2019 WSL Florida Pro Report & BONUS Photo Gallery!

February 4, 2019 • Competition, East Coast Contests

The 2019 Florida Pro was run at Sebastian Inlet January 14th thru the 20th giving the Women’s QS 3000 and Men’s QS 1500 a seven day window to complete the competition. Both events are world qualifier’s run to get points to make the World Surf Tour. Surfers from Tahiti, Australia, Barbados, Japan, Costa Rica, and both east and west coasts of the USA were all there trying to gain much needed points and a bit of cash if they were lucky enough.

An Osprey’s eye view of Sebastian Inlet State Park, site of the 2019 WSL Florida Pro. Photo: Mez

The first day Monday was called off due to knee high surf and a forecast of bigger waves throughout the week. Tuesday’s call at 7:30 a.m. was for the contest to begin. As the day went on the waves went from waist high to overhead. The surf stayed up Wednesday and Thursday with the waves getting smaller but clean on the final day, Friday. What was a big surprise to all was the return of the fabled First Peak for the last day. All heats were surfed on the rights bouncing off the jetty that Sebastian is famous for and was a crowd pleaser with every set of waves. The contest being a WQS had the best surfers going for every maneuver in the book, even a few tube rides were seen as the chunky waves opened up every now and then.

Ground level view of the contest area and finals day crowd for this year’s Florida Pro. Photo: Dugan

The contest was broadcast over the web live with commentary provided by long time announcer Todd Kline and William Kimball, both local South Florida boys. The snack bar at the Inlet had a large flat screen TV streaming the contest live on it so you could grab a bite and still catch all the action. The men’s saw great surfing with local boy Chauncey Robinson making it all the way to the semi’s along with Michael Dunphy in the field of 64 surfers. Chauncey was put out by last year’s winner Evan Geiselman who was there to defend his 2018 win and Dunphy was put out by the eventual winner of this year’s Florida Pro, Noah Schweizer. 

Like a mini-stealth bomber sneaking in under the radar from the other side of Cape Canaveral, Noah Schweizer flew in undetected then started dropping Daisy Cutter strength aerial bombs like this from his first heat to his last that nobody had an answer for. Truth be told, we might have been awed but few were shocked because he’s really just that damn good and picked a great time to blow the place up. Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

The men’s QS 1000 final came down to two lifelong friends both growing up in New Smyrna Beach FL who have been competing against each other since they were groms.  Evan surfed with speed and precision with no mistakes but couldn’t find that one high scoring wave needed to counter the huge airs that Noah landed. Noah took the win with a heat total of 14.80 to Evan’s 13.73 out of 20 points. 

In a perfect ESM Crossfire angle while Mike V. was capturing the same exact moment in the photo above, Mez was stealth-ing around himself back up in the newly burned out bushes and dunes just behind the event site to capture this pulled back image of Schweizer with an extremely different POV. And, by the way, this fin’s out move was a total make for Noah. Photo: Mez

The women’s QS 3000 event saw higher points and money on the line and the surfing did not disappoint  With the field of women from every corner of the globe there was really great surfing going down as new names are working to qualify for the tour some day hopefully. When it came down to the semifinals the top four women remained and points and money were both on the line. The semi-finals saw Summer Macedo from Hawaii lose to Kirra Pinkerton from California 6.23 to 9.63 and Sophie McCulloch from Australia was beaten by Caroline Marks 9.43 to 16.10.

The final was set and after the Champions and Icons Event that saw surfers Aaron Cormican, Todd Holland, Cory Lopez, CJ Hobgood surf it out at first peak with a high flying David Speir doing a huge aerial for the win and a check to take home for $1000. David said he was stoked to get a grand just surfing for a half an hour at his home break in fun waves with just four guys out.

It was fitting 45 year old Dave Speir won Legends and Icons at the wave nobody has surfed more than him in the past 30 years except Matt Kechele and Johnny Ode. This guy is on it every swell he’s home for and, obviously, doing it at an extremely high level as evidenced here. Photo: Mez

When the women’s final hit the water the beach was on its’ feet and all cameras turned towards First Peak. Caroline won every heat she surfed heading into the final and was not about to lose in front of her hometown crowd at the break she learned to surf at. She grabbed every set and surfed with style and aggressiveness shutting down finalist Kirra Pinkerton with a 15.90 heat total to Kirra’s 2.66 . Caroline now has 3,000 points and Kirra has 2,250 so they are one and two in the ratings with the next event being the Carve Pro in Australia.

