2018 NSSA East Coast Champs

April 19, 2018 • Competition

Photos, story, captions by Tom Dugan

It’s officially in the books. The 2018 NSSA East Coast Championships held April 5 to the 8th in New Smyrna Beach, Florida is over and done.
Were there waves?  Yes.   The waves stayed in the 3 to 4 ft range throughout the event. Were there upsets? Plenty as always.  As they say, you win some, you lose some. Were there new winners?  Plenty.  Logan Kamen from Belmar, N.J. took 1st in Open Mens & Explorer Juniors.  Parker Sawyer, Kat Neff, Conner Lester all took firsts in college finals.  Jude Clark took the Air Show along with Maximillian Torres from Isabella, P.R. winning the Explorer Sup. This was the first time the newly established Puerto Rico Conference competed at Regionals. The Island was well represented with new young talent and we can only imagine what’s to come.Yes, there were new names and of course repeat champions from years past.

Puerto Rico’s newly formed conference sent their first team ever to the NSSA Regional Championships. Josuel Valentin helped make their presence known with progressive surfing in the Open Jr. Semi. Photo: Dugan

First place prizes went to Blake Spier in Open Jr.; Rachel Presti in Open Women’s and High School Women’s;  and Zoe Benedetto took home  Explorer Super Girls, Explorer Girls, Open Girls, and Super Girls.  William Hedleston repeated with a win in Explorer Boys and High School Men’s.  Charlie Hajek grabbed another title in Explorer Duke and forever grom Jason Motes took two firsts in Explorer Masters and Seniors. Nicole Fulford was back surfing after a long rehab and was surfing better than ever grabbing a 1st in Explorer Women’s  Grom Social Website headed up by Zak Marks awarded a Surfer of the Day to Owen Moss on day one, Zoe Benedetto on day two, Pat Kelly on day three,  and Logan Kamen on the fourth and final day. This was the first time in eleven years that no one from the Marks family competed in the NSSA Championship but still were represented with those awards.

With four 1st place titles, Zoey Benedetto is well on her way to breaking records in her NSSA career. She also snagged the Performance of the day Friday,April 6th and was awarded the most Inspirational Performance presented by Evan Geiselman. Photo: Dugan

Last year Caroline Marks surfed for the last time in the NSSA,  winning multiple titles before heading out to compete on the WSL Women’s World Tour. She is already taking down her competitors and at 15yrs old (the youngest surfer EVER, mens or women’s to be on the World Tour) she has years ahead of her to make the United States proud.  The NSSA program was an integral part of teaching Caroline the hard knocks of competition.
Looking back on the four day marathon that was this years Championships running from literally sunrise to sunset, it was a testament to how hard the staff, surfers and families are dedicated to producing world class surfers. Here’s to another one in the books and looking forward to what is to come.

If you looked at the cam early Wednesday you saw the NSSA truck and trailer pulling up onto the beach. If you looked at the cam on Thursday morning you saw this. And so it all began. Photo: Dugan

These two ladies work their fingers to the bone each year bringing the East Coast a yearly championship. They drive their truck with trailer attached from California to Florida with all the scaffolding, chairs, trophies, computers, singlets, and everything needed for a successful event. They have been doing it for twenty-five years so if you see Gaylene Clifford or Janice Aragon on the beach give them a thumbs up for “a like.” Photo: Dugan

Down from New Jersey for the winter and living in Brevard County Florida has given Seamus Carey a chance to surf in warmer waters and hone his surfing. He was able to grab two final berths with both a fourth in Open Boy’s and Open Juniors. Photo: Dugan

For the first time ever Puerto Rico was in the house. It was the first time for the newly formed Puerto Rico Conference Competing in the Regionals and they were well represented in both women’s and mens. Look for some talent to be showing up as more surfers from the island make their way up to New Smyrna each year. Photo: Dugan

NSSA – Fergus Kelly – Taking a 1st in his Semi Final heat placing him in the finals of the High School Mens where he placed 4th.

Down from N.J. Logan Kamen and two others from the N.E. Conference, along with one Floridian, had a hard fought final in the Explorers Juniors but with a down to the last wave decision Logan was the new champion grabbing a 1st place finish and taking it home to Jersey. Photo: Dugan

2018 Air Show winner and ESM cover boy (issue 202 August 2017) Jude Clark, along with NSSA North East Director Randy Townsend take to the boardwalk for an overview of the surf that offers a way to figure out where to optimize surfing for your next heat. Surfers took advantage of the new vantage point every day so they could keep an educated eye on the surf and the ever changing lineup that New Smyrna offers day after day. Photo: Dugan

You need to be prepared when you head to New Smyrna. You need food, water, tents, wax, wetsuit’s and a nice little quiver for the ever changing conditions. William Hedleston locked and loaded and ready to compete. Preparations paid off for William as he took 1st in Explorer Boys and High School Mens. Photo: Dugan

Hometown boy Aaron Cormican always shows up to support his team riders and check out the new and upcoming talent while taking a few waves for himself. Photo: Dugan

The goods for 2018 Photo: Dugan

Fathers, sons, pros, team managers, shapers, and competitors. Just a few ways to describe this crew. l-r: Peter & Kepa Mendia, Greg & Evan Geiselman, Asher Nolan, Aaron Cormican, Sterling Makish, and Mark H. Photo: Dugan

Taking 3rd in Explorer Menehuene, Braedon Kopec pops an air on his way to the podium. Photo: Dugan

These are the next wave of surfers that will be making names for themselves and taking home titles. Explorer Super Groms Finalists. Photo: Dugan

Behind the scenes NSSA’s Gaylene Clifford puts the finishing touches on the final awards. Photo: Dugan

Somewhere between heats Ryan Huckabee demolishes a lip. Photo: Dugan

Rachel Presti being chaired up the beach after one of her two victories in High School Women’s and Open Women’s She also grabbed a 2nd in Explorer Women’s while she was at it. Photo: Dugan

Ryan Hofstetter shredding this wave apart on his way to 1st place in Explorer Mens. Photo: Dugan

Sunday morning had the smallest waves but the cleanest. The wind was finally offshore but cut the wave size in half. Kaleb Kirshenbaum making the most of less than optimal conditions. Photo: Dugan

Paparazzi surrounding William Hedleston as he is chaired up the beach. Photo: Dugan

Every year each division gets harder and harder with kids stepping up their game and adding some travel into the mix too. Constant surfing each day doesn’t hurt either. Explorer Menehuene Sterling Makish putting it all together for the win. Photo: Dugan

Cory Howell and Randy Nolan chair Blake Speir up the beach. This sight is starting to look familiar as Blake has been on a roll with the wins lately. He gave it a one two punch over the weekend to take home a first in Open Juniors and a second in Open Mens. Photo: Dugan

University of North Florida, back to back to back to back College Regional Champions 2016-17 and 18. Photo: NSSA

2018 NSSA Open Champions Photo: NSSA

2018 NSSA Explorer Champions Photo: NSSA