Clear skies and warm weather welcomed the Eastern Surfing Association last weekend in Belmar, New Jersey as they held the 2019 Northeast Regional Surfing Championships presented by Surfer Dudes. The event was the third, and final, regional contest that the ESA holds each spring for competitors to qualify for slots into The Easterns® Surfing Championship, as well as East Coast WSL QS/Pro Junior events.
The contest was located in front of Eastern Lines Surf Shop, a major supporter of the ESA through the years. Belmar local Cecil Lear, ESA’s co-founder, came out to watch the event.
“I’m very happy in the direction that the ESA is heading,” said Lear proudly as he watched the youth division finalists claim their awards. “There is a strong team of individuals who are taking the organization to a level we never knew was possible.”
This was also the first season of the ESA regional championships that included four-man priority heats in the late rounds of several divisions, including the Junior Men/Women U18, Boys/Girls U16 and Men/Women. Competitors attended daily training sessions with World Surf League’s (WSL) East Coast Priority Head Judge David Portch prior to surfing in their first priority heats.
ESA All-Star mentor Kainalu Nichols surfed his first ESA priority heat and won the Men’s division, which may qualify him to receive an ESA-sponsored slot into the next East Coast WSL QS events.
“I like surfing with priority because it’s helping us prepare for the next level of surfing above the ESA,” said Nichols.
“Priority is helpful with only one or two peaks that may be breaking during our heats,” said ESA All-Star and Open Shortboard Northeast Champion Tucker Collins. “It doesn’t allow one person to dominate every wave that may come through, which makes it fair for everyone in the heat.”
“It (priority) adds a level of strategy that will enable competitors to be better prepared for WSL QS events,” added ESA All-Star Maddie Ryan, who claimed the top spot for the Junior Women U18. “It really benefits surfers competing in small, East Coast waves.”
Brian Robbins, WSL North America Tour Manager, was on site to witness the impact that offering Priority offers ESA competitors.
“I’ve got a soft spot for the East Coast, fully appreciating everyone’s contribution and commitment to the events,” said Robbins. “The ESA has a great model to work with for its Championship events.”
While the waves may have been much smaller and calmer than most years, the Northeast competitors brought their game and proved how East Coast surfers can make difficult conditions prime for competition.
“ESA officials and competitors kept a close watch on Surfline’s wave forecast for the weekend,” said Michelle Sommers. “Their forecast and daily reports were accurate for our scheduling needs as we were dealing with full moon tides and wanted to offer our competitors the best waves possible.”
ESA All-Stars CJ Mangio and Mia Gallagher took home top spots in both the U14 and U16 divisions. They will both receive the All-Star Rip Curl-sponsored slots into the Outer Banks GromSearch Series this summer, as well as ESA-sponsored slots into the next WSL Pro Junior event along the East Coast.
“Coming home with wins in both the Girls U14 and U16 was incredible,” said Gallagher. “It has been one of my goals for quite some time and I am so excited to surf in the Rip Curl and WSL events.”
Finalists were rewarded nicely with prizes from ESA sponsors including Nixon, OluKai, All Good Brand Sunscreen, Hank Sauce, Chums, Surfco Hawaii and Plak That.
A full summary of results may be found on the event’s webpage, along with a full recap video provided by NPI Productions. The live webcast by John Ross Productions is available to view on the ESA’s YouTube channel.
Be sure to mark your calendars to attend the ESA’s Easterns® Surfing Championships at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina, September 15-22, 2019.
In the meantime, reach out to your local ESA district and become a part of the ESA surfing family. With 22 active districts along the East Coast, Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast of Florida, there’s an ESA district close to you.
For media inquires, contact Michelle Sommers at firstname.lastname@example.org