Three Banner Surf Events Return to North Carolina in August

Wrightsville Beach, one of the best surf towns in America (and birthplace of Juice Magazine), will host three headline surfing events in a span of two-weeks in August 2018 – the Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic, the O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest, and the Surfers Healing surf camp.

First on the calendar, Aug. 10-12, is the Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic, open to lady surfers of all ages including amateurs, professionals, and teenie wahines. 2018 marks the 21st consecutive year of Wahine competition at Wrightsville Beach, excluding a hiatus in 2012.

Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic – Courtesy of Ed Potter

“The atmosphere of the Wahine Classic is friendly and enjoyable, where many girls get their start and their first taste of surfing competition,” said Jo Pickett, event organizer. “Everybody’s happy and laughing. There are a few tears shed and some disappointment, but it’s a very encouraging and nurturing environment.”

Next on the calendar, Aug. 17-19, the 13th annual O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest takes over the town. The second largest surf contest on the East Coast, Surf Fest attracts 64 of the top international and homegrown pros, plus an estimated two-hundred of the best amateurs.

Rob Kelly, Pro Champ – 2017 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest – Courtesy of Brad Styron

Weekend events include Saturday’s Music and Art Fest, combining local musicians, arts, crafts, and family activities, with proceeds benefiting nonprofits Hope From Helen and UNCW’s Surf Club.

Pro Michael Dunphy of Virgina Beach, 2nd place in the 2017 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest – Courtesy of Brad Styron

“Wrightsville is a great beach community and the Surf Fest Pro-Am is very spectator friendly,” said Brad Beach, event manager and co-founder. “You’ll see professional surfers from all over the world at the top of their game. In the amateur ranks, we tend to get the top surfers on the East Coast, most coming from Florida to New Jersey.”

Wrapping the triad of surf-celebrations on Aug. 20, is Surfers Healing, a non-profit organization on a mission to enrich the lives of those living with autism by exposing them to the unique experience of surfing. Surfers Healing is celebrating its 21st season of providing one-day surf camps at no cost to almost 5,000 children in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

2017 Surfers Healing, Wrightsville Beach, NC – Courtesy D.J. Struntz

“Surfers Healing is a wonderful experience and a perfect therapy for a child with autism,” said John Pike, Director of Development for Surfers Healing Foundation. “Although we work with thousands of children and families, we think in ones. One child, one family, one day at the beach, where we can make a difference and effect change.”

2017 Surfers Healing, Wrightsville Beach, NC – Courtesy D.J. Struntz

“Our host hotel, Blockade Runner, is an autism-friendly resort accommodating a neuro-diverse demographic,” said Pike. “This is important information to share with our children and families.”

A short walk on the beach to all three events, Blockade Runner Beach Resort, is the host hotel for Surfers Healing and the Wahine Classic.

“In the late 60s and early 70s, surfboards went from 10-feet to five-feet long. Longboard fell out of fashion,” said Pickett. “In the past five years, longboarding is enjoying a fabulous comeback. While the majority of the girls are still on a shortboard, we are getting close to half and half at the Wahine Classic.”

Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic – Courtesy of Ed Potter

“Longboarding is quite beautiful to watch,” said Pickett. “Many of the young ladies are proficient on the nose of the board with excellent cross stepping skills. I’m constantly mesmerized.”

“Surfing is not just kids,” said Brad Beach. “It’s a lifestyle for people 8 to 80. Just being out in the ocean and with nature. That’s what I think is so cool about our sport.”

“There’s an excitement watching or participating in the Pro-Am,” said Beach. “Watching the action of surfing but also seeing the carefree lifestyle beachgoers and surfers live and desire. Regardless of where you live, most people want to feel carefree, even if it’s only a couple of hours on a Saturday.”

