Acoustic Lullabies & Giant Airs Convert The Haters At The 7th Annual Reef/ Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest.
By Matt Pruett, Photos by Nate Adams

TURF: 7th Annual Reef/ Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest presented by ActionSportsNow.com; Oceanic Street, Wrightsville Beach, NC; July 15th-17th, 2011

ENERGY: Rob Brown was behaving. After getting ejected from the Bluewater Waterfront Grill (the site of last year’s event after-party) for, among other things, dragging his ragtag “Comfort” canoe up onto Bluewater premises and attaching it to a bike lock so he could go rage, Rob let his best friend and travel companion Mark Yonkers pick up the slack this year. Yonkers anted up by leaping from the roof of the Bluewater, some 50 feet high, into the Intracoastal Waterway below while jubilant claps and laughs and yewwws erupted from everyone in attendance — except for maybe the two stern dudes escorting Yonkers outside. Such is the energy surrounding the Reef/ Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest: one or two guys bumming, that’s it. Everyone else is stoked.

FIRST TIME AT FIGHT CLUB: “It’s really Brad Beach’s baby; he just asked me to spearhead it for him,” said ‘Ville supermom Kelly Barnes of the newly instituted Reef/ Sweetwater Music & Art Festival that graced Wrightsville Beach Outdoor Park on Saturday evening. “We wanted to bring the community together for a laid-back gathering off the beach and let those people who aren’t familiar with the sport know that our surfers are talented in other ways besides surfing. Mike Losness [absent Reef teamrider] created our event posters and T-shirts, and his work is on display here alongside other local artists, with an auction for one of his paintings. Rob Machado and Jon Swift are our headlining musical acts, we have bands like Fuzz And Mac performing, and we have our local DJ, Sir Nick Bland, who’s also an excellent local surfer, powering up the Skullcandy stage. The whole thing’s catered by Tower 7, a community favorite that employs a lot of local surfers who have to come and go on surf trips, like Rob Brown. All the proceeds go to Hope From Helen, which benefits a variety of charities and surfing scholarships within the community.”

SLIDE: “Did you guys hear?” shouted Aaron “Gorkin” Cormican to a tight, convoluted network of tents and umbrellas on the beach at Oceanic Street. “I’m the most hated surfer in Wrightsville. Stoked!” Apparently, a rather toxic Facebook posting from a local bartender promised free drinks to any surfer eliminating the New Smyrna Beach, FL, antihero from competition, demonizing Gorkin as a “crybaby” and a “poor sport” among other things. “He actually introduced himself to me as the guy who posted that earlier,” Cormican explained. “I just said, ‘I don’t know what I ever did to you, but I deal with guys like you all the time.’ I mean… yeah, I say stupid shit sometimes. But am I the master of it? You set the wrong fire, dog.’”

Cormican proceeded to take out a 5’6” epoxy Mayhem that he ordered six months ago but has never ridden because it weighs a half a pound and is reserved “only for contests” into his semifinal heat against Rob Machado, Tonino Benson, and Mike Dunphy, and spin two of the biggest air-reverses of the comp. Gorkin inspired every surfer in every subsequent heat, including the aerial-phobic Rob Machado, to boost. A former two-time winner of this event, Gorkin couldn’t carry his momentum to a third victory. He had to settle for 3rd-place — yet another near-miss in a summer of near-misses (VQS Champs, Innersection) for the East Coast’s most outspoken surfer. After the results were announced on stage in front of the entire New Hanover County surf fan population, including one single bummed bartender, Gorkin showed just how poor a sport he really is. He blew a third of his prizemoney on a $657.93 bar tab that night ($364.70 on Patron shots alone) — literally shoving drinks into the face of anyone who wanted one. Yeah, a real crybaby.

THE PAIN: Sidelined with a broken ankle from a recent Nicaraguan sojourn, local apex pro Ben Bourgeois wasn’t able to give his fans a show this year. But Ben being Ben and Wrightsville being Wrightsville, the perpetually itinerant “Gypsy” (as he’s billed in Reef’s movie, Cancer To Capricorn) wouldn’t miss this thing for the world. “No schedule is too busy for this,” Bourgeois laughed. “I still have another few weeks to a month [recovery time], but I’m stoked to just be here watching it.”

THE MAN: Fisher Heverly claimed the Best Heat Average (15.83 points), the Highest Wave Score (8.5-point ride, tying Knox Harris), and a last-minute rally in the final that confused Cormican and Machado, who were tied for 1st with 5:20 remaining until Fisher’s tweaked frontside air-reverse grab relegated Gorkin into 3rd and Machado into a passionate, winning frenzy. “Fisher really stepped it up this weekend,” Bourgeois said. “He’s always been a really good surfer, but now he’s starting to figure out the contest game and how to make heats. Everyone was looking at Gorkin and Machado the whole final, but Fisher actually came from behind and almost clinched it in the end there.”

“I can’t think of a higher compliment.” –Philip Goold, responding to a comment that his style reeks of Ben Bourgeois’ flow

“This is his ideal range — stomach-high windchop. It looks just like shitty Newport out there and Gorkin loves it!” –Jeremy Johnston, prior to Aaron Cormican’s semifinal heat on Sunday


1. Rob Machado, $5,000
2. Fisher Heverly, $3,000
3. Aaron Cormican, $2,000
4. Philip Goold, $1,500
5. Jay Thompson, Tonino Benson, $900
7. Michael Powell, Michael Dunphy, $700
9. Gabe Garcia, Sebastian Moreno, Jeremy Johnston, Mark Dawson, $500
13. Paul Fisher, Jeff Myers, Evan Barton, Cole Richards, $300
17. Kyle Busey, Ben Powell, Giorgio Gomez, Chris Tucker, Vince Boulanger, Austin Clouse, Dylan Goodale, Brent Reilly, $175
25. Cody Leutgens, Daniel Glenn, Nick Prange, Nick Rupp, Hunter Heverly, Corey Howell, Brian Carpenter, Ross Stevens, $150