11th Annual O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am

July 26, 2016 • East Coast Contests

Written by Dillon Reed

TURF: 11th Annual O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest, Music & Art Fest; Wrightsville Beach, NC; July 15th-17th, 2016

Over the past few weeks, the East Coast has seen its fair share of the summer flat spell blues. But as tradition runs true for the O'Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest, now in its 11th year, a fun-sized wave showed up during the contest period for competitors like Gabe Morvil, who finished 3rd in Guys 15 & Over. “Every year, the forecast looks really bad and then somehow there's a fun little wave all weekend,” says local hero Ben Bourgeois. “That’s what makes the contest special.” Photo: Chandler Hatch

Gabe Morvil, who finished 3rd in Guys 15 & Over. Photo: Chandler Hatch

ENERGY: Over the past few weeks, the East Coast has seen its fair share of the summer flat spell blues. But as tradition runs true for this contest, a fun-sized wave showed up during the contest period. “Every year, the forecast looks really badm and then somehow there is a fun little wave all weekend,” says local hero Ben Bourgeois. “That’s what makes the contest special. Then you throw in the Miss Pacifico bikini contest and the Music and Art Festival at Wrightsville Beach Park, and even if you don’t surf there is something for everyone to enjoy.” In addition to the surprise show of swell for the event, we were fortunate enough to be blessed with three beautiful sunny days. And the occasional cloud coverage in the afternoons offered a break from extreme heat.

Ben got put out earlier than expected thanks to a lack of waves in his final heat, but that didn't stop the fun. “This event is a house favorite for all of the competitors simply for the community’s hospitality,” says Jeff Myers (back right). “It always feels like more a reunion of family and friends than an actual competition. Hands down my favorite event I compete in all year.” Photo: Beaufort

Ben Bourgeois and Jeff Myers ham it up. Photo: Beaufort

FIRST TIME AT FIGHT CLUB: This year the contest attracted a couple new faces and a few standout returners back to the field to go head to head for the $4,000 prize purse. The #1 Ranked WSL Pro Junior in North America, Kei Kobayashi, showed up alongside fellow Californian and O’Neill teammate Sebastian (Bash) Mendes. In addition, the long-awaited return to the contest of three East Coast kingpins, Cam Richards, Asher Nolan, and Brett Barley, were well received by the crowd and competitors. For 2016, Pacifico wanted to go bigger than they ever have by adding a preliminary night to the annual Miss Pacifico Bikini contest at Red Dog’s in Wrightsville Beach. The two-night bikini contest proved to be a battle between 15 beautiful young ladies, with Karson Lewis claiming the Miss Pacifico title on Saturday night.

This year, the contest attracted a couple new faces and a few standout returners back to the field to go head to head for the $4,000 prize purse. The #1 Ranked WSL Pro Junior in North America, Kei Kobayashi, showed up alongside fellow Californian and O’Neill teammate Sebastian (Bash) Mendes, with Kei finishing equal-5th. Photo: Ficklin

Kei Kobayashi. Photo: Ficklin

Outer Banks pro and O'Neill teamrider Brett Barley didn't just surf the Sweetwater this year — he also lent his muscular commentary skills to the MC booth. Photo: Beaufort

Outer Banks pro and O’Neill teamrider Brett Barley didn’t just surf the Sweetwater this year — he also lent his muscular commentary skills to the MC booth. Photo: Beaufort

SLIDE: The O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest is a jam-packed weekend of great surfing, beach activations and giveaways, music and art at WB’s Outdoor Park, a Meet The Pros & Swim Soiree at Sweetwater, and the Miss Pacifico Bikini Contests at Red Dog’s. Outer Banks pro and contestant in the 2016 event, Jeff Myers said, “This event is a house favorite for all of the competitors simply for the community’s hospitality! It always feels like more a reunion of family and friends than an actual competition. Hands down my favorite event I compete in all year.”

The Music and Art Fest that runs alongside the surf contest is as much of an avenue for local artists like Chris Mickey, Carleigh Sion, and Colin Peterson to showcase art as it is a fundraiser for organizations like Hope For Helen and the UNCW Surf Club to help raise money for their organizations. Photo: Beaufort

Artist Chris Mickey. Photo: Beaufort

The Music and Art Fest is as much of an avenue for local artists like Chris Mickey, Carleigh Sion, and Colin Peterson to showcase art as it is a fundraiser for organizations like Hope For Helen and the UNCW Surf Club to help raise money for their organizations. Live music from Michael Eakins and The Feels, Zeal, and the Blue Footed Boobies kept the crowd pumping all evening at the festival.