2017 Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic – Courtesy of Ed Potter
Interview with Jo Pickett, Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic:
“Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic is one of the top three, all-female surf contests on the East Coast,” said Pickett. “Competition is open to all female surfers, professional or amateur, regardless of age. Of course, the male surfers come to watch and support.
“We expect to have about 100 participants, ranging in age from two to sixty-two. Most come from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Sometimes we have some competitors from as far away as New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico.
“Contests include shortboard, longboard, standup paddleboard, tandem surfing, and teenie wahine. Tandem surfing and teenie wahine are crowd pleasers with a lot of smiles and laughter.
“A panel of ten highly experienced judges from North Carolina and South Carolina will score the competition.
2017 Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic – Courtesy of Ed Potter
“I bracket the age groups very tightly. In 22-years of teaching and coaching I’ve targeted the age group of 13 and14 as the break-out age – the time when girls go with it or they redirect. So, I put significant emphasis on that bracket and give them as many opportunities as possible.
“Friday afternoon we all check-in at South End Surf Shop, meet and greet, have a cookout, and movie-night compliments of Cucalorus. Saturday and Sunday, August 11 and 12, are contest days. Winners will be recognized on Sunday afternoon.
“The competition is structured with fewer people per heat than many other contests. Instead of six people, we have four. Instead of 15-minute heats, we have 20-minutes. More opportunities for success.
“It’s an early morning and we start at 8 on Saturday and Sunday. Competition will last until 2 or 3 PM. So, bring a chair, an umbrella, set up on the beach and enjoy the day.
2017 Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic – Courtesy of Ed Potter
“We’re very proud of all the girls participating each year in the Wahine Classic. As the young girls become teenagers and move into their 20s, their accomplishments are impressive. Many will keep the ocean an important part of their lives. A few recent examples are:
“Nineteen-year-old Kat Neff, attending the University of North Florida, is on the Dean’s list her freshman year. Kat is a member of the UNF Surf Team; she’s the 2018 National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) collegiate champion; and, is currently studying abroad in Spain.
“Another competitor, 17-year old Leah Thompson, now competes as a member of the Rip Curl North American Surf Team, and travels the world modeling for Rip Curl, Oakley, and other sponsors. Leah also created a foundation to benefit orphans in Kenya.
“Airlie Pickett graduated from UNCW in 2017 with a degree in physics. A top-surfer for years at the Wahine Classic, Airlie is now studying underwater waves with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a Coast Guard boot camp graduate and member of NOAA Corps, she lives on-ship off the San Juan Islands. I’m so proud of my daughter Airlie, and all the young ladies who participate and benefit from the Wahine Classic,” said Jo Pickett.
2017 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest – Courtesy of Brad Styron
Interview with Brad Beach, O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest:
“The Pro-Am is the second largest surf event on the East Coast. The fact that we are the second largest in only 13-years is exciting for us and the community.
“Some of the top professional contenders should include Brett Barley from Cape Hatteras, Ian Crane and Clay Marzo from California, Dylan Goodale from Hawaii, Wrightsville’s Ben Bourgeois and Cam Richards who’s from Myrtle Beach. You’ll have a bunch of guys come up from Florida and any one of them could win given certain conditions. The Thompson brothers from Jacksonville have done consistently well in the Pro-Am. Also, Asher Nolan and many more pros who can take the title.
2017 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest – Courtesy of Brad Styron
“We strive to make the Pro-Am Surf Fest a cool experience not just for the competitors, but their families, friends, and spectators. Wrightsville and Wilmington have that southern hospitality that we can all appreciate, with people looking forward to coming back each year.
“I’m seeing more girls and women surfing again and I’d love to see more in the competition. Historically we will have about 18 in shortboard and about eight to twelve in the women’s longboard.
2017 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest – Courtesy of Brad Styron
“After the surf competition, the Music and Arts Fest starts at 4 o’clock. It’s family friendly with something everyone can enjoy. We have crafts, artists, kids’ activities, and local musicians. Proceeds benefit the UNCW Surf Club and Hope from Helen, a local charity founded by Tony Butler.
“The objective of the Music and Arts Fest is to bring more awareness to surfing. Surfing is a great lifestyle and wonderful sport. People from eight to eighty can surf.
“To keep up with the Pro-Am Surf Fest competition we’ll have status reports on,” said Brad Beach Beach.
2017 O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest – Courtesy of Brad Styron

Click for Accommodations


Jo Pickett, Event Organizer

Wrightsville Beach Wahine Classic

(910) 465-9638

Brad Beach, Event Manager

O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest

(757) 373-0608

John Pike, Director of Development

Surfers Healing Foundation

(910) 471-7453

Robert B Butler

Communications | PR

#WrightsvilleBeach #NorthCarolina #WahineClassic #SurfersHealing  #ONeillSweetwater #ProAmSurfFest #Surfing #PaddleSurf #Shortboard #Longboard #BlockadeRunner #TeenieWahine #JoPickett #BradBeach #JohnPike #Autism #IzzyPaskowitz  #EasternSurfingAssociation


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