures Fins, Banzai Bowls, and Jacks Surf Shop. Standing just shy of 5-feet at the time, he walked into his sponsors’ offices and asked for their hand in contributing to his cause.

“I was super nervous and thought my sponsors wouldn’t be interested in helping me with money for the permits and product to give out,” said Tyler. “I was totally wrong and they have been the biggest help each year. It’s crazy how much stuff they have given me to raffle away to raise money.”

This year’s event ran last weekend in desirable, user-friendly conditions at 54th Street, resulting in a cushy $10k for Young and Brave. Over 100 contestants showed up to surf the shoulder-head high peaks on tap. Including Peter Mel, and one of Orange County’s aerial fathers, and local hero, Christian Fletcher. 

“The day before the event, I saw Christian Fletcher surfing 54th Street, and he said to put his name in and let him know what time he surfed at. I texted him that night but I didn’t think he was going to show up. The next morning he was there for his heat and went out and got four barrels. He had a few more heats that were fun to watch before going down in the semis.

“The most rewarding part is seeing a bunch of kids at the beach in their wetsuits all day having fun. When I get to give a suit, surfboard, or even just a shirt to a kid and see how stoked they are and knowing that all of this is raising awareness and money for kids with cancer makes me want to do it all over again next year.”

Professional surfers running local surf contests is nothing fresh. The Irons’ Pinetree Classic, held at Andy and Bruce’s stomping grounds in Kauai, just ran for its 16th consecutive year. Most pros, however, start holding events at the end of their careers, not at the beginning of them, and certainly not at the tender age of 14.

Since the inception of the event, Tyler’s been involved in every role of running the contest. He arranges the sponsors and food, commentators, tabulates scores, checks in competitors for their heats, and pushes groms into waves if need be. He is everywhere at once making sure that the contest goes smoothly and that competitors are enjoying themselves. He even arranged for the above edit to be cut while on a plane to Portugal for a WQS contest.

Tyler calls for surfers to use their following to raise awareness about causes like the Young and Brave. “I think surfers on the world tour have so many people that look up to them that they could really make a difference.”


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