BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The longtime Easter Surf Fest in Cocoa Beach has been canceled, according to News 6 partner FLORIDA TODAY.
At 52 years, it's considered a granddaddy of surf contests and is the second oldest East Coast surfing event -- 2017 would have marked its 53rd annual event.
"We're not able to meet the budget. It takes quite a bit of money to put on an event on the beach," said organizer John Griffin, who did not specify an amount. "When you go to a high-profile park like Lori Wilson Park, there are city charges, county charges, a whole smorgasbord of charges. You've got to meet the budget or you can't do it."
Griffin took over the festival in 1982 with East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame legend Dick Catri.
In previous years, festival attendance reached 100,000 over the Easter weekend when it was held at the Cocoa Beach Pier and nearby Shepard Park.
The Easter Surf Fest switched locations to Lori Wilson Park in 2015. The move allowed for more parking and vendor space at park grounds.
Griffin did not rule out an Easter Surf Fest comeback.
"If it's possible, we'll bring it back next year," he said. "It's hard to get people to want to contribute their time on Easter unless there is a good reason."
Many in the surfing community are feeling the sting.
"The Easter Surf Fest is one of the oldest contests and has one of the longest traditions of any surf contest in the world and was a great event in its day. It was still a great draw for both tourists and locals and its absence will be felt by all of us here on the Space Coast," said Mitch Varnes, founder of the Beach 'N Boards Fest.
George Trosset, organizer of the Surfing Santas, suspected other factors contributed to the cancellation.
"I'm 63 years old. (My event) was one day, and I was whupped," said Trosset. Catri will be 80 next year and Trosset guessed Griffin isn't far behind. "Our event, there's no competition to speak of. People just come and enjoy. ... Here, they have a competition. They've got to have judges, got to have a format. There's just a whole lot of things."
Typically, the Easter Surf Fest featured longboard and shortboard pro contests and amateur divisions as well. In recent years, festivalgoers would attend to watch tandem surfing and surfing dogs.
"Easter Surf contest was a huge success for many, many years. It's sad that it's gone by the wayside," Trosset said. "It's difficult to put on an event of that magnitude from the financial standpoint and the energy standpoint, and then getting people to help. It just takes tons of money. Maybe someone else will pick it up."
Griffin was critical of Brevard County's Tourist Development Council. He said he asked for county help on behalf of the surf festival but was turned down.
"TDC needs to wake up. Festivals have needs," said Griffin. "That could've helped a long way in my event and probably keeping other events here in Cocoa Beach."
He is proud of the festival's impact on the Space Coast.
"I do believe that I've accomplished a goal that I set out with the Easter Surfing Festival. In doing so, I pretty much let it run its course," said Griffin, who credits fellow surfer Catri for its success. "We wanted to promote Cocoa Beach surfing, wanted to promote the East Coast, and I think we did a pretty good job because there are a whole bunch of different surfing festivals going on.
"Let them carry the torch," said Griffin, "that'd be fine by me."