By Ryan Brower
Three years ago, the state of Florida returned as a stop on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour as a four-star World Qualifying Series event. Though it is only a WQS event, many of the world’s top surfers still compete in the contest because it is the first stop of the new season, as well as its running in conjunction with the industry wide Surf Expo trade show in Orlando.
The Sebastian Inlet Pro took place Jan 5-11, with the Surf Expo following it Jan 11-14. Since its first go around in 2005, the Inlet Pro has been dominated by its own Florida pros — 2005’s winner was Gulf Coaster Cory Lopez, and 2006 and 2007’s winners were Inlet locals and twins Damien and CJ Hobgood, respectively.
And even more impressive this year was the second place showing of St. Augustine native and newest Florida addition to the World Circuit Tour Gabe Kling.
Gabe officially qualified for the “big leagues” this past December while finishing out the WQS down in Hawaii. This strong of a showing in the first event of the season is a sign of good things to come for Gabe. Kling-on in ’07 — congrats Gabe!
Following the InletPro was the annual Surf Expo trade show in Orlando. Here shop owners, employees, and riders get a first glance at manufacturers’ newest products for the year. It is also a great opportunity for smaller manufacturing companies to come out onto the scene, and really let people know who they are and what they’re about. This was certainly the case with Jetty Life, a clothing company from New Jersey that this writer is involved with. It really felt like our coming out party, and we were very happy with the way things went for us that weekend.
The expo is also one of the industry’s biggest parties of the year — concerts, bar nights (a large bash in Gabe Kling’s name for making the WCT) and the annual Volcom Mini Ramp Pro Skateboard Contest. This year the skate contest was taken by Kyle Berard, who just beat out high flying Rune Glifberg and a field of many other elites.
The Surf Expo is always filled with tons of excitement. Nowhere else can one get to see the latest products, see top-notch surfing and skating, meet lots of people (i.e. surfing icons), and have a great time partying.
It’s continually a great way for the surf industry to kick off a new year and to look forward to more great things to come.