Sebastian Inlet Pro

Cory Lopez takes the Globe Sebastian Inlet Pro in an all-East Coast finalFor a complete photo gallery of the event, CLICK HERE.

Surf: Everything from head-high, windblown chunks for the first four days, culminating with glassy waist-to-chest-high-plus rippable peaks for the finals.
Events Held: The whole damn 3-Star.
Nature’s Call: The good news is you got five straight days of contestable surf. The bad news is you blew your wave quota ’til 2008.
Predicted: At least three more years of ‘QS events at Sebastian Inlet.

For it to be called a sport it takes a ball. For it to be called a REAL sport takes two.”

You don’t normally find the most worthwhile bits of wisdom on the back of a Big Johnson t-shirt. But in the case of the Globe Sebastian Inlet Pro, the spectator with a fanny pack on his waist, foreign legion hat hiding his gator flap and silly phrase between his shoulder blades might as well have been Confucius himself. Because everything about this event took balls. It took balls — not to mention a good bit of help from Kelly Slater and the Hobgoods — for promoter Mitch Varnes to bring big league surfing back to Sebastian Inlet for the first time in a dozen years. It took balls to make it a three-star in its inaugural run. And it took even bigger ones to stretch the event out over five days in a part of the world where most swells last hours.

In the end, however, the cajones paid off with not only one of the biggest and well-received events in recent memory — Sebastian Inlet set an all-time park attendance record opening day — but an all-East Coast final that felt more like an X-Games team expression session as heroes Cory Lopez, Kelly Slater, Aaron Cormican and Ben Bourgeois employed their supernatural powers for another gold medal performance. Cormican blasted giant airs. Bourgeois was a slick webslinger of style. Kelly was the superkinetic brain who bent sets to his will. And Cory was the iceman. No matter how close the scores (at the horn, any one of the finalists could’ve taken the win with a 7 -point ride) or how many times the lead changed hands (all but Cormican was in front for a period), Cory coolly kept his head, combining strict wave strategy and consistently radical rides to reclaim the top spot at heat’s end. But in pure comic book fashion, this was a case where everyone felt a winner .As Cory said, “We’re all just so stoked to see pro surfing back at the Inlet.”

Any heat with Kelly. There is no bigger hero on Florida’s Space Coast than Kelly Slater, flooding the beach with spectators on a Wednesday morning for his first heat. Even Central Florida local and World Series pitcher Tim Wakefield came down to check him out, only to be largely ignored by the Slater-struck crowd who blindly followed the champ up the beach even as Lopez was lighting up the water. But if you watched the champ, you were bound to see something spectacular. First, he broke Peter Mendia’s 9.5 high-contest score in half with only two moves, then he proceeded to steal the whole show until his voodoo ran out in the final.

With offshore winds and a surprise pulse striking just seconds after the opening horn, there was nothing but action from the Round of 32 on. Cormican threw big airs and almost pulled a rodeo flip. Tim Curran swung a series of Alley Oop attempts. But the best heats came in middle of the day when Sebastian showed a shade of its former filthy self by spitting forth surprising number of small, dirty tubes. Slater racked up two tight cylinders to first set the tone. Cormican and Inlet product Danny Melhado found a pair of more open outsiders on either side. But it was Tom Curren’s stylish backdoor barrel ride from the far side of second peak that stuck in most competitors’ minds — and his as well. Somewhere between going down in the quarters and stringing up to play at the event party that night, he marveled, “that was definitely the best ride I’ve ever gotten out there.”

The best thing about a smaller WQS is the variety of competitors. Everyone from former top-44 powerhouses like Dean Randazzo to would -be WCTers like Mike Todd, Nate Yeomans and Jason Shibata to just-turned-pros like Alex Gray and Ola Eleogram came together. It’s a mix of would-bes, has beens, and currently ares. But the best part’s the never beens — or do we call them the not yets? Ryan Helm is a 30 year old from Jupiter Florida who spent the last 5 years in Mainland mex. Before that he was a sometime pro surfer with heaps of skill but less of the opportunities. {{{CJ}}} Hobgood remembers battling with Helm in the days of the ASP East and his shaper Bill Johnson remembers him as the teenager who you “swore was Slater until you looked a second time.” But the crowd will remember him as the lanky, logo-less darkhorse who outscored Cory and Damien Hobgood and whose surprising, punk rock airs and carving cutties carried him all the way to the semis. And you’d almost feel sorry for him, if he wasn’t so stoked –not just at how he finished, but what the taste of success has started. “Hey, I got beat by the best,” he reasons. “But that just makes me more motivated than ever to give the tour a go.”

I want my money back.” Matt Kechele on the state funded project that “repaired” the Inlet jetty but ruined First Peak.

No silver medalists here.” Two-time X-Games golden boy on the lack of the West Coast in the final.

1 – Cory Lopez $7000
2 – Kelly Slater $3500
3 – Aaron Cormican $2500
4 – Ben Bourgeois $2000