This Labor Day Weekend, the Space Coast will host the 25th annual National Kidney Foundation Pro-Am Surf Festival. Through the years, over four million dollars have been raised, thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who give so freely of their time. This September, surfers from all over the world will be competing in five professional divisions and 19 amateur divisions, with the top prize being $5,000.00.
In 1973, Festival founder Rich Salick was a professional on the U.S. and World Teams when his kidneys failed. Rich underwent treatment, dialysis every day for a year, but was told he would never surf again. Not willing to accept that, in 1974, Rich received a kidney transplant from his twin brother, Phil. The transplanted kidney lay just a half inch below the skin in the abdomen, so for Rich to be able to lay on a surfboard, some means of protecting the transplanted kidney needed to be found. Enter Cypress Gardens, who helped Rich design a protective pad. A year later, Rich hit the waves, entered competition, and placed second in his first post-surgery meet.
After four years, Rich retired from professional surfing while ranked #1 on the East Coast in the 24-35 age group in 1980. Rich’s health problems weren’t over, however, and he endured two more kidney transplants before becoming dialysis-free. In 2000, Rich was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame and continued on to win several other awards. He considers one of greatest accomplishments to be that of helping organize the NKF Surfing Tournament.
The festival today
The first official NKF of Florida Surf Festival raised $67,000. Twenty-five years later, the total earnings are over four million dollars, all going to patient programs provided by the NKF of Florida. Thousands of people will attend the five-day event. Hundreds of prizes are given away, and the contest features live music, plenty of food, and name entertainment. Trips and surfboards from board manufacturers are awarded, and inside the Surf Museum, Surfrider Foundation will have an Antique Surfboard show. Antique boards will be available to buy, sell, and trade.
The fun starts on Thursday, September 2, with a Press party on the Cocoa Beach Pier from 6:30 – 9:30 PM. Contestants and press will mingle and get to know one another. Friday, September 3, from 6:00 – 11:00 PM, registration will take place for contestants inside the Surfing hall of Fame. There will be a ‘meet and greet’ with those members of the Hall of Fame present. Neither of those events are public, however, the following three days are open to the public. Competition schedule is as follows:
- Saturday, September 4. Competition begins at the Cocoa Beach Pier at 8:00 AM
- Sunday, September 5. Competition continues 8:00 AM. 12:00 Noon, bands begin playing at the Sandbar, followed by poster signing at 1:00 PM.
- Sunday, September 5. From 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Taste of Brevard and Silent Auction Cocoa Beach Party of the Year at Doubletree Resort. $20 donation, at the door, enables guests to sample foods from some of the finest local restaurants and enjoy some music. All proceeds benefit NKF Florida.
- Monday, September 6. Final competition for all divisions begins 8:00 AM at the Pier. Other activities will take place throughout the day, and an awards ceremony will take place at approximately 4:00 PM.
A full, up-dated schedule will be available, as the festival nears, on the website, Twitter and Facebook.