Who Da Guy? With Team USA’s Braeden Kopec, Presented By WRV

January 31, 2020 • Eastern Surfing Association, ESA, Who Da Guy / Girl

Full name:  Braeden Dune Kopec

Age: 13

Hometown and state: Hammock, Florida

Nickname: A few people have called me Brae and Tom Dugan likes to try and call me Billy which is an inside joke.  I was never big on having a nickname but Brett Simpson calls me Braedo and I was like okay, that’s cool!  

Education:  Homeschooled, straight A’s!

Homebreak:  Ponce Inlet and Flagler Beach Pier

Sponsors: O’Neill, Channel Islands, Native Eyewear, FCS, Nixon, SunBum, Surf Station surf shop, Sticky Bumps

Morning workout down in Costa Rica. If you want a winter tropical training camp Playa Hermosa will definitely fill the bill! Photo: Dan Jenkins @danjenkinsphotos

Results: 2019 – 2020

  • USA Surfing Prime, Sebastian FL, 5th 
  • USA Junior Developmental Surf Team
  • ECO PRO Surf Series, 1st Jr. Pro
  • USA Surfing Prime West DelMar CA, 5th u14
  • WSA Championship Tour, final overall west coast ranking 8th,  2018/19 season
  • Barbados Independence/Live Like Zander, 1st, u14
  • Rip Curl Grom Search NSB, 1st
  • RVCA Newport CA Championships, 1st
  • East Coast Surfing Championships pres. by VANS, 3rd, 14u
  • Beach Week ProAm, 1st
  • ESA SE Regional Championships, 1st u16 (Title #7), 2nd u18, 4th u14
  • NSSA East Coast Championships, 1st Explorer Menehune 12u (Title #6), 2nd Open Boys 12u, 3rd Open Juniors 15u
  • USA Surfing Prime, Ponce Inlet, 4th u16
  • O’Neill Grom Tour, Jacksonville, 1st u14, 2nd Open
  • WSA Championship Tour, Huntington Beach Pier, 2nd u14
  • O’Neill Grom Tour, Melbourne FL, 1st u14, 2nd Open

 

  • Braeden Kopec with 2018 ESA East Coast Championships hardware. Recalls District Director and East Coast Surfing Hall Of Famer, Pam Hill, “I met the Kopecs  just after Braeden was born. They were on my UPS route and when I deliver packages for them. I would often talk to them about my surfing career and my involvement with the ESA and they were very interested and eventually signed him up to the St.Augustine District as soon as Braeden was standing up on a surfboard. In his first year he made it to our Championships where he won the award for being the YOUNGEST competitor ever at Easterns. It’s great to see how his love and passion for Surfing has grown to where it is today and that and that the ESA was a big part of it”. – Pam Hill ESA Southeast Regional Director. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

Results 2018:

  • USA Surfing Prime East 2017/2018 Season Champion u12.
  • WSA Championship Tour, San Clemente Pier, 4th u14
  • Tommy Tant Jr. Pro, 3rd
  • USA Surfing Prime, 3rd u16  , AC NJ
  • ESA East Coast Championships, 1st u12 (Title #5)
  • Vans East Coast Surfing Championships, 3rd 14u
  • Rip Curl Grom Search Banzai Bowls Maneuver of the Event Award, FL
  • Rip Curl Grom Search, North Carolina,  1st 12u
  • Rip Curl Grom Search, Florida 2nd 14u
  • NSSA Middle School National Championships, 2nd place team
  • O’Neill Grom Tour, Jacksonville, 1st Open, 2nd u14
  • ESA Regional Championships, 1st u12 (Title #4) & 4th u14   
  • WSA Championship Tour, Salt Creek, 4th u12
  • NSSA East Coast Championships, 3rd Explorer Menehune, 5th Open Boys
  • Nixon Most Radical Maneuver of the Event Award (O’Neill Grom Tour)
  • O’Neill Grom Tour, Melbourne FL, 1st u14
  • ESA All Star Team

Crew:  I hang and surf with Shea Lopez a lot, and honesty whichever one of my pals might be out in the line-up at the FB pier or NSB or Ponce I actually like to surf with anyone and everyone young and older. 

