Stab Magazine | Kelly Slater's King Of The Peak Returns To Florida

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Kelly Slater’s King Of The Peak Returns To Florida

Quik’s skins format comp to be held at Sebastian Inlet.

news // Aug 24, 2017
Words by Ashton Goggans
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Floridians and Right Coasters have quite a bit to look forward to in the coming months: Quiksilver’s King of the Peak, and the Florida Pro—a WQS sanctioned event with a prize purse of $150,000—will return to Sebastian Inlet this fall, and with it comes an enormous boost to East Coast professional surfing.

For surfers coming of age during the late-’90s and into the ‘00s, Quiksilver’s King of the Peak was the East Coast’s most prestigious and hard-fought competition. Using a one-on-one skins format made famous at Bells, and with Sebastian Inlet’s unique, amphitheater environment, the event drew attendance from all over the country, and resulted in some of the most memorable competitive performances in East Coast history. But after renovations to the jetty destroyed First Peak’s mutant, pristine, sandbar wedge, the event was shelved indefinitely. The announcement to reanimate the comp comes on the heels of news that, after nearly a decade, Sebastian Inlet was beginning to return to form.

“You know, it just felt like it was time,” Matt Kechele tells Stab. Kech handles Quiksilver’s East Coast team and has served as the event’s contest director since its earliest days. He’s also one of Sebastian Inlet’s finest alumni. “We want to bring back some of that excitement and energy that there was around that event, and give the kids something to aspire towards.”

https://www.youtube.com/embed/b350WyJwQTo

The first King of the Peak event was conceived by Kechele and Kelly Slater, as a fundraiser for their beloved Cocoa Beach High School. At the time, CBHS was being threatened with closure, unless people stepped up to keep the doors open. The debut event’s concept was simple: any surfer could enter and have a go at beating The Champ.

“He surfed something like 17 heats in a row,” Kechele says. “He didn’t even take any breaks. We were paddling him out waters. And no one could beat him!”

That first year, Slater dusted everyone from Bill Hartley and Todd Holland to the Hobgoods and Lopez brothers. After a brief, failed attempt by the ASP to hold an event at Sebastian the following year, King of the Peak settled into a solid ten-year run of often incredible events; its winners comprising three generations of the East Coast’s best: Slater, CJ Hobgood, Kyle Garson, Bryan Hewitson, Todd Morcom, David Spier, and Bill Hartley.

“I really think this event will bring out everyone,” says Kechele. “It’s the 19th year it will have run, and I hope we get to see all the legends—Cory and Shea [Lopez], CJ and Damien, Jeremy Johnston—all these guys that should want to battle it out with whoever shows up to have a crack at the crown.”

https://www.youtube.com/embed/8cs1T8Gktu8

The event’s announcement leaves everyone asking: Will Slater take the opportunity to reclaim his hometown crown? 

Then hot on its heels, opening the WQS season in January (conveniently around the time of Surf Expo, Orlando’s hellish surf industry trade show), will be the Visit Florida Pro, featuring a cash purse of $150,000 split evenly between men and women divisions.

Spearheaded by Eric Garvey, Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism’s executive director, the Tourist Development Council approved $125,000 in marketing funds if, according to the Florida Today, Garvey could match their contribution. If he’s able to—and he says he’s “close”—the $75,000 women’s prize purse would make it the WSL’s highest paying event. With a 4,000 point rating, QS hopefuls the world over will be descending upon Florida this winter. And they’ll be met, surely, by the area’s deep pool of local talent, all eager to defend their beloved First Peak’s crown.

“It’s awesome to see Quiksilver putting money back into surfing; they should get praise for it,” Jeremy Johnston told the Florida Today. “Guys like Shea [Lopez] and Matt [Kechele] — they’re all healthy for the sport. It’s cool to bring back the top surfers… I made my money traveling, winning contests around Florida and then getting to the world level, and that put me on the map. I still have the competitive edge, my skills are there. I’ll have a blank board (no sponsor stickers), and I’ll be proud of it.” 

J1D4993

Some of that East Coast hollow fare most only see in photographs and video clips.

King of the Peak’s waiting period will run from November 4-12th.

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