ESM Q&A W/ Michelle Sommers, ESA Champs On For Sept. 20-26!

August 12, 2020 • Competition, East Coast Contests, Eastern Surfing Association, ESA, The ESM Q&A

Interview by Jason Hoover @hoovtangclan

Presented by Wave Riding Vehicles at

Since mid-late winter every sport on the planet was in a historical state of flux and uncertainty instilling a deep longing in every fan as the Coronavirus robbed us of some of our favorite competition pastimes like the entire 2020 ESA Regionals events.

That one hurt especially.

Fast forward a few months and competition is back as we keep fingers crossed it all works out health-wise in the end for all.

The longing to hear the crack of a ball of rawhide coming off the barrel of a Louisville slugger – albeit with fake crowd noises piped in on broadcasts – the thump, thump, thump of a basketball and $200 dollar sneakers squeaking across a hardwood court, the thwack of a tennis ball ricochetting off a tightly strung racquet head and yes, the loud blast of the hooter and the raising of the green starter flag as your ESA heat hit’s the water are back and welcoming aural and visual treats for the ears and mind.

The 2019 ESA Championship’s at Jennette’s during theHurricane Humberto swell. With the town of Nags Head just approving the event permit according to ESA Exec Director Michelle Sommers, a huge hurdle has been cleared and the only other big question now is will a third consecutive hurricane swell light the joint up again like it did in 2018 and 2019? Stay tuned here! Photo: Mez @mezapixels

As the Sounds Of Summer have returned,  intrepid correspondent, Jason Hoover caught up with ESA Executive director Michelle Sommers to suss out what’s going on with the premier East Coast surf contest, the 2020 Eastern Surfing Associations Championships and what lies ahead .

Also below is a recent statement from Sommers and the ESA followed by Jason’s Q & A with the Executive Director herself. – Mez –

Michelle Sommers ( far right ) with the 2019 PC ( Pre Covid ) Northeast Regionals support staff ( from l-r ) Dylan O’Donnell, Joe Grotolla, Dave Portch, Lisa Roselli and Pam Hill. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

Statement From The ESA:

As you may have seen on ESA’s social media, several local ESA districts have started running events again.  The ones who had contests in the last few weeks had big turnouts with new and returning ESA competitors, and everyone said that vibe on the beach was positive, happy and full of excitement.

The ESA is still planning on running its 2020 Easterns Surfing Championship at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina September 20-26.  We hope to have your support as this may be one of the first bigger surfing events along the East Coast since before the shutdown.

Blayr Barton at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regionals. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

Throughout the shutdown, the ESA implemented a large amount of online content to keep our members connected, as well as gain new interest  below to the recap of the “Talking Story” episodes that included well-known East Coast surfing pros and legends that included Matt Kechele, Wes Laine, CJ Hobgood, Todd Holland, Asher Nolan to name a few.

Check-out the ESA’s Matt Kechele ‘Talk Story’ episode with ESA All-Star coach Jason Motes by clicking on the blue highlighted link above the photo. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

While some districts are still unable to hold events, the ESA would like to continue its online presence by offering its sponsors exposure on its social media pages on FB & IG.  Our new sponsorship coordinator, Zach Hall, wants to showcase ESA sponsors but we need your help.

Please send us any photo or short (15-30 sec) video/ad that you would like us to promote.  Please also send us a quote, statement or any sales pitch that we can post along with it.  If you would like to offer a discount code to drive folks to your website, please send that along as well.

Lastly, if you have any product that you want to distribute to our members at the district events that are running, please let us know and we can get you a mailing list for the districts who are running events.  Currently, we have approval for our Jacksonville district, Virginia, Maryland, Southern NJ and Central NC.  We have a few others who are getting ready!

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or ideas.  We want to support our sponsors as you are continuing to support the ESA!

Top ESA performer from New Hampshire, Kainalu Nichols at the 2019 Northeast Regionals. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

The ESM Q & A With ESA Executive Director Michelle Sommers:

By Jason Hoover  

What contests have run?   Local ESA events in SNJ, DMV, VA, CNC, NFL, NCFL. The following ESA districts have held events, or have some scheduled this week – SNJ, DMV, VA Beach, CNC, NFL and NCFL.

