Surfers from seasoned pros like Ben Bourgeois to groms unable to paddle into waves on their own will take to the surf this weekend for the 9th Annual O’Neill Sweetwater Pro-Am presented by Verizon.
The contest will kick off on Friday, July 11, and contest organizer Brad Beach said both the pro and amateur divisions should be full again this year with around 64 surfers competing for portions of the $15,000 pro cash purse and more than 250 in the amateur divisions.
“The planning has been going great but now it is up to the things we don’t have control over, which are the weather and the waves,” Beach said. “I am a little nervous about the weather, but as I have learned over the years, you cannot worry about those kinds of things.”
In addition to Wrightsville Beach native Ben Bourgeois, pro surfers like Corey Lopez, Brett Barley, Aaron Cormican and more will compete in the top pro division.
At the exact opposite end of the surfing spectrum represented at the contest, Beach said he always looks forward to the groms in the Guppy division that require a push from their parents or the staff at Wrightsville Beach Surf Camp. That division will compete on Saturday, July 12.
Beach also said he was excited for this year’s contest because of the addition of two major sponsors, Verizon and Pacifico. Verizon, Beach said, was interested in using the sponsorship as an employee recruitment tool.
“It is nice to have that kind of sponsorship sign on and it is needed to be able to grow the event,” he said. “I think they view Wrightsville as a great area to find new employees; they are there to attract the men and women coming out of college and that demographic that show up at these contests.”
As for community partnerships, Beach said the contest has always been able to count on healthy support from local businesses.
“Tower 7, Red Dog’s, Sweetwater, Wrightsville Beach Surf Camp, Vito’s and all those merchants have been part of the event from the first year,” Beach said. “That is why I call it a community event because, even though we get pros that come from all around the United States, just the level of community involvement is substantial.”
Along with the surf contest action July 11-13, the pro-am will host a few different events throughout like a meet the pros night at Red Dog’s on Friday, the official contest party at Red Dog’s on Saturday night and the Music and Arts Festival in Wrightsville Beach Park Saturday evening.
As far as additional support for the contest, Sweetwater Surf Shop manager Jason Baysden said a few volunteers are still needed. To volunteer, phone Sweetwater at 910-256-3821.