Southeast
Vero Beach's Tommy Coleman, shown competing in the Florida Pro, is among the veteran Sebastian Inlet surfers. (Photo: JOHN W FERGUSON/WSL)

New surf contest coming to Sebastian Inlet to help preserve beaches

Protecting and preserving the world's oceans, waves and beaches has been the hallmark mission statement for the 82 international chapters of the Surfrider Foundation.

So, what better way to raise funds toward that goal than a surf contest on the 100th anniversary of the famed Sebastian Inlet?

The 2019 Surfrider Classic will take place Sept. 21-22 at Florida’s iconic First Peak break during what could be the major swell season.

"We just wanted to do one there, so we picked September, since that's been the historical peak of hurricane season, when the water is warm and there's a lot of tropical activity," said Indialantic's Eric Schwarze, the contest director who also is the treasurer for Surfrider's Sebastian chapter.

On Sept. 20, there also will be a best-ball golf fundraiser at Aquarina Golf Club in Melbourne Beach, complete with corporate sponsors on each hole.

And, to celebrate the Sebastian Inlet's centennial, former world touring pros Todd Holland, owner of The School of Surf in Cocoa Beach, and Matt Kechele, owner of Kechele Surfboards in Melbourne, will be at the beach Sept. 14 to conduct a two-hour surf clinic for those ages 6 to 16, starting at 11 a.m., just part of a family-friendly day.

Capacity for the session is 20 children and pre-registration is required by calling 321-724-5175. Go to the Sebastian Inlet District Facebook site for more information.

The Surfrider Classic will include amateur shortboard divisions for men, women and youth, as well as an SUP division.

A registration party takes place Sept. 20, with a Surfrider Soirée Sept. 21 and an awards ceremony Sept. 22. The contest also features the Florida State Surfrider Chapter Challenge.

"That's a great time to run a contest," said Kechele, who won the Stubbies Pro in 1981 at the inlet.

The Surfrider Classic joins two other main events on the Sebastian foundation's schedule: the Beer, Bands and Boardfest at the Intracoastal Brewery in Melbourne in the spring and the Ocean Reef Beach Festival at Satellite Beach's Pelican Beach Park the first Saturday in December.

Earlier this month, the Cocoa Beach chapter was absorbed by the Sebastian chapter, an all-volunteer conservation organization that covers Titusville to Vero Beach.

Among the issues the volunteers work on are beach access, and the increasingly popular "Rise Above Plastic" campaign in which eight Brevard County restaurants and several others on the Treasure Coast already have eliminated single-use plastics.

"We can only do as much as our volunteers are willing to do," Schwarze said.

Another separate fundraiser, called The First Peak Project, on firstpeak.org has been in the works, hoping to raise money to possibly restore the famous wave to its former glory.

"When they rebuilt the jetty (in the early 2000s), capping off the jetty and adding new pillars that extended the end, and dumped more rocks, it kind of ruined the reflection (of the waves) that used to bounce off the jetty," Kechele said. "It used to be a perfect sequence to create a wedge on First Peak."

"Oh, it still has its moments," said Schwarze, who has surfed for 45 years. "It's just not as consistent."

The Surfrider Classic joins several other surf contests (other than the Eastern Surfing Association and National Scholastic Surfing Association) in the Brevard area, including:

  • The 34th annual NKF Rich Salick Labor Day Surf Festival set for Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier
  • The Salty Sweet Women's Pro/Am Surf Contest on Oct. 5 (backup date Oct. 12) at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier
  • The 10th annual Special Olympics State Surfing Championship on Oct. 26 at Alan Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach
  • The Military Surf Festival on Nov. 11 at the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier
  • The One Lagoon Pro at Howard E. Futch Memorial Park on Dec. 7 at Paradise Beach in Indialantic
  • The Surfin' Santas spectacle in Cocoa Beach on the morning of  Dec. 24 at Coconuts on the Beach

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