TURF: 12th Annual O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest, Music & Art Fest; Wrightsville Beach, NC; August 18th – 20th , 2017.
ENERGY: For the 2017 O’Neill Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest, there was a different scent in the air, for the first time in its twelve year history the event was moved to mid-August. Event director, Brad Beach, made the call to push the event back to August 18th– 20th. A great call for many reasons: waves- more potential for early hurricane swells to creep into the Mid-Atlantic region; energy- this was move in weekend for the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, so packed beach of college students: And timing- the Pro-Am now lined up with several other pro surfing events – ECSC, WRV OBX Pro, and then the Belmar Pro. Great way to start of the contest season off by winning a hefty first place prize of $4K! Overall, it led to a great weekend of waves, more energy on the beach with college students back in town, and a new line up of traveling pros who have never been to this event. Eighteen year old California pro, Kei Kobayashi had this to say about the waves in Wrightsville Beach compared to his homebreak, Lower Trestles, “I really like the waves at the O’Neill Sweetwater Pro. I like the link banks that they have up and down the beach. Already looking forward to heading back to Wrightsville next year!”
FIRST TIME AT FIGHT CLUB: With the new contest dates lining up directly with a run of East Coast contests the $4,000 prize purse attracted many new faces: Rob Kelly, Michael Dunphy, Dylan Goodale, Kevin Schulz, Ian Crane, Ecuadorian Johnathan Chila, and many more. A solid list of local WB rippers, Michael Powell, Conner Lester, the return of 2016 Champion- Cam Richards, Micah Cantor, Bo Raynor, Gabe Morvil and several others. Michael Dunphy was stoked to be a part of the event this year, “ Anytime I have any excuse to go to WB I try to make it happen! Love the town and everything that comes with it. Brad Beach always puts on a great event as well”. One of the surprising faces we saw at the event this year was the return of Aaron Cormican, who had this to say about his return to the Sweetwater contest “Sweetwater is awesome to compete in because of all the friends I have made through the years in Wrightsville Beach. Also, the 4k for 1st place is hard to pass up a shot at to be honest. The never combo’d format is fun as well, and I feel like it suits my surfing! Plus, it’s a great opportunity to perform on my shapes in front of a large crowd which if they working, in turn, helps sell my boards!”
The 2017 Miss Pacifico bikini contest at Red Dogs proved to another hit as well with all the new college faces and surf competitors. Red Dogs was packed wall to wall like a can of sardines and it turned out to be one of the biggest nights ever for Red Dogs!
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, Meet The Pros & Swim Soiree at Sweetwater and the Miss Pacifico Bikini Contests at Red Dogs.
The show must go on as they say, so a little bit of rain was not going to put an end of the festival this year. The rained cleared out after an hour or so and the Music and Festival commenced. The Music and Art Fest is as much of an avenue for vendors like Zoe Jurusik from Posies ( a florist start up business from Wilmington), Carleigh Sion (local artist), and Waterman’s Brewing (new craft brewery and grill just 1.5 miles off the beach) as much as it is a fundraiser for organizations like Hope for Helen and the UNCW Surf Club to help raise money for their organizations. This was Waterman’s Brewing first time supporting the event and Bob and he really loves it, “ The Music and Art Festival one of my favorite events of the summer. It was a great chance to kick back, relax, and enjoy the local friendly beach vibe that has made Wrightsville Beach such a desirable place to live. The incredibly talented local artist on display, both on the stage and throughout the ground gave the festival a special hometown feel. Good times!”. Live music from Elephant Convoy, Blue Footed Boobies, and Joe Martin and Chase Johanson kept the crowd in tune all evening at the festival.
THE PAIN: Cam Richards, defending 2016 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro Champion, was not able to retain his title. Surprise ringer and East Coast surfing Kingpin, Aaron Cormican, lost out in the quarterfinals. However, he did manage to win Nixon’s Most Radical Maneuver award for the event! The event missed Wrightsville Beach legend, Ben Bourgeois, as we was off surging somewhere in the South Pacific! First time competitor to the Wrightsville Beach, Ian Crane losing out in the second round.
THE MAN: Rob Kelly looked like a man on a mission the whole event. The new contest dates gave him a good reason to shoot on down to Wrightsville Beach before heading up to Virginia Beach for ECSC. With the newly attracted talent pool this year, I do not think even Rob knew how hard it was going to be to take the win this year. Battling through every round, and winning almost every heat with his smooth style and top to bottom backhand attack. Rob took the title this year away from one of the event favorites, Michael Dunphy, in the finals to obtain a nice $4,000 pay day!
1st Rob Kelly
2nd Michael Dunphy
=3rd Michael Powell, Jonathan Chila
=5th Conner Lester, Aaron Cormican, Aldo Chirinos, Dylan Goodale
=9th Kei Kobayashi, Dustin Richardson, Shane Burn, Luke Gordon
= 13th Oliver Kurtz, Logan Hays, Bo Raynor, Logan Hayes