– By Team USA Coach Joey Buran –
Since becoming Coach of the USA Surf Team in January of 2017, I have made it a priority strengthen ongoing communication, participation and evaluation of the USA Junior (under the age of 18 years) Surf Teams and this of course includes prioritizing reaching out to the East Coast surfers! After we selected the new USA Surf Teams teams (Developmental Surf Team and Junior Surf Team) in July of 2017 we made a commitment to the East Coast members to provide two different training weeks on the East Coast before June of 2018. The first of these training weeks was held back in November at Nags Head in the week prior to East Coast Prime event #2 at Jeanette’s Pier. That training had small but ride able 1 to 3 foot surf with a total of 10 East Coast Team riders participating. The 3 days in Cocoa Beach was the fulfillment of the second training of these weeks.
The training week scheduled for early March in Cocoa Beach was planned to fit in just after East Coast Prime Event #3 and into the 3 day “window” before the Ron Jon Pro would begin. Monday, March 5th would be almost exclusively East Coast surfers but the Tuesday and Wednesday would include more West Coast Team members as they would begin to arrive in town for the Ron Jon Pro. With major swell fore casted for the week we were unsure where we would be training but as the swell filled in Sunday evening it became apparent that Cocoa Beach Pier would be the place” to be” for the start of the week.
Another element to these training days, was that we would also be “scouting” some of the top East Coast Junior Surfers not presently on the USA Junior Teams. Specifically, we really wanted to get a quality look at the top 14 year old and younger surfers who would be potential good fits for our 2018-2019 Developmental Surf Team. The current 2017-2018 Developmental Surf Team presently has 16 surfers on it, 7 of which who are East Coast surfers. This Team is primarily targeting Junior High School age group and is considered a “feeder” towards our Junior Surf Team which is more specific for the High School age group. It is from the Junior Team that we make our final selections for IOC (International Olympic Committee) sanctioned events which include the prestigious ISA World Junior Surfing Championship. The USA Surf Team won 6 individual medals at last year’s event in Japan as well as the Team Gold Medal which making us the 2017 World Champions.
After doing extensive research through the East Coast Prime results, ESA website and specifically the listing of ESA All stars, the NSSA regional rankings as well as personal instagram accounts, I extended invitations to 8 East Coast surfers to come to the training in Cocoa Beach and be scouted for these 3 days with the USA Surf Teams. Also, after the Prime event on March 3rd and 4th another 5 surfers from the East Coast were added to the list of guest athletes for the 3 days of training, for a total of 13 invited guests. Adding in all the East Coast Team riders who participated which was 14, the total number of East Coast surfers participating was 27. That is 27 of the BEST Junior surfers for the entire East Coast. Representing New England, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, as well as all of the major Florida regions including the panhandle. It truly was a very special gathering of East Coast talent. Combined with the pumping swell, you could safely say it was a historical and unprecedented gathering for East Coast Junior surfers.
Of course we were super stoked to have great waves all 3 days with different and unique conditions for each of the 3 days. Led by the innovative and electrifying surfing of Tommy Coleman the crew of USA Surf Team East Coast surfers were absolutely “on fire” at Cocoa Beach Pier on Monday the 5th. With the swell pumping in the 6 to 8 feet range, everyone got in the action including the invited younger guests. The surfing was simply outstanding and inspirational. Guest surfers William Hedleston, Blayr Barton, Seamus Carey, Braeden Kopec and Rachel Wilson all had standout performances on the first day. The USA Surf Team was led by Tommy Coleman who was dropping massive scores with the “red jersey” on. Also putting in strong performances from the Team were Owen Moss, Ryan Huckabee, Ava McGowan and Zoe Benedetto who were all just “crushing it”!
