“The foot’s still not 100% but it’s Pipe, all I need to do is go straight”. Kelly Slater, tongue firmly in cheek, to ESM’s Tom Dugan during the NKF Rich Salick Team Challenge.


COCOA BEACH, FL – On November 25th during Thanksgiving weekend, 23 teams took to the waves in Downtown Cocoa Beach to compete in the 32nd Annual NKF Rich Salick Team Challenge. Surf conditions couldn’t have been better as competitors enjoyed a full day of glassy 2-3 foot waves. Even the mid-day high tide couldn’t slow down the 2016 defending champions, Team Kahuna, as they put on an air show during their 15 minute heat and ended up with an 8th place finish.

November 25th , Cocoa Beach, Florida. Mmmmm… okay. Maybe not Third Reef Pipeline but two to four foot glassy waves, with light offshore winds and temperature in the low eighties, so what’s not to like for a day at the beach and a contest to raise money for a good cause? Photo: Dugan

Highlights from the event included a top notch performance from the event sponsor, Team Ron Jons Surf Shop, as they surfed their way into a first place finish. Team Riders Corey Howell, Rachel Presti, and William Hedleston led their team to victory by scoring excellent rides in the 7-9 point range. One of the biggest surprises of the event came when Kelly Slater, 11 time World Champion from Cocoa Beach, walked down to the contest zone, threw on the yellow jersey, and competed with 5 other local surfers on Team Purps. Paying homage to his roots, the champ led Team Purps to a 4th place finish while pleasing the crowd with his incredible surfing and humility.

The old saying applies here : Show up and blow up. And thats exactly what 11 time World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater did. His foot still not 100%, he did the best he could do on every wave he rode and he did not disappoint the hundreds of fans on hand to watch. A quick snap on a little left. Photo: Dugan

The team challenge is a new Cocoa Beach, Thanksgiving weekend tradition that takes place following the NKF Pro/Am at the Cocoa Beach Pier on Labor Day weekend. The event founders, Rich and Phil Salick, originated the team challenge in 1976 to raise money for dialysis patients after Rich Salick’s kidneys started to fail when he was only 23 years old and surfing on the professional world tour. The event continues today in Rich’s memory and has raised over 4 million dollars for kidney patients in Florida. The National Kidney Foundation of Florida has used that money for statewide programs including a direct monetary fund for dialysis patients in need. For more information on the NKF Pro-Am Surfing Festival call 407-894-7325 or visit us online at www.nkfsurf.com.

Local boy Pete Polanski showing Slater and the crowd at hand how to do a proper tail slide. Photo:Dugan

The team to come out on top was Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. Team rider Rachel Presti helping out here with a backside off the top and a high scoring maneuver that helped push them into the number one spot. Photo: Brett Hedleston

The King and his crew. Slater’s Purps team Left to Right: Scoter Newell ( In white hat ) Bobo Chesney, William Hedleston, Kelly, Eva Woodland and Mike Rosa. Photo: Dugan

Eva Woodland showing nice form as she surfed in the same heat as Slater. No pressure, right? Photo : Dugan

Cocoa Beach home boy and Ron Jon’s billboard staple, William Hedleston, surfed on three teams, Purp’s, Team Aloha and Ron Jon’s. He helped add valuable points to bring  team Ron Jon’ s  the  first place trophy. As a Slater Surfboards team rider he gave his boss Kelly a run for his money by taking him down. Yep, William won the heat he surfed in against Slater and, at 13 yrs old, William still has a long way to go and a lot to prove but taking down an eleven time world champ is a great start in his surfing career. Photo: Dugan

This is what happens when Kelly Slater is out surfing at beaches all around the world. Every one please stand for the champ. Photo: Dugan

Kelly was a huge surprise for the crowd and as always was there to support his life long friend and mentor, the recently departed Rich Salick. There was $3000.00 raised for the National Kidney Foundation on Saturday and Kelly really gave the event a truly great vibe as he hung out and talked with the crowd. He stated that he had not been home for a year and was just in town for a few days to see family and a few friends. When asked about his foot injury and going back to Hawaii for the final WSL event when he leaves Cocoa Beach he said: “It’s just Pipe and all I need to do is go straight”. Photo: Dugan

Surfing for team Ron Jon’s was contest power house Corey Howell. He chose a little wedge peak down the beach and it payed off with a first place trophy. Photo: Hedleston

Kelly Slater yapping it up with the fans. The heats all day where 15 minutes long but when the time was up in Kelly’s heat the Judges stopped scoring waves after the allotted time was up but let the heat go on an extra 10 minutes so everyone could enjoy seeing Slater for just a bit more before he left for Hawaii.  Photo: Dugan

With perfect little wave going off there where a few moments that got the crowd cheering. Pete Polanski going for maximum sound effects. Photo: Dugan

NKF Rich Salick Team Challenge Results Results:

1. Team Ron Jons Surf Shop

2. Team Rocket Coast

3. Team Aloha

4. Team Purps

5. Elite Surf and Sport

6. Kings Duck Inn

7. Via Health

8. Team Kahuna

9. Team Clever

10. Cocoa Beach Surf Team

11. Satellite Surf Team #1

12. Beach Shack

13. Law Office of Robert Hannan P.A. 

14. Then and Now’s

15. Charley’s Angels

16. Sandy Beach Menehunes

17. Team Wayfarer Life

18. NKF North Tower Ninjas

19. Satellite Surf Team #2

20. Stix by Dix

21. Eastern Surfing Association

22. Sandy Beach Surfers

23. Swell Life