This year’s 2020 Carolina Pro Am, the annual East coast favorite SUP Surfing competition in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina goes down in history as one of the most memorable paddle surfing events for many reasons reasons.
Thoughtful Precautions for 2020 Carolina Pro Am SUP Surf Contest
How is the 2020 contest memorable? For starters, with COVID19 restrictions in place, contest organizers were forced to move the contest from April until late October 2020. Virtually no one was traveling at the time of the originally scheduled event and all sporting events in NC were cancelled. The town of Wrightsville Beach was one of the very first to open back up in North Carolina to allow for outdoor events. The town was supportive and offered the last weekend in October to reschedule the 2020 Carolina Pro AM. However, with restrictions still in place and the impact lockdowns have had on the Pro Tour for stand up paddling, contest directors decided to hold an Amateur Only event.
Recall the excitement of the 2019 Carolina Pro AM HERE
There was no scaffolding for spectators, all aspects of the event from check in, paddle competition and award ceremonies were held outside. Social distancing was encouraged throughout the weekend. Contest coordinators also went as far as to put the entire event together in a “virtual manner.” Byron Kurt coordinated the surfer sign-in process, heat draws, event schedule and judging virtually from Dana Point, California while Haywood Newkirk, Rob Moran and John Sideris acted as Head Judges. Local photographer (and sometimes life-saver) Laura Glantz was on hand to capture the contest as it unfolded.
Registration Strong with Multiple States Represented in Comp
Even with COVID19 restrictions in place, there were still approximately 40 frothing competitors registered to surf across multiple categories with a total of about 80 event entries. The Carolina Pro Am saw the usual strong competitors from North Carolina, Florida and Virginia Beach plus legends like Rick Weeks from Massachusetts, Jon Vanderslice from New Jersey and Chris Koerner all the way from Dana Point, California. The contest is pleased to announce that the kids really showed up this year with six juniors taking part in the competition on the water.
Conditions were “sporty” even by North Carolina standards. The wind blew 20-30 knots on Saturday and Sunday, kicking up shoulder to head high sets throughout both days of competition. Victory at Sea conditions would have been a very accurate description of both days.
“Heaviest Conditions this Contest has ever Seen”
On Saturday, judges held the preliminaries of the Men’s Open and the ever popular longboard division. This was done in order to send out the most experienced participants on what was anticipated to be the more “gnarly day.” But, even on Sunday it was still blowing 20-30 knots. In true form, the women, juniors and 1st comp competitors took it in stride and charged right out into the heaviest conditions this contest has ever seen.
SUP Squatch World Championships Unleashes Fierce Competition
An event highlight was the self declared “World SUP Squatch Championships”. This multi-person craft paddle surfing event took place Saturday afternoon in 3 to 5 foot surf and the aforementioned 20-30 knot winds. One courageous team was from Florida, another group of surf Vikings hailed from Virginia and the remaining North Carolina team had a blast duking it out for the title. The Florida team waxed victorious claiming this year’s “World Title” with three solid waves and haphazardly choreographed rides all the way in to the beach. But the most entertaining part of the heat was when the North Carolina team commandeered the Virginian SUP Squatch vessel and paddled it out to sea, thus ending any change for VA at claiming their “World Championship.”
Head judge John Sideris rallied together a celebrity judges panel composed of The Wrightsville Beach Jets, our local junior team. Elle Newkirk served as head judge while Jenna Blackburn emceed the 30 minutes of mayhem that was the “SUP Squatch World Championships.” It was a blizzard of an event for all.
2020 Carolina Pro Am Winners: Men’s & Women’s
On Sunday, the Carolina Pro AM crowned the competition’s winners. Nancy Salter of Virginia Beach won the Women’s Open, Women’s Longboard and the overall Women’s Title. Local charger Jarrod Convington won the Men’s Open, while Jacksonville Beach native Conner Bonham won the Longboard Division and picked up second in the Men’s Open. Chris Koerner took the AARP Division (50+); Jenna Blackburn handily won the Junior Girls title and Georgia’s Griffen Lee walked off with the Junior Boy’s title.
This year’s Carolina Pro Am also added a “First Comp” Division which proved to be a huge success. This division was limited to participants who had never entered a stand up surf contest before. This was done in order to level the playing field and to make first time entrants a little more confident about their competition.
Overall, the experience was full of laughter, great stoke and energy for every division. The Wrightsville Beach community offered congratulations for hosting such a secure and well founded competition. Event organizers felt this one was for the books and look forward to more camaraderie and great fun & competition in 2021!
Written by: Haywood Newkirk