Caroline Marks: The person everybody was waiting to see surf, whom all the contest hype was centered around, and the defending champion from 2018. All that on the 16yr old’s shoulders and Caroline Marks could of cared less. She was happy to be surfing her home break where she learned to surf and compete, see friends, surf warm water, and just enjoy the vibe surrounding the event. She won every heat on her way to defending last year’s win and took home first place again. After her heat I showed her this photo and she replied, “SICK !!!”. Photo: Dugan

The East Coast actually delivered good enough waves for the Women’s and Men’s Qualifying Series Event and everyone looks forward to next year and hopefully the full return of First Peak Sebastian Inlet .   – Tom Dugan –

Second place Women’s getter from California, Kirra Pinkerton impressed no doubt but was no match for an on-fire Marks and the powerful backhand assault at the wave she grew up surfing and the boisterous hometown push -(not that she needed it ) behind her. Photo: Dugan

The un-disputed headliner at the 2019 Florida Pro – male or female – was, without a doubt, Caroline Marks who repeated her home coming first place feat of 2018 with another victorious return to where it all started for her, First Peak at Sebastian Inlet. Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

Brothers in arms. While Evan Geiselman may have been frustrated with the lack of good waves during the final -and a tactical mistake paddling way north of First Peak to Larry’s Lefts leaving Noah alone to grab several un-contested nuggets and high scores – when it was all over Ev made a bee-line over to his Smyrna homeboy and gave the kid the warm congratulations he well deserved. Photo: Mez

Cam Richards and Chris Tucker Give Schweizer the chair. Photo: Mez

“Ladies and gentleman, your Champions and Icons. ” ( L to R ) David Speir, Todd Holland, Aaron Cormican, CJ Hobgood, & Cory Lopez. They sent the best surfers from the past out for their own 30 minute heat and a chance to win a cool grand before the finals. What went down was some real good surfing and a was blast to watch. Photo: Dugan

Aaron Cormican was holding down first place in the Champion and Icons Event when he interfered with Cory Lopez and was demoted to last. In spite of the interference Aaron’s surfing was inspiring to say the least. Photo: Dugan

So the “old dudes” In the Legends And Icons “specialty event” paddle out and your thinking old school, ASP rail surfing with two or three turns to the beach, right? Hell no! These fiercest of competitors hit the line-up and started flashing fin’s and above the wave moves from the get go like it was their grom day’s doing battle in the ESA. No disrespect to the WSL’er’s but this was the best, most entertaining heat of the entire event. Cory Lopez is a legend and an icon and still surfing like one. Photo: Mez

CJ Hobgood surfed hard and hungry. It might have only been for a thousand bucks but the for the 2001 World Tour Champion – and 1999 Rookie Of The Year winner – surfed like there was another title on the line. Although it was obvious they were having a blast out there and enjoying each others company these guys were not ‘effing around!Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

From one Sebastian Inlet local winner to another. After sealing up the Legends win Dave Speir is congratulated by Caroline Marks paddling out for her final and ensuing victory at the 2019 WSL Florida Pro Women’s QS 3000. Photo: Mez

The Jackrabbit, all smiles. Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

The “Jackrabbit” wasn’t quite fast enough to out run his son’s Blake ( grabbing arm ) and Kaden along with family friend and semi-finalist Chauncey Robinson ( far left ) in order to chair him up to the victory stand. Nice try Dave but they ain’t so little anymore are they? Photo: Mez

In one of the true feel good, chicken skin moments of the entire contest Spier – a devoted father who’s son’s are both very good young surfers themselves – is finally captured and brought to the winners circle by the two progeny he pushed into their very first waves at First Peak. Photo: Mez

Adding to the list of local successful’s at the 2019 Florida Pro is Chauncey Robinson who took equal 3rd by making the semi’s but could have easily ended up in the winners circle. Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

