One of the biggest East Coast surf contests is set to return to Wrightsville Beach again July 11-13 in the Ninth Annual O’Neill Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest.
Contest director and O’Neill representative Brad Beach said there would be more pro surfers in Wrightsville Beach for this year’s pro-am with no other Association of Surfing Professionals contests happening during the same time.
“We will have a lot of additional pros this year because we won’t have any competing events like last year when there was an ASP qualifier in El Salvador,” Beach said. “We will have some of the best pros around the country so we are super excited about that.”
Some pros already confirmed to compete in the contest are Floridian Cory Lopez and Wrightsville Beach native Ben Bourgeois, who missed the contest for the first time in 2013 while in El Salvador.
The contest will follow the same format as 2013 with only the surfers’ best single wave score counting in each heat. Last year was the first time using that format, Beach said, adding that surfers would be allowed to catch more waves in each heat this year.
“It lends itself to more progressive surfing,” he said. “There is not as much pressure because you could win the heat in the last two seconds and you are never out.”
Last year’s contest site on the beach strand in front of Columbia Street felt the effects of a diminished shoreline. Beach said there would be much more room for spectators this year with the newly renourished beach.
“We are super excited about that because last year we had to build the scaffolding on a slope and at high tide a lot of people had to move back or they would end up leaving,” Beach said.
Another event will be added to the pro-am weekend with a music and art festival in Wrightsville Beach Park Saturday, July 12.
Hope from Helen founder Tony Butler will be organizing the event, which was brought back after the success of the first pro-am music and arts festival, held in 2011.
“It was just a fun, family-oriented event where people were happy, smiling and it just epitomized everything about the surfing family here,” Butler said. “It added a different value to the event where people could come off the beach and congregate together.”
Three bands will be selected to perform that evening, including the South Hammock Bluegrass Band. In addition, Butler said Tower 7 would be catering the event with SurfBerry and possibly other food vendors.
Butler said more details would come out about the event during the coming weeks.
Hurley Surf and Enjoy
Three days before the pro-am, the Hurley Surf and Enjoy tour will also bring pro surfers from the Hurley team to Wrightsville Beach. The event will take place at Sweetwater Surf Shop on July 8, at 3 p.m.
Sweetwater manager Jason Baysden said kids would have the chance to hang out with some of their favorite pro surfers, and enjoy Hurley prizes and raffles.