Story by Barry Pasonski, photos and captions by Tom Dugan @tomduganphotos:
The Grande Finale is always the best! That was the case for the local fireworks display in my neighborhood. The same was true for the 2nd annual Hot Dogz on a Stix vintage longboard contest held at Lincoln Street in Cape Canaveral, FL on Saturday July 4, 2020 put on by Dennis Griffin of Core Surf Surf Shop also in Cape Canaveral. The waves were modest as they almost always are in the middle of the hot Central Florida summers.
The actual hurricane season hasn’t quite started and any tropical activity that happens after the June 1st beginning of hurricane season is usually a tropical storm that forms in the Gulf of Mexico or near shore along the Continental US East Coast. None of these scenarios were in play for this vintage longboard event. It was just small but rideable all day long.
Everybody was worried all week if there were going to be waves or not. It was really hot and rainy all week but the easterly trade wind would kick in every afternoon about the time the violent thunder storms would roll through and keep the tiny swell alive. It had been super small but consistently ridable every day nonetheless. We were greeted on the morning of the 4th with a squeaky clean 1-2 feet windswell with a light west or offshore wind and an 8:23 super high tide due to the July 4 Full Moon. The surfers were actually getting some OK rides prior to the starting time so the contest was on!
The first round of the event was comprised of 8 heats with 4 surfers in each heat for a field of 32 surfers. In this round 1stplace would move on to round three and the 2nd and 3rd place surfers advanced into round two, the repecharge round. In all subsequent heats only the top two surfers advanced into later rounds all the way to a 4 surfer final. If you didn’t own a vintage log you could draw a straw and be provided one of five logs courtesy of Core Surf Surf Shop. The first round began right at 8:45 which was the beginning of the outgoing or dropping tide. Everybody’s expectations were super high that the waves would get better as the tide went out.
There was a wide variety of surfers here to shred the perfect yet small conditions. Some of the ladies included Sarah Stotz, 16 and Jasmine Gailey, 17, both from Cocoa Beach. Young surfers or “groms” Shane Konrad, 14, Cocoa Beach, Gavin Idone, 15 also Cocoa Beach and Skye Blumenfeld, 15, Flagler Beach, FL were really “hot dogging” it up to easily advance into the next round. Young men rippers included brothers Pat, 22, & Ryan Conklin, 20, from Flagler, Beach; and Colby Nickell, 23, Cocoa Beach.
Older Surfers included Jeff Kennedy, 49, Cocoa Beach, Pepe Sira, 68, Cocoa Beach and Gary Karczewsky, 45, Titusville, FL who all managed to get some fun waves in their heats. Although Pepe Sira didn’t advance from his heat he probably had the most fun and unique approach of anyone in the event by taking off on every wave and spinning super fast on the deck of an old 9’6” Hobie Surfboard nick named the “scratch off lottery ticket.” It was aptly named that because it was covered up with so much paint “you don’t know what’s under all that” says Core Surf Surf Shop owner, Dennis Griffin.
The later rounds progressed on with a draining low tide and slowly diminishing conditions. It wasn’t getting better but it was still surfable.
The finals rolled around at 1:30 which was right about the super low and drained out low tide. Most of the heats after the first round were a bit uneventful and the surfers that advanced through the middle rounds got OK waves to keep the dream of the $500 top prize alive. In the finals were 3 veteran pro surfers Steven McLean, 26, from Cocoa Beach, who is #17 on the Longboard World Tour; Saxon Wilson, 19, from Indialantic who was last year’s winner; Brent Russell, 36, from Cocoa, Beach., last year’s runner up; and a 15 year old Grom surfer, Skye Blumenfeld .
It was drained out low tide and looking almost flat when beach announcer, Wily Cole, blew the wimpy sounding air horn to start the 20 minute final. No one knew what to expect. The first few minutes were slow. McLean and Wilson surfed right out front, Blumenfeld and Russell surfed on both sides of the veteran’s with Russell to the south. An Interesting fact is that last year and up to the semi finals of this year Russell surfed to the very north of the contest area and found great waves almost always there. This is where he found a near perfect 9.0 out of 10 points for the best wave of last year’s event. We were all wondering if this strategy was wise or not.
Shred Alert! From out of nowhere a really decent set rolled through after minutes of no waves to start the final. All surfers were up and riding at the same time in the first wave exchange of this final heat.. Wilson was furthest out and caught the best wave of the exchange and got two nice long nose rides in succession to score a 6.5. McLean got a nice nose ride but failed to make the inside and scored around a 4.5. Russell and Blumenfeld didn’t get much to start off their campaigns. The heat was going back and forth between Wilson and McLean while Russell and Blumenfeld were still looking to get started. Wilson kept getting really good waves all in the mid to high 6 point range. McLean caught a really nice wave at the 10 minute mark where he did a really cool spin on the deck of a borrowed CC Rider board and also a long nose ride to get his best wave but he was still in second.
Another pulse of waves comes again with 8 minutes remaining and Russell gets a nice long sloping wave going to the south. He does a really nice slashing turn on the outside and a really long nose ride to the inside and finishes the ride cleanly.
This was arguably the best wave of the afternoon. Russell is coming back and needs a back up score. Another good set comes again and time is running out. It’s actually blowing up out there! Russell gets another long left at his newly found “honey hole” and he scores in the mid to good range. He’s gotten his back up score! The fireworks started early on this 4th of July!
It’s anybody’s heat right now and too close to call. The heat ends and no one on the beach is sure who won. All three veterans are unsure of the outcome too but think they did well. Russell was probably the least sure of the outcome and he just sheepishly smiles. In the end, Russell’s changing his strategy and moving to the south pays off. It comes down to a split decision by the judges and Russell wins! This was the best heat of the day by far. Everybody knows that the finale is always the best part of any fireworks display on July Fourth and this year the fireworks began in the surf! – Barry Pasonski / Shred Alert –
- Brent Russell $500
- Saxon Wilson $300
- Steven McLean $100
- Skye Blumenfeld $40
Best Wave: Saxon Wilson 7.33