Strongest maneuver: Backside vert

Looking mucho caliente at Sebastian Inlet freesurfing between heats at the recent U.S.A Prime event there. longtime Brevard County shaper / internationally traveled judging guru, Gordon ‘Gordo ‘Lawson has these sage observation from the scaffold describing the groms abilities, “Short but sweet is that Braedo’s the new Danny Melhado. His style is spicy with a ton of pop yet clean and polished. Grom totally rips!”. – Gordon Lawson / Head Judge USA Surfing Prime. Photo: Jack Mc Daniel @gromarazzi

Magic board:  I’ve been riding a couple insane boards that Britt Merrick personally shaped for me which was super cool of him. It’s been a mix of CI models over the past couple years depending if I’m in California, Costa or here on the east coast. The poly and spine-tek Fevers Britt made must have had some magic in them because I picked up my 6th and 7th East Coast Titles on those boards so I was stoked.  The entire crew at Channel Islands are so incredible at what they do!  They’ve all been really amazing to work with.  Dimensions? I’m growing a lot so my boards are changing constantly and I’m having to order new boards every few weeks.

Best day surfing: No particular day stands out but there’s definitely been some epic days that I’ve hit it just right in Costa at Pavones and a couple other of my favorite spots there. Maybe one of my favorite days was that last 15 seconds of my 2018 Easterns heat when the waves were epic and I paddled out for that last right that came through to take the win!!  Yeah, I guess that one stands out in my memory of best days. 

Best East Coast surf spot: Ponce because I’m a regular footer and during hurricane swells the rights are sooo perfect. But even outside of hurricane swells Ponce seems to always work and you can’t beat it when the winds and tides all line up.  The Flagler Beach Pier I think is often overlooked as a legit wave because when it’s on, it’s on!

Lift off at Ponce Inlet. Photo: Rachael Kopec

Best surf trip experience:  Strike mission to Pavones. We nailed it just right.  Seven days of endless lefts. It was a neat truck ride getting there and we had this super cool place to stay right on the point. Lowers cobblestone is easy compared  to walking over the Pavones rocks after a leg burning session there!  Definitely worth it though!!  Speaking of Lowers though it was super cool when I was surfing there and Kelly was only a few feet away. He generated speed like I’ve never seen so that made that Cali trip one of the best too!

Should Kelly retire or stay on tour and what should he do when he does hang it up? This is an easy question. He should retire. Come back home to Florida and surf with me every day!! 

 


“Braeden first came on to my radar at the 2014 ESA Regionals in New Smyrna when he was a wee lad of 7 yrs old. He was the youngest competitor in the contest and I was just impressed with his surfing. After the contest was over I asked him to take a photo by the trophies and hold the board over his head. It was so funny as he was holding the board up he said, “I can’t hold it any more, it’s too heavy. “ What could a 4’6” board weigh? Since that day his family and I have been friends. We even did a trip to Costa Rica to train with four-time World Champ Frieda Zamba for a week. Kid was all time and I think surfed more than the other 6 kids combined.”  Quote and photo by Tom Dugan / ESM Co Owner and class of 2006 East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame member.

Local hero:  Wow, that’s tough question because there are so many great people and role models that I’ve become friends with and that I spend time surfing with like Holeman, CT Taylor, Shea and Cory, Gordo and Frieda Zamba and a bunch of others. It’s just so cool that these people and several others are right here in Florida and accomplished so much in their careers and in the surfing community!

Inspirations: I get inspired from a lot of different people – some a lot, some a little, some how they surf, some how they act in and out of the water.  I try to see the best and let that push me to be better in the water and as a person.

