The Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) stepped into its first World Surf League (WSL) event with amazing representation at the WSL Florida Pro Surf Competition in Melbourne Beach last week.  The ESA’s Easterns® finalists entered their next level of competitive surfing through a new partnership between the ESA and the WSL QS events along the east coast, including the Caribbean.

ESA All-Star Fergus Kelly made it through his first round of the WSL Florida Pro Surf Competition at Sebastian Inlet. Photo: DUGAN/ESM

Eight competitors, including several ESA All-Stars, were sponsored by the ESA to compete in the Women’s QS 3000 and the Men’s QS 1500 at Sebastian Inlet presented by Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism.

Beautiful weather, along with rising swell through much of the week, allowed these amateur surfers to compete for points and gain valuable experience surfing against many former ESA, west coast and international competitors who have excelled in their competitive surfing careers.

“The ESA is thrilled to be working with the WSL on creating a clear pathway for its competitors to reach their surfing career goals,” said ESA’s executive director Michelle Sommers.  “The WSL is everyone’s endgame if they want to be a professional surfer or surf in future Olympics.  We want to give them the experience and ability to get to this level without any confusion.”

ESA All-Star Sarah Abbott proved there is a lot of talent rising on the east coast. Photo: Trip Hernandez

The top ESA surfers who competed in the event were:  Fergus Kelly (CFL), Kai DeLorenzo (SAFL), Blayr Barton (VA), Cole Deveney (CNJ), Sarah Abbott (PBFL), Taylor Green (NGFL), Rachel Wilson (VA) and Morgan Iglay (CNJ).

“We are so proud of all of our surfers,” added Sommers.  “Their surfing ability was right up there, and the way they handled the pressure was amazing to witness.”

Two ESA All-Stars, Rachel Wilson from Virginia Beach and Fergus Kelly from Satellite Beach, surfed through difficult heats to make it to the second round of the event.  Though neither received the scores necessary to advance again, Wilson and Kelly left with QS points that may benefit them going into their next QS event of the season.

ESA All-Star Rachel Wilson surfing in the WSL Florida Surf Pro last week. Photo: DUGAN/ESM

“I am so thankful to have gained additional experience competing on such a high level with so many talented women,” said Wilson.  “My family and I truly appreciate the ESA’s directors and coaches for helping me reach my goals in competitive surfing.”

Kelly added, “I am very appreciative of the opportunity that the ESA offered me to surf in the Florida Pro. It was a great experience and I was stoked to surf my first QS event at home.”

ESA at the WSL Florida Pro. From (L) to (R): All-Stars Audrey Iglay, Morgan Iglay, ESA executive director Michelle Sommers, All-Stars Rachel Wilson, Sarah Abbott, All-Star coach Jason Motes, All-Star Callie Summerlin.

ESA All-Star Team coach Jason Motes, who has 21 east coast titles, attended the event to support all of the ESA competitors.

“I am incredibly excited that the ESA & WSL are working together to offer our elite ESA surfers this pathway to accomplish their dreams,” said Motes.  “Every young ripper dreams of making the WSL tour one day, so why shouldn’t we help them get there?”

This was ESA All-Star Sarah Abbott’s first WSL event.

“I was so excited when I received the call for this opportunity to surf in my first QS event,” said Abbott.  “Although I was nervous, I had a really great time and learned so much.  It has motivated me to push myself in order to continue to compete at the QS level.”

ESA competitors were chosen based on their Easterns® rankings in the Jr. Men/Women U18 and Boys/Girls U16 divisions, as well as ESA sportsmanship and dedication.

“It was definitely a learning experience that opened my eyes to the level of all the surfers on the QS,” said All-Star Cole Deveney, who traveled from New Jersey for the event.  “The ESA is really helping their up-and-coming surfers by getting them into these events.”

“The ESA will be transparent in how slots will be allocated for the future WSL QS east coast events,” said Sommers.  “We are using this exploratory process in 2019 to determine the best way to qualify our top surfers in our higher youth age divisions.”

New Jersey’s Cole Deveney, another ESA All-Star, made the long trip in order to compete as an ESA-sponsored athlete in the WSL Florida Pro. Photo: DUGAN/ESM

These competitors are required to be in good standing as a current ESA member without any sportsmanship issues.

“We want to be sure that the competitors we are sponsoring into these events are strong representatives of the ESA, and will act accordingly,” added Sommers.

“The ESA has always done what is best for the east coast surfing community, and that is what makes the organization so well-respected,” said Sommers.  “This is another great chapter in its 52-year legacy.”

Coach Motes added, “I wish we had these opportunities available when I was a grom!”

For more information, please visit or contact Michelle Sommers at

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