The Eastern Surfing Association and the World Surf League partnered up to allow eight ESA surfers to compete in the Sebastian Inlet Pro. Four women and four men were chosen to have a chance to up their completion chops and gain some competition knowledge surfing against the Pros. ESA All Star Cole Deveney from New Jersey got in a few good waves but it just was not to be this time around. Photo: Dugan

Michael Dunphy is now living in New Smyrna Beach, Florida so he has access to warmer Florida water and consistent waves at the inlet. He surfed the contest with consistent flair and speed, making it all the way to the semis but he to came up short against contest winner Schweizer. Photo: Dugan

Young Rachel Presti continues to impress with her fast evolving game and is poised to be another rising star from the Right Coast to go chase her World Tour dreams. Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

2018 was the year Evan Geiselman could do no wrong. He came to Sebastian Inlet and cut loose and took home the first place trophy. Fast forward to 2019 and Evan was on a roll taking it once again to the final but this time he was up against his longtime hometown friend Noah Schwezer. Evan rode first peak, paddled down to third peak, then paddled back to first peak, but just could not find the better waves and had to settle for second. There were still moments of brilliance in his surfing as shown here. Photo: Dugan

No Evan. He tried like hell to repeat but left his many fan’s disappointed. You can say what you will about coming up just a little short in 2019 but we would not bet against him next year at this event that is for damn sure. Photo: Mez

Noah Schweizer dropping bombs all over inside First Peak all contest long. Photo: Mez

The contest weather on finals day called for a good victory shower. Good thing he still had the wetsuit on.Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

Besides being a 3 time SUP World Champion, Izzy Gomez is also a hot surfer along with her brother Giorgio. Izzy drawing a high line across the lip. Photo: Dugan

Chauncey Robinson and the Grom Squad watch the Women’s final ready to take over First as soon as the horn sounded.Photo: Mez

In an exact repeat of last year, the first day’s of the event saw a significant cold front blow through central Florida bringing cold, stinging early morning windchill’s in the low to mid-40’s along with some craptacular conditions for the contestants before warming back up to beautiful, sunny t-shirts and shorts weather for the last 2 days of the Pro. Photo: Mez

The Sunshine State?? Photo: Mez

Top California Pro rated #2 overall on the 2018 North American QS rankings Kevin Schulz  is one of the countries most promising talents and shows why with this beautiful, sheet lightning looking fan during the early rounds. This is how you throw buckets kids! Photo: Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

Josh Burke is no stranger to the QS grind or the waves at Sebastian. He’s been doing both for years and is working on making the World Tour. If you have seen him surf lately, he has really stepped up his game. Let’s hope we see another Barbados’ surfer on tour soon. Photo: Dugan

Daniel Glenn get’s pre-heat encouragement from friend and top east coast photographer / filmer Nate Harrington before paddling out into a chilly, early event heat. Photo: Mez

And it looks like Nate’s encouragement paid off as Glenn paddled out and went ballistic in his heat with one of the dirtiest air makes of the entire event. Photo: Mez

And longtime east coast surfing stand-out from back in the day turned filmer from Vero Beach, Haley Yergens has the clips of Daniel to prove it. Playback time for the heat wnner. Photo: Mez

Outer banks stand-out Quentin Turko made the 12 hour drive down to give it a go and hacked some solid power slams . Photo: Mike Vuocolo

Here is one to watch as he grows and makes heats in every contest he enters. Robbie McCormick bust airs like this with every surf. He’s got his game down and will be surfing more events close and far from home. Look out world! Photo: Dugan

Born and raised on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, Keala Tomoda-Bannert is no stranger to good waves.The wetsuit may be a bit foreign to her, but power turns off the bottom are not. Keala leaning into a nice one. Photo: Dugan

Stepping up to the WQS Series, Ryan Huckabee is trying it out to add some points to his account and see where it lands him. We know Ryan has what it takes to be on tour, it’s just a matter of when. Photo: Dugan

Fresh off his Pro win a few weeks earlier in the Eco Pro Surf Series, Daniel Glenn stuck to his game plan advancing to the quarter-finals but was outscored by the eventual winner Noah Schweizer. Photo: Dugan