COCOA BEACH – In extending the Ron Jon Beach ‘N Boards Fest to five days, event organizer Mitch Varnes didn’t realize that “containing all the elements” meant – literally – the elements, like 80 heat degrees, a rainstorm, lightning, a tornado watch, gales and almost even a wind chill advisory for the last morning.
“Anything but snow and hail,” Varnes said with a laugh.
As the ninth edition of Florida’s biggest professional surfing event wrapped up Sunday at Shepard Park, it was a pair of well-known East Coasters providing the thunder and a rising star from California celebrating their 19th birthday by winning both women’s events, worth $4,500, and defeating one of the world’s most respected surfers in the process.
Vero Beach‘s Tommy Coleman won the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro Junior Men’s title and $2,000 prize as he rallied to defeat Jett Schilling of San Clemente, Calif., in a field of four finalists for his first title on spring break after many close calls.
“It means the world to me,” Coleman said, holding back his emotions. “I had another chance to compete as a junior (when the World Surf League extended the age limit to 20 this season). It’s just a special event for me.
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Schilling looked like he was on his way to victory after scoring 6.25 and 8.00 runs so he decided to leave the heat at the 8 minute mark, saying he was “so tired” in the swept conditions. the wind and wanting to save energy for the Pro Final as well.
But, it backfired when Coleman made the most of two long lefts, the last running around 250 yards, cracking big frothy snaps and linking combinations for scores of 7.60 and 7.05 , punctuated with a massive vertical punch as the “home” crowd cheered. .
“I had no idea he was out of the water,” Coleman said of Schilling after his 14.65-14.25 win. “It was hard to hear anything there.”
Schilling’s luck also didn’t improve in the Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro Qualifying Series event, losing to Michael Dunphy, a New Smyrna Beach resident from Virginia Beach, Va., by a score of 10.60. at 9.75.
Dunphy, 31, has won many small events on the Space Coast, but this was his first professional win since 2015. The win, worth $2,500 and 1,000 points, catapulted him into the premier place of the QS series with just a stop in Barbados. in two weeks to advance to the Challenger Series, which is part of a three-tier stage to qualify for the Championship Tour.
“It gives me a chance, and it would mean a lot,” he said. “I’ve been close before…why not this year?”
Dunphy beat fellow New Smyrna Beach surfer Evan Geiselman in the semifinals 14.25-10.75, avenging a loss in the previous event in the Dominican Republic.
“He’s someone I’m always looking for,” Dunphy said with a smile.
Both of Alyssa Spencer’s women’s wins came on her birthday, but she also won the junior event on her special day here in 2016, followed by another victory in 2017.
“I think this is one of my best birthdays ever,” said the Encinitas, Calif., resident, who clinched the No. 1 qualifying series points spot and assured her to start the Challenger series in May at Snapper Rocks in Australia.
She won the Ron Jon Roxy Pro Junior title as she battled her way past Sawyer Lindblad in the four surfer final 14.25-12.40.
Spencer also outlasted the peloton in the inaugural Ron Jon Roxy Pro Qualifying Series event, fending off veteran World Championship Tour star Sage Erickson by scoring a 9.0 lap, which started with a huge low turn in the surf. from 2 to 3 feet, to gain 4:50 p.m. to 12:80 p.m.
“I love coming here; I have some good friends that I see and it gives off a positive energy,” said Spencer, delighted to see a SpaceX rocket launch from Cape Canaveral on the opening day of the contest. “We don’t see that in California.”
As for Erickson, the 2017 and 2019 US Open of Surfing champion who was a World Championship Tour veteran before falling for the third time, Spencer kept her cool.
“She’s so sweet,” she said. “He’s someone I’ve looked up to since I was a kid.”
Erickson, who in 2014 was named one of Maxim’s “100 Hottest Women”, knows that at 31, “it’s still a challenge keeping up with all these fresh, young, hungry female surfers.” She calls Spencer “my favorite” among the burgeoning youth movement.
Erickson’s goal is just to keep competing, maybe not with the goal of circumnavigating the globe, but to be able to surf freely in new places in the world outside of California.
She enjoyed her first visit to Cocoa Beach, even providing updates to her boyfriend, major league pitcher Daniel Norris – once called ‘the most fascinating man in baseball’ for living in a van and traveling along the California coast. Norris, who has a career record of 20-34 with three teams, works in Tampa as a free agent.
“I love it here,” Erickson said.
Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro
Final: Michael Dunphy d. Jett Schilling 10.50-9.75. Semi-finals: Dunphy d. Evan Geiselman 2:25-10:75; Schiling d. Tommy Coleman 15.74-14.30.
Ron Jon Quiksilver Pro Junior
Final: 1.Tommy Coleman 14.65; 2. Jett Schilling 14.25; 3. Taro Watanabe 2:20 p.m.; 4. Levi Slawson 10.15.
Ron Jon RoxyPro
Final: Alyssa Spencer d. Sage Erickson 16.50-12.80. Semi-finals: Erickson d. Leilani McGonagle 10:25-9:55; Spencer d. Bella Kenworthy 11.75-9.75.
Ron Jon Roxy Pro Junior
Final: 1. Alyssa Spencer 14.25; 2. Sawyer Lindblad 12.40; 3. Rubiana Brownell 9.65; 4. Ella McAfray 7.80.