Surf Contests in Florida

By: Terry Tomalin

Surf contests take place throughout the year, producing a surprising number of excellent surfers.

Why has Florida produced so many world-caliber surfers in recent years? Other states, particularly California and Hawaii, have bigger and more consistent waves. The answer must lie then in surfing's "farm system," the contest circuit that produced so many professional surfers from one state.

The Association of Surfing Professional's (ASP) Tour has hosted smaller events such as the Pro Junior and Men's Events in Sebastian Inlet and New Smyrna Beach, and many of the circuit's top performers, including Slater, arguably the best surfer ever to ride a wave, got their starts in Florida's amateur contests.

Slater and fellow Floridian, former woman's World Champion Lisa Anderson, honed their competitive skills at events such as Cocoa Beach's Easter Surfing Festival.

Undoubtedly the best known surfing event in Florida is the annual Ron Jon Easter Surfing Festival. The festival, a three-day surf, skimboard and water sport extravaganza, has a real family atmosphere.

The competition takes place at Cocoa Beach Pier and Sheppard Park. Other contests include the Longboard Pro, Shortboard Pro, skimboarding and an Easter egg hunt for the kids.

Another feeding ground for the pro ranks is the Eastern Surfing Association's (ESA) contest program. With more than 7,000 members, the ESA is undoubtedly the largest amateur surfing organization in the world.

Founded in 1967, the ESA has 26 districts stretching along 2,000 miles of coastline from Maine through the Gulf Coast of Florida and Alabama, to the Great Lakes and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The ESA's Florida contests are linked to the rest of the world through the International Surfing Association (ISA) and help funnel many surfers to the U.S. National Surf Team.

Children 11 and under can begin competing in the ESA's Menehune Division and keep surfing even when they hit the Grand Legends age of 65 years or older. Currently, their oldest surfer is 77!

Florida has 10 surf regions - First Coast, North, St. Augustine, North Central, Central, Treasure Coast, Palm Beach, South, West and North Gulf - each staging its own contests throughout the calendar year. There is a contest held nearly every month somewhere in the state, weather depending.

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