What they did Covid safety measure-wise?    ESA has implemented safety protocols which include everything the CDC recommends, as well as constant reminders to everyone on the beach of social distancing, washing hands, etc., calling competitors to check in one at time, wearing masks where social distancing isn’t able to occur, tabulators spreading out, no food or drink offered at events from ESA, updated waivers, awards given out following each heat so there isn’t a big group at the end, hand sanitizer available for anyone who needs it, etc.

The prized hardware every ESA competitor for the past 53 years wants to take home and proudly display. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

What are you and the ESA board planning / thinking of for safety measures for the 2020 Easterns?   Whatever CDC guidelines are in place at that time, the ESA will follow.

Without Regionals, how are  competitors qualifying  for Easterns?    Competitors will be invited based on their district rankings from 2019 season (just like the old days before regional events were implemented).

2019 Southeast Regionals, Florida. We’re going to need a bigger beach… The scaffolding and accompanying ‘Tent City” will be included at the 2020 Easterns Championships albeit with safe distancing rules also in full effect. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

 Infrastructure-wise how are you going to set-up and manage the scaffold for staff and judges?    

Scaffolding will be similar to previous years but will be closed off to anyone not working the event and will be limited to the number of officials.   Sponsor tents will be spread apart.   Beach Marshall will be closed off so no congregating under like previous years.

Trophy presentation  plan? Awards will be presented following each specific final, which is what we have been doing in previous years.

Awards ceremony at the 2019 Easterns. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

Face masks mandatory for all staff and support? The ESA will follow whatever is recommended per CDC guidelines at that time.

Social distancing implemented for scaffold? As much as we are able to, and if we can’t, and it’s recommended, the officials will wear masks.

Social distancing for sponsors tents? Yes

Anything you would like to add or comment on in general? The safest place for people to be is outdoors, especially on the beach, in the salt air and sunshine.  Our members are well-aware of the social distancing guidelines that must be followed and will adhere to these because everyone is ready to get back to their surf competitions.

The iconic Jennette’s Pier at sunrise. Beaches can be safe spaces if we take precautions and everybody does their part by looking out for others well being as the ESA will be doing by implementing an array of distancing and hygiene protocols to provide the safest comp and beach area possible. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

Spot Check: A few words from some of the ESA Chapter Directors:

NFL and ESA All-Star coach, Jason Motes: We had a blast!! The groms were frothing to get back in the jersey and the performance levels were incredible!! It was so good get the NorthFlorida family back together again and I can’t wait for our next event August 1st. Oh and no one got sick!!!!  

NCFL Director, Jason Eastwood: We ran dual beaches from 9 am until the storms kicked us off around 4:15 pm with a few heats left to run. We had a really good turnout, and everyone practiced social distancing.   We decided against a final awards presentation.   Instead, as finals completed, we started handing out the hardware to avoid large groups. We purchased over 60 extra rash guards, so sharing was very limited during the contest. It was great to run the first event of the year and my first event as director with a dual beach contest, only to be shut down two days later by the county.

A 2019 ESA Championships ripper as viewed from a safe distance from high atop Jennette’s Pier. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

SNJ Director, Chad Gallagher (Contest1): Despite the risks, politics, viruses, war or whatever is going on in the world surfers have always returned to the Ocean to pursue the sport they love. Nothing will ever get in the way of that. As surfers it is who we are and what we do. A kid is only going to be a kid once and they had an absolute blast at our first contest! The energy was electrifying, and the young guns were ripping!”

SNJ, Mike Collins (Contest 2): It was a record turnout for our second contest and one of the largest contests I have ever seen at the local level for the ESA. There is a lot of new talent and young groms embarking on the ESA journey. The strength of our organization rests on the legacy of our volunteers and the talent of our seasoned surfers.

VA Co-Director, Todd Starr (Upcoming Contest): Pray for Waves! – Interview by Jason Hoover @hoovtangclan