Story and photos by Tom Dugan:
The first of four highly anticipated events in the 2019 Eco Pro Surf Series was run at New Smyrna Beach on the south side of the Ponce de Leon Inlet where the waters from the Halifax river flow into the Atlantic creating great sandbars with the most consistent surf in Florida . This kick-off contest titled “Battle to Beach Week” hosted by former top ASP World Tour pro Shea Lopez was once again a huge success . Waves were in the 2 to 4 foot range with light winds, warm water, beautiful sunny skies, and good tides throughout the day.
Coming on hard and quick, Josh Nicastro found the winning waves and past by all takers for the win in the Eco Pro’s first event . One down with three to go. Looking like another good year is about to happen . PHOTO : DUGAN
There were some fresh, talented new faces in the competitors arena this year that made for some exciting match ups and hard fought heats. The most notable was Josh Nicastro in the Men’s Pro Division. Josh has been a standout surfer for years and put it all together on Saturday to take the win, followed by Corey Howell and Robbie McCormick rounding out the top three .
Robbie McCormick doing what he does best . Taking to the air. Robbie once again was surfing at a level that’s hard to beat and gave it his all but had to settle for a 3rd place finish. PHOTO : DUGAN
Last year’s Masters’ Pro Season Winner Kent Compayre from Cocoa Beach took his first win of the season and in the Junior Pro Braedon Kopec took the win along with first in the Boys U16. A big thank you goes out to all the sponsors and contest director Randy Nolan, along with Shea Lopez, for all the work in making it happen. The next event will be the Mission 22 Pro at Ponce Inlet September 29 & 30. All remaining 2019 Eco Pro competitions will have a $3k+ purse for the Men’s Pro Division and additional full purses in all Pro Divisions. Three of four events will count for the year end points standings to determine the year’s overall winner in each division.
Continuing his winning streak in almost every contest he enters, 12 year old Braeden Kopec from Hammock Beach, Florida, made it a double, winning the Jr. Pro and the U16 . PHOTO : DUGAN
The Eco Pro Surf Series is a professional surfing competition based throughout Florida created to promote Professional level surfers on the rise and Amateur level surfers seeking opportunity to increase their competitive experience. The Eco Pro also directly benefits charitable organizations involved in the surfing world that provide ocean-centric opportunities to children with special needs, ambassadors of coastal conservation, and celebrate the preservation of Florida’s rich surfing history. For more information and to register for upcoming contests in this series please go to http://ecoprosurf.org.
A beautiful day at the beach with competitors, great surfing, family, and friends is always a plus at each Eco Pro event . PHOTO : DUGAN
Having local knowledge of the break where the contest is held is always to your advantage. Mathew Glenn ( shown ) and his brother Daniel are no strangers to New Smyrna and its fickeld peaks. Mathew redirecting thru his inside run. PHOTO: DUGAN
Women’s surfing has made leaps and bounds in the performance level. Zoe Benedetto is one of the better surfers pushing it further into the excellent range. With the help of coach Shea Lopez, she was able to place a strong second in the Eco Pro – Battle to Beach Week . PHOTO : DUGAN
With waves in the small range, board choices were crucial in how you rode the waves to get optimum points for advancement. Dustin Richardson chose wisely . PHOTO : DUGAN
Boys’ U12 winner Ethan Harbinson was on a tear, taking down all on his path to victory. Ethan is surfing better with each go out, and as soon as his growth spurt hits, and it will, look out for more power to show up in his surfing with that added size and weight behind him . PHOTO : DUGAN
Mid-morning saw some nice sets before the tide dropped out . Second place finisher in the Men’s Pro Division Corey Howell drawing some clean backside lines on a set wave in an early round heat . PHOTO : DUGAN
Last year’s over all winner Daniel Glenn doing what he does best. He got an equal 5th place in the first event and there are three more to go, so time will tell how he ends up in the 2019 ratings . PHOTO : DUGAN
The Lopez family: Shea, Cory Matty , and Dad Pete have always been know as stylish surfers . Pete pictured here took styling to whole new level with this foot tuck, one legged surfing move, warp ten that grabbed him a third place in the Longboard Pro Division . Viva La Pete . PHOTO : DUGAN
Hunter Roland got an equal 5th with Daniel Glenn and as seen here on this wave, looks like he may have taken a few notes on how to bust airs from Daniel’s playbook . PHOTO : DUGAN
Coby Gittner did not make the finals but he surfed with aggresive moves like this just missing out . One to watch in the next three events for sure . PHOTO : DUGAN
Surfing with a loose aggressive style, and ripping every wave that he road, put Eros Exharo into the last and final heat of the day where he grabbed a fourth place finish. PHOTO : DUGAN
Pro Longboard winner Colby Nickell was a pleasure to watch as he surfed his longboard in a traditional way, cross stepping to victory . PHOTO : DUGAN
This girl can surf . Kayla Durden was on a roll and taking out everyone in her path . Her backside attack on the long rights put her in the finals where she grabbed the best waves and won the whole thing . Should be a good year to see how she will finish when all events are tallied and the final numbers get added up . PHOTO : DUGAN
Women’s Pro Winners (L to R ) First place Kayla Durden, event director Shea Lopez , second place winner Zoe Benedetto, and third Bree Labiak . PHOTO : DUGAN
It never hurts to check the sheets after your heat . Contest organizer Jim Tolliver , surf mom Christine Benedetto and daughter Zoe , director Shea Lopez, and Women’s Pro Winner Kayla Durden go over the final heat sheets checking for the winning numbers . PHOTO : DUGAN
The top four in the Men’s Pro ( left to right ) 1st place Josh Nicastro, 2nd place Corey Howell, 4th place Eros Exharo , 3rd place Robbie McCormick and event organizer Shea Lopez . PHOTO : DUGAN