All photos and captions by Tom Dugan
Sebastian, Fla. (January 26, 2020) – After two days of intense competition, five age division winners and 20 finalists battled to the top at the first stop of the 2020 East Coast Toyota USA Surfing Prime Series at Sebastian Inlet. The ever-changing conditions and solid swell challenged competitors mentally and physically. Surfers had to position themselves at peaks and use smart heat strategies to keep advancing to the finals.
Sebastian Inlet was doing its thing throughout the weekend. The weather was brisk at times, and winds stayed mostly offshore / side shore keeping the wave face clean with gems like this each morning. PHOTO: DUGAN
Surfers competing in the Prime Series experience an event with judging, announcing and organization consistent with WSL pro events, including four-person heats with priority, computer scoring live on the STACT App and instant replay for the judges, and professional WSL/ISA judges and announcers.
The competition drew more than 80 of the best junior surfers from New York to Florida, battling it out for East Coast titles and qualification into the Toyota USA Surfing Championships at Lower Trestles in California.
Double Girls winner Zoe Benedetto took home a first place finish in Girls U16 & U18. PHOTO: DUGAN
Highlights included a double win in Girls U18 and U16 by Palm City, Florida’s Zoe Benedetto. Zoe also had the highest wave score for girls – an 8.5. William Hedleston, of Cocoa Beach, had the highest wave score of the event – a 9.23. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina’s Owen Moss had a buzzer beater, three-turn combo to take the Boys U16 win. And in her first ever Prime event Ocean City, New Jersey’s Sophia Whelan made the podium in Girls U16.
North Carolina’s Owen Moss was in third place most of the Boys U16 final and with a quick buzzer beater jumped to first and took the win. He backed it up with a 2nd in Boys U18. PHOTO: DUGAN
See event results below and posts on Instagram and Facebook.
The Toyota USA Surfing Prime Series is the highest level of junior surfing in the nation, featuring the best under 18 surfers who have proven themselves in local and regional competitions. The elite contest series is designed to prepare young surfers for the big leagues of surfing.
There definitely was plenty of surf all weekend for the Prime. Boys U14 competitor William Deane about to punch thru a big one on Sunday. PHOTO : DUGAN
The East Coast continues to generate impressive surfing talent. Florida native and member of Team USA’s first Olympic team Caroline Marks qualified for the WSL Championship Tour while still competing in the Prime Series at age 15. Caroline holds the most USA Surfing Championship titles for junior girl’s.
Friday at Sebastian Inlet was training day for everyone. The waves were in the excellent range all day and Brett Simpson was there to coach all that would listen. PHOTO: DUGAN
The Toyota USA Surfing Prime Series makes stops along both East and West coasts and culminates in the USA Surfing Championships in June. The competition was created to bridge the gap young surfers experience when trying to make the leap from pro junior competition to next-level competition opportunities, including a position on the USA Surfing national teams, the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series and potentially the Olympics and WSL Championship Tour. The Prime Series champion and podium roster is a who’s who in American surfing.
Not a bad looking wave with Gavin Coluccio in the driver’s seat tapping the brakes and setting up for a sweet cover-up. PHOTO: DUGAN
Results 2020 Sebastian Inlet USA Prime:
1st Zoe Benedetto, Palm City, Fla.
2nd Ava McGowan, New Smyrna, Fla.
3rd Sarah Abbott, Jupiter, Fla.
4th Taylor Green, Milton, Fla.
Floridian Ava McGowan bangs one off the lip in the finals of the Girls U16 getting her a 2nd place finish. PHOTO: DUGAN
1st William Hedleston, Cocoa Beach, Fla.
2nd Owen Moss, Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
3rd Ryan Huckabee, Flagler Beach, Fla.
4th Blayr Barton, Virginia Beach, Va.
1st Zoe Benedetto, Palm City, Fla.
2nd Ava McGowan, New Smyrna, Fla.
3rd Taylor Green, Milton, Fla.
4th Sophia Whelan, Ocean City, N.J.
Ava McGowan came up just a bit short once again at the Sebastian Prime with another well surfed second place finish in the Girls u16 but is definitely one of our coast’s promising talents male or female with more than her fair share of first place finishes the past couple of years. PHOTO: DUGAN
1st Owen Moss, Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
2nd Ryan Huckabee, Flagler Beach, Fla.
3rd William Hedleston, Cocoa Beach, Fla.
4th Gavin Coluccio, Flagler Beach, Fla.
Always one to watch when he hits the water is Floridian Ryan Huckabee who laid back into a Boys U16 2nd place and a 3rd in U18. PHOTO : DUGAN
1st Logan Radd, Satellite Beach, Fla.
2nd Benji Lange, St. Augustine, Fla.
3rd William Deane, Nags Head, N.C.
4th Kepa Mendia, West Palm Beach Fla.
Kill Devil Hills, NC local William Deane brought his A game from the waves he rides back home and applied his surfing to Sebastian Inlet. Moves like this put him into a 3rd place finish in the Boys U14. PHOTO : DUGAN
Down from Virginia Beach, Konoa Wong adapted well to the lefts at Sebastian that helped him get a 4th in U16 Semis and a 3rd in the U18 Semis. PHOTO: DUGAN
Floridas Taylor Green battled to a solidly surfed third in the u16 and a fourth in the u18 for good measure where there are no soft finals in either of those two divisions. PHOTO: DUGAN
This is what greeted all the surfers Sunday morning. Sebastian Inlet’s First Peak. PHOTO: DUGAN
Down from Virginia Beach, Blayr Barton surfed with speed and radical moves. Blayr flies over the closeout. PHOTO: DUGAN
Coming down from Ocean City, N.J., grom phenomenon Cruz Dinofa has been studying under Rob Kelly at home surfing up a storm and traveling all over. Cruz hit the Prime and caught some great waves over the weekend. Look him up on You Tube. PHOTO: DUGAN
One surfer that surfed his heart out was Ethen Harbinson who made it all the way to the semis but in a buzzer beater ended up third and not advancing. So close but great surfing overall. PHOTO: DUGAN
The man that makes it happen on both coastlines, Greg Cruse. PHOTO: DUGAN
Local Logan Radd surfed his way to a first in the Boys U14. PHOTO : DUGAN
South Florida surfer Kepa Mendia made the family name and his Dad Peter proud with 100% go for it surfing in every heat. Kepa’s backhand attack on his way to a 4th in Boys U14. PHOTO : DUGAN
First day opening tent setup. Rain off in the distance and sun shining as the competitors get ready for their heats. PHOTO: DUGAN
Girls U18 winners (L to R) 1st Zoe Benedetto, 2nd Ava McGowan, 3rd Sarah Abbott ,and 4th Taylor Green. PHOTO: DUGAN
Boys U18 winners ( L to R ) 1st William Hedleston, 2nd Owen Moss, 3rd Ryan Huckabee, and 4th Blair Barton. PHOTO: DUGAN
Girls U 16 Winners ( L to R ) 1st Zoe Benedetto, 2nd Ava McGowan, 3rd Taylor Green & 4th Sophia Whelan PHOTO: DUGAN
Boys U16 Finalists ( L to R ) Announcer Brett Simpson, 1st Owen Moss, 2nd Ryan Huckabee, 3rd William Hedleston, & 4th Gavin Coluccio. PHOTO: DUGAN