Tuesday the 6th saw a switch in the wind conditions making the surf a bit more bumpy and challenging. Also, the West Coast Girls “rolled in” off the red eye arrivals in Orlando and came straight to the pier and the contest jerseys! All things being equal, they surfed extremely well. Led by 2 time Roxy Pro Ron Jon Champion, Alyssa Spencer and eventual 2018 Roxy Ron Jon Pro Champion, Kirra Pinkerton the girls put on a clinic, while the younger East Coast girls sat and “judged” with me on the beach. It was a special time for all. Floridian Coral Schuster fresh off double Finals in the Prime Event 2 days before was the standout surfer for the East Coast girls on Tuesday. When the boys hit the water it was another solid day of ripping which included the addition of Laird Myers to go along with the impressive performances from Bo Raynor, Owen Moss, Ryan Huckabee, William Hedleston, Blayr Barton and Seamus Carey. That being said, the most impressive surfing of the day came from New Englander Robbie Goodwin who’s smooth style and power rail game surfing looked years beyond his age and had him looking like he had just returned from some overseas WQS campaign.
The third and final day of training found the surf slightly smaller and cleaner and it saw us move our final day of training to Shepherd’s Park. In the morning the younger East Coast girls were on fire with Sarah Abbott and Gulf Breeze ripper Taylor Green putting in solid performances. Along the same line of thought, Carolinians Owen Carter and Kendrick Remahl both really put in outstanding performances early in th morning on this final day. As the day went forward the “big boys” began to show up led by Micah Cantor and his 9.5 full rotation air reverse. By day’s end, West Coast “stars” Taro Watanabe, Kade Matson and Nick Marshall along with others had joined in the mix. In all, throughout the 3 days, we ran 56 heats and interestingly enough, we had a perfect 10 in the last heat of the week. It came from Californian Caleb Crozier who had gotten a perfect barrel. Walking away from the beach that day in the late afternoon, the surf was still overhead, peaky, offshore and barreling! It was a great ending to the 3 amazing days of USA Surf Team Training that was yet another awesome chapter in the ongoing development of the USA Olympic Surfing Program and our quest for greatness on future Olympic Gold.
Looking back now, there are a few summary thoughts that I have as Coach of the USA Surf Team concerning these 3 days. First, while there are less surfers to choose from for our Junior Surf Teams from the East Coast Junior Tours, there is in fact a very high rate of really good surfers! The current USA Surf Team East Coast surfers are not only continuing the resent legacies of surfers like Evan Geiselman, Cam Richards, Fisher Heverly, Micheal Dunphy, Caroline Marks, Nicki Visiens, Quincey Davis and others…they may well be on there way to writing even greater stories through their own “Junior” careers.
Rachel Presti has already won Team Gold in last year’s ISA World Junior Championship in Japan were she finished 7th in the Girls Under 18. Zoe Benedetto has dominated the Girls Under 16 in the East Coast Primes this year winning 2 out of 3 events and the overall title (at the age of 12)! Her equal 5th later in the week at the Roxy Ron Jon only further affirms that she is currently trending towards potential greatness. Behind her, the other 12 year old dynamo, Ava McGowan is also trending on the same career line, having also finished in the semifinals of the Roxy Ron Jon Pro. In the boys, Micah Cantor, like Rachel, already has a Team Gold medal from Japan and still has 2 years of eligibility
remaining in his Junior career. Laird Myers, Owen Moss, Ryan Huckabee, Robbie Goodwin and Sterling Makish are all outstanding Junior surfers and have bright futures on their horizon. Finally, after scouting over 50 surfers throughout the USA in the “14 and under” age range, not presently in the USA Olympic Surfing Program, it is clear to me that William Hedleston, Blayr Barton, Seamus Carey and Braeden Kopec have the talent and the drive to succeed this year on a National level. As if that’s not enough, I have seen first hand through 3 days in Cocoa Beach, that there are still other young East Coasters rippers charging strong, right behind them!
Going forward from the “3 Days in Cocoa Beach” I’m really looking forward to seeing how the East Coast Juniors perform in the East Coast Regional Championship events over the next month and even more importantly how they perform in the 2018 USA Surfing Championships at Lowers in June of this year. After we crown our 2018 USA Champions and Finalist we will be presenting our new 2018-2019 USA Junior Surf Teams. If history and current evaluations hold true, the long storied history of great Junior surfers from the East Coast will continue to be written, with familiar faces, some new faces and with United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Officials there to welcome them not only to the USA Surf Teams but to the USA Olympic Surfing Program. Believe it Eastern Standard Time…welcome to the Olympic Surfing era! It’s time to dream even bigger dreams than those East Coast surfers who came before you! this is your time and generation! Yew! Get after it and go for the GOLD!!!