We love homegrown surf contests.
Where else can you feel the sand between your toes while you see familiar and friendly faces, meet local sponsors who do business just down the road, and watch some of the region's best surfers competing in front of their hometown not necessarily for a prize, but for bragging rights?
And when there's fun-sized, high-performance surf on hand, it makes the atmosphere at a local, homegrown surf contest even better.
The 2023 Mike Martin Pro Surf Contest Champ: Evan Geiselman. Photo: Carol Sears
That's exactly what happened on Saturday, April 15 on the sands of New Smyrna Beach at the Mike Martin Pro Surf Contest.
The contest celebrates the life and legacy of Mike Martin, who put New Smyrna Beach surfing on the map — pro surfing was Mike Martin’s life and something that he held dear to his heart.
In his honor, a full field of 44 pro surfers, along with 12 pro women donned contest rashguards and paddled out into fun-sized surf.
The day's surfing was entertaining, yes, but it much more spoke volumes about the talent pool hailing from the Sunshine State: full rotations, spray-infused turns, making it around difficult whitewash sections and much more.
On the women's side, Zoe Benedetto surfed well all day: up and riding quickly after the horn sounded, finding open faces that resulted in high scores. In the Women's Final, she bested a talented pool of women, including Lanea Mons, Daya McCart, and Madison Lavender for the win — and a $3,000 cash prize.
From Santa Cruz to Barbados and now Florida, Zoe Benedetto is having a career year. Photo: Stephanie Brown
While her surfing was impressive at the Mike Martin Pro Surf Contest, what's even more impressive is the run the Florida-native has been on. Her first-place finish is yet another win during her 2023 competitive campaign on the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS), which has included incredible victories at the O'Neil Cold Water Classic and Barbados Surf Pro.
Before the Men's Final hit the water, the crowd on the beach was doing the typical "who ya got": Evan Geiselman, Robbie McCormick, Noah Schweizer, or Cam Richards?
Each surfer has their own claim to fame, from Cam throttling Pipeline barrels during freesurfs, Noah's wicked and powerful front hand surfing, Robbie putting on a show at the 2023 Pipe Masters, and Evan's hardware from winning many East Coast titles.
In the end, it was Evan's careful wave selection and maneuvering that put him in first place over the talented field, and netted him $3,000 — and a beer shower thanks to the local boys.
Not only did the Mike Martin Pro Surf Contest showcase the incredible surfing talent from Florida — it was truly a homegrown, community event, and a reminder of just how fun — and how important — your local surfing community is.
Check out more of the action from the event in the gallery below.
Photos courtesy Carol Sears and Stephanie Brown
MIKE MARTIN PRO SURF CONTEST FINAL RESULTS
Zoe Benedetto 13.84
Lanea Mons 10.60
Daya McCart 6.44
Madison Lavender 4.23 OPEN MEN
Evan Geiselman 16.84
Robbie McCormick 14.07
Noah Schweizer 12.10
Cam Richards 9.73