South Carolina up-and-comer Micha Cantor won the Guys 15 & Over division with a solid performance. Photo: Hatch

Micha Cantor. Photo: Hatch

Now down to the results: South Carolina up-and-comer Micha Cantor won the Guys 15 & Over division with a solid performance while Virginia Beach grom Laird Myers took down the Guys 14 & Under division against tough competition. Grace Muckenfuss came in the Girls Open Shortboard with a solid plan, and she executed, getting some of the best waves to take home 1st-place in the final. Brad Rose’s fluid and stylish longboarding earned him the win in the Guys longboard division. Karson Lewis took the Women’s Longboard division for the second year in a row (with cat ears on in the finals). Karson also won the 2016 Miss Pacifico Bikini contest the night before with a unanimous decision by the judging panel (worth noting she had the same cat ears on during the bikini contest win as well).

Karson Lewis did more than just win Girls Longboard — she was also crowned Miss Pacifico in the bikini contest held across two nights at Red Dog's. Karson won in a unanimous vote by the judges. Photo: Hatch

Karson Lewis won Girls Longboard and was crowned Miss Pacifico in the bikini contest held across two nights at Red Dog’s. Photo: Hatch

Pro Men’s champion Cam Richards also took the honors for Nixon’s Most Radical Maneuver away from Floridian Robbie McCormick in the final heat of the day with an above-the-lip air reverse. Evan Thompson has earned himself the right of being the most consistent O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro contestant in recent memory, with four straight years of pro finals, including the win in 2014. Two well-deserved mentions were the great performances from both Daniel Glenn and Asher Nolan who made it to the semifinals. Contest director Brad Beach noted, “Our goal with this event is to create a cool experience for all to enjoy — athletes, spectators, staff, sponsors, local residents, and merchants. I feel we met and exceeded this goal.”

Daniel Glenn finished equal-3rd, making it to the semifinals alongside past Sweetwater champions Asher Nolan and Evan Thompson and South Carolina pride and joy Cam Richards. Photo: Ficklin

Daniel Glenn. Photo: Ficklin

Robbie McCormick finished equal-9th in the Pro division and was a lock for Nixon's Most Radical Maneuver all the way up until the final heat. Photo: Ficklin

Robbie McCormick finished equal-9th in the Pro division and was a lock for Nixon’s Most Radical Maneuver all the way up until the final heat. Photo: Ficklin

THE PAIN: Always one of the favorites to win the event, Ben Bourgeois exited in Round 3 due to lack of waves during his heat. Defending champion Luke Gordon wasn’t able to retain his title, while always-consistent style master Philip Goold was knocked out in the quarterfinals by East Coast comp kingpin Asher Nolan.

2015 O'Neill/Sweetwater champ Luke Gordon felt the pain of not being able to defend his title in 2016. But it certainly wasn't for lack of trying in the small conditions on tap. Photo: Kent Ficklin

2015 O’Neill/Sweetwater champ Luke Gordon felt the pain of not being able to defend his title in 2016. But it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying in the small conditions on tap. Photo: Ficklin 

Evan Thompson has earned himself the distinction of being the most consistent O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro contestant in recent memory, with four straight years of pro finals, including the win in 2014. Evan finished 2nd this year... Photo: Hatch

Evan Thompson. Photo: Hatch

THE MAN: South Carolina’s Cam Richards was on fire the entire contest, putting up some of the highest heat scores of the whole event with crisp vertical turns and above the lip maneuvers. Phillip Goold said, “Cam was ripping the whole event but seemed to peak at the right time in his semi… and then did that crazy whip in the final.” Cam had the largest presence of family and friends on the beach and father Kelly Richards (owner of Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City, SC) had his eyes glued to the action every heat. Word on the street is part of Cam’s motivation to win was to take care of a heavy root canal bill, which we are sure he’s stoked to get taken care of now that he is $4,000 richer!

...To Cam Richards, who was on fire the entire contest, putting up some of the highest heat scores of the whole event with crisp vertical turns and above the lip maneuvers. Photo: Ficklin

Your champion, Cam Richards. Photo: Ficklin

Quarterfinalist Phillip Goold said, “Cam was ripping the whole event but seemed to peak at the right time in his semi... and then did that crazy whip in the final,” which earned him Nixon's Most Radical Maneuver award. Cam had the largest presence of family and friends on the beach and father Kelly Richards (owner of Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City, SC) had his eyes glued to the action every heat. Word on the street is part of Cam’s motivation to win was to take care of a heavy root canal bill, which he’s stoked to do now that he's $4,000 richer! Photo: Hatch

