This article is brought to you by Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism.
Catch surfing big shots in midair, see some of portrait photography's best shots and capture up-close shots of nature, all on Florida's Space Coast this month. Beginning Jan. 10, the Space Coast hosts three special events you won't want to miss.
Head to Sebastian Inlet State Park to watch top surfers take on Florida's best-known waves during the first tournament of the world professional surfing season.
The O'Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro, sponsored by Ron Jon Surf Shop, gets under way Jan. 12. For seven days, more than 200 of the world's top surfers will battle for $85,000 and a spot on the world tour. Previous contenders have included three-time world champion Tom Curren and up-and-coming surfers from more than a dozen countries.
Spectators can spread out a blanket on the beach and watch the action unfold. Last year, more than 24,000 people watched the high-flying aerial maneuvers.
The surfing contest will feature a crowd favorite called the Red Bull Tow-At. Surfers will compete to see who can catch the biggest air as they are towed into waves by a Sea-Doo Personal Watercraft at speeds of up to 20 mph.
And you won't want to miss the semi-annual Surf Expo show in Orlando, which coincides with the tournament. Head down the road to visit the expo at the Orange County Convention Center.
Annie Leibovitz's photographs of stars have made her a celebrity herself. Her famous portrait of John Lennon curled around wife Yoko Ono become an iconic image of the early '80s. Some of her other well-known celebrity subjects include Demi Moore and Leonardo DiCaprio. But her ability to capture intimate moments and the personalities within isn't limited to the rich and famous.
A major Leibovitz exhibition that reflects the faces of women from diverse walks of life will be displayed Jan. 10 through March 8 at the Brevard Art Museum in Melbourne. It will feature a group of portraits in conjunction with the publication of her book "Women," which includes an essay by novelist and critic Susan Sontag.
In the collection, the renowned photographer turns her lens on a broad spectrum of women. There are well-known subjects – Betty Ford and Sandra Day O'Connor among them – along with everyday people, including a Las Vegas showgirl and a retired assistant.
The portraits vary in style and will appear as larger-than-life photographs. The traveling exhibit also showed in New York and Washington.
With its nature preserves, prairies and wetlands, the Space Coast is a haven for wildlife. Experience some of those diverse habitats during the 12th annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival presented by Nikon and the Brevard Nature Alliance, which runs Jan. 21 through 26.
Bring your binoculars to observe bald eagles, sandhill cranes and perhaps even an endangered northern right whale. Hike a wildlife refuge or take a sunset hayride through a salt marsh habitat.
The festival offers an array of family-friendly activities, including workshops, seminars, field trips and a silent auction.
Learn to identify birds by ear, or explore prehistoric shell mounds on the Canaveral National Seashore. Board a 100-foot boat in search of sought-after bird species, or see how nature and technology co-exist on a tour through the Kennedy Space Center launch complex and into the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The festival will be based at the Titusville campus of Brevard Community College. At the Exhibit Center, attendees can visit informational booths, purchase artwork or trade tips with scientists, biologists and naturalists.
At the Sunday Social, held Jan. 25 at Fox Lake Park Pavilion, listen to toe-tapping music and feast on pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw. Noted birding author Pete Dunne will deliver the keynote presentation.
Admission prices to trips, workshops and speeches vary. Book early at www.nbbd.com/fly as availability is limited.
This month, you can catch a wave, catch an intimate moment with Annie Leibovitz or just catch up with nature on the Space Coast, conveniently located 35 miles east of Orlando.
To plan your own getaway to Florida's Space Coast, call 321-433-4470 or visit www.space-coast.com.