All-time buzz kill: Watching people be or become mean. Such a bummer.  It’d be better if everyone was nice and got along.

Time spent out of the water: School, jujitsu, fishing, skating and training.

Worst surf injury:  I’ve been right next to some gnarly ones like shark bites and boards to the face but fortunately haven’t had a surf injury myself.

Nastiest lineup: Hmmm I guess I’d have to say Lowers at certain times but I still love it even when it’s packed! It’s not really “nasty”, just so packed.

Non-surfing sponsor: Mountain Dew… no I guess it’d be RAM trucks so that maybe they’d give me one when I turn 16! Wait, actually a bank because then I could buy as many RAMs and cases of Mountain Dew as I want and still have cash left!

With Team USA coach Brett Simpson at the recent U.S. Prime at Sebastian Inlet, January 2020. “Braeden has a very fluid style and with his work ethic he’s one that we have our eyes on for a bright future ahead! Also, he’s very coachable and always had his listening ears on soaking it all up like a sponge!”. Photo: Rachel Kopec

Worst wipeout: Taking off late at Hermosa when it’s super heavy or when I went over the falls at Negra knowing the rocks were inches away. 

Recommended website:  I don’t spend much time looking at websites except for Surfline, WSL, and JOB’s clips.

Girlfriend or no:  No way am I saying anything about this topic except I’m single so DM me on Insta!! Ha ha!!

Smacking it down at the 2019 Tommy Tant Memorial contest in home waters at Flagler Beach. Photo: Dugan

How important is social media to you as far as your surfing goes?  Social media doesn’t impact me or my surfing.  I of course use it but it’s definitely not something I consider to be important in my life.  I guess some people do. I think the nice parts of it are cool but there’s a crazy part to it too, people are addicted to it which is pretty wild.

Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Instagram because it’s cool to see what my friends from far away places like California, Costa Rica, Australia or Germany are doing.  It’s pretty amazing to be able to connect with anyone anywhere in the world.

Song in your head to surf with: Imagine Dragons…Thunder. 

Best local hangout: Hanger 15.

Braeden backside schralping at 2019 Rip Curl National Championship at BSR, Waco Texas. Say’s 4 X World Champion, Frieda Zamba, “Braeden loves to be challenged and is always calculating his next move out in the water. When he’s on his game it’s like you’re waiting for a train chugging down the tracks but then the bullet train flies by instead… you just didn’t see it coming. It’s all evolving and lining up like the planets for him right now and I think something big is going to happen”.  Photo by @matthewordn 

Personalized license plate: URAKOOK

Wheels: My mom is my chauffeur. She put like 14,000 miles on her new truck in like 4 months hauling me around to surf spots.

Best day surfing: No particular day stands out but there’s definitely been some epic days that I’ve hit it just right in Costa at Pavones and a couple other of my favorite spots there. Maybe one of my favorite days was that last 15 seconds of my 2018 Easterns heat when the waves were epic and I paddled out for that last right that came through to take the win!!  Yeah, I guess that one stands out in my memory of best days.

Meet the Kopecs, Braeden, Rachael and Brian, at the 2019 ESA Southeast Regionals. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

Ambitions: The easy answer for both short and long term is what every grom wants… make the tour.  But I understand the reality too so the fact that so few “make it” really pushes me harder and harder to develop my surfing. I’ve accomplished some of my short term ones when I picked up my 6th and 7th titles recently at NSSA and ESA championships.  My future short and long term goals I’d rather not say – don’t want to jinx myself! Of course surfing is a big part of those goals.  I’ve had a great 2018-2019 season with some solid results, significant wins and podium appearances in major events at NSSA, ESA, GromSearch and Prime and west coast events and I’ll try to keep that momentum going.

Already starting to spread his competitive wings, meet one of Team USA’s newest – and youngest – members. Photo: Courtesy  Team USA Surfing 

Epitaph: Braeden Dune Kopec. Had some great wins but today wasn’t one of them.  LOL!