Quarterfinalist Phillip Goold said, “Cam was ripping the whole event but seemed to peak at the right time in his semi… and then did that crazy whip in the final,” which earned him Nixon’s Most Radical Maneuver awardand sent him home $4,000 richer! Photo: Hatch

FINAL RESULTS OF THE 11th ANNUAL O’NEILL/SWEETWATER PRO-AM SURF FEST:

PRO

1. Cam Richards

2. Evan Thompson

3. Daniel Glenn, Asher Nolan

5. Conner Lester, Philip Goold, Kei Kobayashi, Hunter Heverly

9. Ben Bourgeois, Robbie McCormick, Dylan Kowalski, Bo Raynor

13. Knox Harris, Shane Burn, Seth Brown, Tyson Royston

Conner Lester with a solid speed hack on his way to an equal-5th-place finish. Photo: Hatch

Conner Lester with a solid speed hack on his way to an equal-5th-place finish. Photo: Hatch

Dylan Kowalski, like Bo another well-traveled Wrightsville area native who finished equal-9th. Photo: Ficklin

Dylan Kowalski, like Bo another well-traveled Wrightsville area native who finished equal-9th. Photo: Ficklin

NIXON MOST RADICAL MANEUVER

Cam Richards

GUYS 15 & OVER

1. Micha Cantor

2. Kei Kobayashi

3. Gabe Morvil

4. Bo Raynor

Bo Raynor with a beautiful boost on his way to a 4th-place finish in Guys 15 & Over. Bo also finished equal-9th in the Pro division. Photo: Hatch

Bo Raynor. Photo: Hatch

GUYS 14 & UNDER

1. Laird Myers

2. Sebastian Mendes

3. Morgan Weaver

4. Tyson Royston

GIRLS OPEN SHORTBOARD

1. Grace Muckenfuss

2. Darsha Pigford

3. Molly Kirk

4. Bree Labiak

GUYS LONGBOARD

1. Brad Rose

2. Sean Breman

3. Noah Ferrell

4. Dakota Cottle

GIRLS LONGBOARD

1. Karson Lewis

2. Carly Carter

3. Kaitlyn Sewell

4. Bree Labiak

Think Flagler Beach, FL, native Robbie McCormick was stoked about his time working the autograph booth? Photo: Beaufort

Think Flagler Beach, FL, native Robbie McCormick was stoked about his time working the autograph booth? Photo: Beaufort

Star O'Neill teamrider Cory Lopez worked the Photo Booth, sending Shannon, Abbey, Corinne, and Molly home from the Sweetwater with a picture they'll always remember. Photo: Beaufort

Star O’Neill teamrider Cory Lopez worked the Photo Booth, sending Shannon, Abbey, Corinne, and Molly home from the Sweetwater with a picture they’ll always remember. Photo: Beaufort

Local favorites the Blue Footed Boobies kept the crowd pumped all evening at the Music & Art Festival, along with Michael Eakins and The Feels and Zeal. Photo: Beaufort

Local favorites the Blue Footed Boobies kept the crowd pumped all evening at the Music & Art Festival, along with Michael Eakins and The Feels and Zeal.
Photo: Beaufort

3rd-place Girls Open Shortboard finisher Molly Kirk with a few of her young fans and their custom O'Neill/Sweetwater hats printed right at the contest. Photo: Beaufort

3rd-place Girls Open Shortboard finisher Molly Kirk with a few of her young fans and their custom O’Neill/Sweetwater hats printed right at the contest. Photo: Beaufort

Racing for socks? Thanks, Stance. Photo: Beaufort

Racing for socks? Thanks, Stance. Photo: Beaufort

And thanks as always to Mother Nature for delivering yet again in Wrightsville Beach in mid-July. Photo: Ficklin

And thanks as always to Mother Nature for delivering yet again in Wrightsville Beach in mid-July. Photo: Ficklin

Robbie McCormick and Mike Beech talk shop as the contest nears its business end. Photo: Beaufort

Robbie McCormick and Mike Beech talk shop as the contest nears its business end. Photo: Beaufort

Equally rich in stoke and joy? The Guppies, who paddled out in their heat with the crew from WB Surf Camp. Photo: Beaufort

The Guppies, who paddled out in their heat with the crew from WB Surf Camp. Photo: Beaufort

Until next year, Cam Richards holds the distinction of being the latest in a long line of illustrious O'Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest winners. Who will take the crown in 2017? Photo: Hatch

Until next year, Cam Richards holds the distinction of being the latest in a long line of illustrious O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest winners. Who will take the crown in 2017? Photo: Hatch

Tags: , , , , , ,