O.C. Surfer Makes Podium in USA Surfing Prime Event

O.C. Surfer Makes Podium in USA Surfing Prime Event

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Ocean City surfer Cooper Jewel competes in the USA Surfing Prime Series in Florida. (Photos courtesy Becky Fleischauer)

Submitted by BECKY FLEISCHAUER

After two days of intense competition, five age-division winners and 20 finalists battled to the top at the first stop of the 2020 East Coast Toyota USA Surfing Prime Series on Jan. 26 in Sebastian Inlet in Florida.

The ever-changing conditions and solid swell challenged competitors mentally and physically. Surfers had to position themselves at peaks and use smart heat strategies to keep advancing to the finals.

The competition drew more than 80 of the best junior surfers from New York to Florida, battling it out for East Coast titles and qualification into the Toyota USA Surfing Championships at Lower Trestles in California.

Six surfers competed from Ocean City: Sophia Whelan, Mia Gallagher, Brynn Gallagher, Cruz Dinofa, Ethan Dunn and Cooper Jewel.

Highlights included a double win in Girls U18 and U16 by Palm City, Florida’s Zoe Benedetto. Zoe also had the highest wave score for girls – an 8.5. William Hedleston, of Cocoa Beach, Florida, had the highest wave score of the event – a 9.23.

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina’s Owen Moss had a buzzer beater, three-turn combo to take the Boys U16 win. And in her first ever Prime event Ocean City, New Jersey’s Sophia Whelan made the podium in Girls U16.

See event results below and posts on Instagram and Facebook.

The Toyota USA Surfing Prime Series is the highest level of junior surfing in the nation, featuring the best under 18 surfers who have proven themselves in local and regional competitions.

The elite contest series is designed to prepare young surfers for the big leagues of surfing.

Surfers competing in the Prime Series experience an event with judging, announcing and organization consistent with WSL pro events, including four-person heats with priority, computer scoring live on the STACT App and instant replay for the judges, and professional WSL/ISA judges and announcers.

The Toyota USA Surfing Prime Series makes stops along both East and West coasts and culminates in the USA Surfing Championships in June.

The competition was created to bridge the gap young surfers experience when trying to make the leap from pro junior competition to next-level competition opportunities, including a position on the USA Surfing national teams, the World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series and potentially the Olympics and WSL Championship Tour.

The Prime Series champion and podium roster is a who’s who in American surfing.

Mia Gallagher, of Ocean City, rides a wave.

Results:

Girls U18

1st Zoe Benedetto, Palm City, Fla.

2nd Ava McGowan, New Smyrna, Fla.

3rd Sarah Abbott, Jupiter, Fla.

4th Taylor Green, Milton, Fla.

Boys U18

1st William Hedleston, Cocoa Beach, Fla.

2nd Owen Moss, Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

3rd Ryan Huckabee, Flagler Beach, Fla.

4th Blayr Barton, Virginia Beach, Va.

Girls U16

1st Zoe Benedetto, Palm City, Fla.

2nd Ava McGowan, New Smyrna, Fla.

3rd Taylor Green, Milton, Fla.

4th Sophia Whelan, Ocean City, N.J.

Boys U16

1st Owen Moss, Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

2nd Ryan Huckabee, Flagler Beach, Fla.

3rd William Hedleston, Cocoa Beach, Fla.

4th Gavin Coluccio, Flagler Beach, Fla.

Boys U14

1st Logan Radd, Satellite Beach, Fla.

2nd Benji Lange, St. Augustine, Fla.

3rd William Deane, Nags Head, N.C.

4th Kepa Mendia, West Palm Beach Fla.

Ocean City’s Cruz Dinofa glides along.

The East Coast continues to generate surfing talent. Florida native and member of Team USA’s first Olympic team Caroline Marks qualified for the WSL Championship Tour while still competing in the Prime Series at age 15. Caroline holds the most USA Surfing Championship titles for junior girls.

In addition to Caroline Marks, several current WSL pro surfers honed their competitive skills through USA Surfing’s Prime Series, including 3rd-ranked Lakey Peterson, 5th-ranked Kolohe Andino, 2018 US Open champions Courtney Conlogue and Kanoa Igarashi, fan fav Ocean City surfer makes the podium in her first-ever USA Surfing Prime event.

Ethan Dunn, of Ocean City, holds on strong.