COCOA BEACH, Fla. – For 10-year-old Kylie Pulcini, a win in her heat in the 12-and-under under final Monday at the Cocoa Beach Pier would be more than awesome.
The fifth grader from Melbourne, who has participated in the annual Rich Salick National Kidney Foundation Surf Festival for three years, told News 6 partner Florida Today that she is extremely excited.
“I love surfing and have made many friends in the sport. My first year at this event I was in the push-in and then the 9-year-old-and-under division last year. This year, I am stoked to have made the final in the girls 12-and-under heat,” she smiled.
Kylie’s grandmother, Kathy Mildrun, ironically, happens to be a kidney dialysis nurse.
“My grandma helps people with kidney disease and works very hard and long hours,” Kylie said. “I am glad to be a part of this event and do my part to help raise money for kidney patients. My grandma has told me many times about the patients she works with, so knowing I am surfing to help them is a good feeling.”
Many of the more than 300 competitors in both pro and amateur divisions and 200 volunteers who worked either beachside during the three-day weekend festival or at events revolving around the festival said they felt the same.
Since its 1977 inception, the annual surf contest has generated more than $4.5 million for the prevention and treatment of kidney disease.
“It has become the largest national surf festival for charity since taking on national sponsorship back in 1986,” said Savanna Lanza, who took over last fall as the CEO of the National Kidney Foundation. Her father, Alden, who has been a volunteer since the first contest back in 1976, said it was fate that his daughter would be a part of the event in this capacity as an adult.
“She has been a part of the NKF family and its cause since she was born,” said Phil Salick, co-founder of the event.
She really had no choice. Fortunately, Lanza, who was a competitor in the pro women’s longboard event, said she loves surfing and now her job.
Fourteen-year-old William Hedleston, of Cocoa Beach, who advanced to the semifinal round in the Men’s Pro division, will be the youngest competitor in the field vying for the top prize Monday. The Ron Jon team rider, who was the winner of the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s middle school men’s title representing Cocoa Beach this summer in Salt Creek, California, will have to get past former 2016 winner, Jario Perez, of Costa Rica and fellow Ron Jon team rider Logan Hayes in his semi heat, and hope to overtake either Corey Howell, Tyler Lawerence or Chase Modelski, who will be in the second semifinal early Monday.
“The waves were good and I’m stoked to have gotten this far,” said Hedleston.
All amateur and pro finals are set for Monday at 8 a.m.
Winners will be crowed in all divisions at the awards ceremony scheduled for this afternoon.