The Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) has made it easier for its members to reach their next level of surfing competition by partnering with the World Surf League (WSL)’s East Coast Qualifying Series (QS) and Pro Junior events. This groundbreaking partnership creates an unprecedented opportunity for competitors who are looking to pursue a higher level of competitive surfing from the WSL.
Following an exciting season of ESA Regional post-season surfing championship events in Florida, North Carolina and New Jersey, the top finalists may receive an opportunity to compete in the higher level WSL QS & Pro Junior events this summer and fall. In addition, all ESA Regional event finalists have now qualified to compete in the ESA’s Easterns® Surfing Championship.
The Easterns® is the ESA’s premier surfing championship event that is held every September at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina and sponsored by The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. This annual competition for all ages has been held for nearly fifty years, and only the ESA’s top Regional event finalists are invited to participate in this elite East Coast pinnacle event for surfing.
“Everyone wants to claim an Easterns® championship,” said Michelle Sommers, ESA’s executive director. “Winning at Easterns® has always been, and continues to be, a personal goal for every East Coast competitive surfer, especially if they wish to pursue a professional surfing career.”
Because the ESA wants to be sure its competitors are prepared for the WSL events, they began offering four-man priority heats at the championship level for the divisions from where they are pulling from. David Portch, ESA Head Judge and WSL Priority Judge, implemented the WSL priority system at all three ESA Regional events, including hosting Q&A clinics on the beach for ESA competitors to learn more about the WSL priority rules.
Presenting the Priority Q&A clinics alongside ESA All-Star Coach Jason Motes and Dylan O’Donnell introduced ESA competitors to the strategy and structure of competition of the highest levels of surfing. These clinics were based on Live Scoring and Priority Heats.
“At the true core and base of Priority, you will find the concept of fair surfing – your turn, you’re up next,” said Portch. “This creates an equal playing field for the competitors, giving them the ability to use their Live Scores and Priority together to choose scoring waves and let their surfing do the talking.”
Strategy in Priority will come in time with experience and understanding the basic rules and concepts. The ESA has provided this experience at their three Regional events and will include the four man priority heats for several divisions in the ESA’s 2019 Easterns® Championship.
The ESA invited WSL North America Tour Manager Brian Robbins to be a part of its Northeast Regional event to see how the organization is implementing WSL practices into its events. Robbins was on hand to participate in the Priority Q&A Clinic as well.
“Visiting the ESA’s Northeast Regionals in Belmar was a great experience and really showed me the value of making this partnership happen,” said Robbins. “To have the ESA embracing WSL rules and formats is so beneficial for the up and coming competitor base who are looking to participate in Pro Junior and Qualifying Series events in the future. We couldn’t be more appreciative of their support and we look forward to seeing who takes the championship titles at Easterns® in September.”
ESA Regional event top finalists who meet the evolving criteria within the Men/Women, Jr. Men/Women U18 and Open Shortboard divisions may gain slots into the next East Coast WSL QS events. Champions in the Boys/Girls U16 divisions may qualify for the ESA-sponsored slots for the WSL Pro Junior events. All slots will be allocated based on WSL offerings.
Overall district, regional and Easterns® performance, along with age and ESA dedication will be factors that determine which ESA competitors will be given the ESA-sponsored slots. The partnership with the ESA and WSL has already shown that there is a lot of unnoticed surfing talent along the East Coast.
“Many talented competitors may not have the financial means to travel in order to participate in the other events that claim to be where they must participate in order to advance themselves so they give up,” said Sommers. “The ESA knows there are plenty of qualified competitors who just need support to be able to show their skills, and they shouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops to get there.”
“We want to be sure we are sending the best of the ESA to represent the ESA into these WSL events,” added Sommers. “While that certainly includes their ability to perform at that next level of competition, it also makes sure we are sending competitors who are proud to be representing the ESA.”
Rip Curl has also partnered with the ESA to sponsor the top ESA All-Stars from the Boys/Girls U14 divisions into its Rip Curl GromSearch Series that will be held in Florida and North Carolina this summer.
“The ESA is proud to offer its competitors all of these opportunities that may not have been achievable for them personally for various reasons,” added Sommers. “We are offering our members a pathway to get to where they want to go, without the unnecessary financial and travel burdens that may have held them back previously.”
“What an incredible time to be a part of the East Coast and the ESA. With these changes, you will find that the ESA provides development at all levels, from the beginner, amateur and pro level,” adds Portch. “The ESA is a family and wants to see your surfing dreams come into fruition. Over time, these practices will catapult the competitive level of every ESA surfer.”