World Surf League (WSL) North America contenders set their eyes on opening day of the Ron Jon Quiksilver and ROXY Pro, a Qualifying Series (QS) 1,000, and Pro Junior beginning March 8 - 12. Cocoa Beach, Florida, plays host to the Beach N’ Boards Fest, now hosting WSL competition for over a decade and providing opportunities for emerging competitors to shine alongside proven, QS talents.
Pictured: The lineup of Shepard Park, Cocoa Beach, has provided over the last decade of WSL competitions. Credit: © WSL / Nichols "All of us here and especially Ron Jon are super excited to again be hosting Beach 'N Boards Fest here in Cocoa Beach,” said Event Director Mitch Varnes. “Surfing is our center point thanks largely to the partnership with Roxy and Quiksilver, but we have so much more going on and many, many great partners with this event. To see this event going strong after a decade is incredible. Here's to a week of fun surf and lots of Florida sunshine!"
For Palm City, Florida’s, own Zoe Benedetto, this event marks an opportunity to earn a third-career QS win and maiden Pro Junior victory. The now 17-year-old claimed her second WSL win at the iconic venue of Steamer Lane after her first chair-up came on the shores of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but a win near home has eluded the rising threat so far.
“This event, and coming from the East Coast, I feel like everyone expects you to do well and I've had some success, but some pretty bum results at home,” said Benedetto. “It's a wave you can prepare so much for but it's just so sporadic. Not having a result so close to home that I'm stoked with is a little frustrating. But, I'm coming into this event with no stress since there is one more big one, I'm excited to have my family and friends all there.”
Benedetto will compete in both the Pro Junior and QS, facing the likes of current North America No. 2 Bella Kenworthy (USA), recent SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay Semifinalist Ella McCaffray (USA), proven QS surfer Chelsea Roett (BRB), emerging competitors Talia Swindal (USA), Alana Lopez (USA), and more.
The men’s competition features a heavily-contested field gearing up for their final run of events including the likes of defending QS victor Michael Dunphy (USA), reigning Pro Junior winner Tommy Coleman (USA), recent SLO CAL Open at Morro Bay winner Taj Lindblad (USA), former event winner Evan Geiselman (USA), and a plethora of QS veterans alongside emerging threats all in attendance.
For Coleman, the Pro Junior win in 2022 marked his first-ever WSL victory as he carried that confidence into the World Junior Championships and his first year as a QS full-timer.
“It's such a sick event just to have all my family and friends there supporting,” said Coleman. “It's almost a little bit nerve-wracking just because you want to perform for everybody. Two weeks before [World Juniors], I didn't even know if I was going to compete so just to do it was amazing. I'm working and I'm lucky that I can take some time to go do events like Pismo and Morro, and then finish off the season with Dominican Republic and Barbados, hopefully get on that Challenger Series.”
With Coleman graduated from the Pro Juniors, a new victor looks to add their name to the running list of victors in Cocoa Beach that includes Championship Tour (CT) qualifier Lucca Mesinas (PER). The likes of fellow Flagler Beach, Florida's, Ryan Huckabee, enter the event looking for another result following the season-opener in Pismo Beach. But, he must face fellow, proven competitors Jett Schilling (USA), current No. 2 Reed Platenius (CAN), and more to earn valuable points toward World Junior Championships qualification.
Event organizers will convene at 7:30 a.m. EST to determine a likely 8:00 a.m. EST start for competition.