Tropical Storm Gordon churns large waves for Cocoa Beach surfers

Annual NKF Surf Fest raises millions for kidney disease

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Rough weather created strong waves at the Cocoa Beach Pier Labor Day for the final day of the 33rd annual NKF Rich Salick Pro-Am Surfing Festival. 

"I wish it was, like, five times bigger," first-place finisher and World Surf League junior pro Chase Modelski said about the waves.

While the effects of Tropical Storm Gordon were welcomed by competitors, Brevard County lifeguards warned swimmers of rip currents. 

Red flags flew at the pier Monday.

"Most concerning and challenging is the swimmers, the people who like to go in the water while we have the contest going on," said Lt. Skylar White, with Brevard Ocean Rescue. "Our main challenge is keeping all the people out of the way."

[RELATED: Surfers compete for titles, good cause in Cocoa BeachTropical Storm Gordon brings hurricane warning for parts of Gulf Coast]

Lifeguards said they made no emergency rescues Monday or over the weekend, but they still want those getting in the water to keep an eye on the conditions.

Robert Reiter, of St. Petersburg, faces his own life-threatening challenge.

"I'm a surfer who needs a kidney," Reiter said as he watched the competition.

For three decades, the NKF surf festival has raised millions to help patients battling kidney failure.

With his wife and children by his side, Reiter, who's waited two years, hopes his campaign will find a donor.

"We all want to get back in the water together," he said about his family.

His wife said it's been a long wait because of the demand for donors, but her family remains hopeful.

"We've been coming here for over 20 years, with or without a kidney. I don't think people realize how many people are on dialysis or actually need a kidney," said Reiter's wife, Gigi.

Lightning delayed some action Monday, but organizers said they will still raise an additional $300,000.

"The money that we raise saves lives for the National Kidney Foundation and you see it today," NKF volunteer Alden Pitard said.

Reiter is asking those who would like to help his cause to visit his Facebook page, Robert Needs a Kidney, or call him at 727-434-2723.

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