Favorite quotation: It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.  My dad’s grandparents had this as one of their favorite sayings and it’s so true.

Biggest virtue: I always try to be a good person and do the right thing in life. 

Dirtiest habit:  I’m a pretty clean kid but I have a bad habit of eating a brand new carton of ice cream on the sofa and I just keep eating and eating and eating till it’s gone.

Crushing it in Coasta Rica. Photo: Rachael Kopec

Overrated: Being too cool

Underrated: Shaping machines.

Name drop:  Kelly Slater when I was like 4 at Cocoa Beach Pier.  Every time I’ve met him since he’s been super cool.  I was out in Cali and we surfed together a couple years ago and I was on my Quiet Flight and we talked about his days on a QF.  That was cool. Surfed a session with Machado in Huntington.  He was super nice. Frieda Zamba is kind of like my second mom. She pushes me to the best I can be.  I love surfing with her. She bakes the best cookies when I visit. And Richie Collins threw me a birthday party at his house in California which was super nice of him. Ran a 35 min. heat at Lowers with Kolohe which was pretty sick, yeah he won.

Braeden Kopec freesurfing Sebastian Inlet, January 2020. Photo: Tom Dugan

11th Commandment:  Just be nice all the time. It won’t kill ya. 

Breaking the law:  Nothing I’d go to jail for but I’ve snuck into places but I can’t give ya details!  The dumbest stunt… when I was 4 I was such a slow eater and my parents got tired of waiting, cleaned up the kitchen and left me at the table.  After a while I got up, walked my plate over to the toilet and scraped everything off my plate into the toilet.  Sat back down at the table. Waited few minutes and yelled “I’m all  done!”.  My parents were suspicious. And sure enough I got busted because I forgot to flush the food down the toilet! I was so busted.

In my room. Braeden Kopec at home, 2020. Photo: AJ Neste @AJNestePhotography

Biggest phobia:  I guess I’m kind of claustrophobic.

Feral or five-star? I travel a lot and don’t really mind where I stay but I’ve stayed at some really neat places so I guess if you’re paying I’m staying 5 star!

What does it mean to you to be an East Coast surfer? You grovel…a lot.

Knifing a razor sharp turn at the 2019 Salt Creek Prime comp. Braeden is the first competitive surfer to qualify for both the East and West Coast USA Prime Series events. Photo: Jack Mc Daniel @gromarazzi

Lesson learned the hard way: Not tying my shoes when I was skateboarding… gave myself a really bad face plant on some seriously rough asphalt when I was like 6 or 7….messed me up pretty good!

Message for today’s misguided youth: Set the phone down, be real friends, get off social media and actually be social.

Secret other life: Don’t have one.

Home cooking on the north side of Flagler Beach Pier. Photo: A.J. Neste @A.J.NestePhotography

Credit due: God, my mom and dad, my coaches, and some really incredible sponsors and those who believe in me. 

If I could pick a superpower…  Breathing underwater. I’d duck dive once when I paddle out and swim 100 yards under water going right under every wave until I was on the outside. 

Jet-skis are for…  giving me rides back out to the line-up.  The lifeguards at Oceanside are awesome and hooked me up a few times recently on the sled.  Felt like the WSL CT!

If I could do one thing over again… I’d be born with Slater’s talents!

Braeden during the 2019 ESA Championships as viewed from atop Jennette’s Pier. Photo: Mez @mezapixels

I snaked… My dad!  I can’t resist doing it to him.  Drives him so crazy that I don’t give him the good ones!

What is today’s surf culture lacking? Sportsmanship. Some of the simpleness of surfing in the 80’s and 90’s

What question should we have asked you but didn’t and please answer it:What are you most proud of?” is the question and being named to the USA Surf Team and my seven titles would be the answer.

Last words:  I’m an honest person. I love to experience new things.

Already more trophies than one room can hold at the age of 13. Think we’re going to need a bigger bedroom mom and dad! Photo: Dugan