Florida Pro – The Game Changer


Frank Zima, Dick Catri, John Griffin

For myself and for my father and family, the Florida Pro was our big game changer and would set the course for a good part of my adult life.

Right before moving to Florida, I joined the Hawaiian Surfing Association and had one rushed event at Queens before departing our homeland. I do not even remember what I got…It was just a 2 round clown intro to contests.

Then came the move and the change to a completely different culture. Back on the mainland! Everything was different.

After being here for a few months, my father and I were driving when the ad came on our local rock station, WDIZ. I was stoked! A pro surfing festival! I had to see this in person! After digging around, I found they had amateur events as well. With some begging, my father coughed up a check and the entry form was mailed and I was ready to go!

So, I have spoken about this event in other entries in my site. But this will not be about me or the big time pros that befriended me so much as you will see.

So the day of the event came. I surfed and advanced. At some point, I was walking around and found my father doing something at the scaffold. He spoke to me about the problems the event was having, mainly with the electrical equipment. My father was hard at work correcting the problem for the contest staff.

Later, there was my father again. He was running the judges score sheets to the tabulator. He was joking with everyone and having a great time.

Within that weekend, I had no idea what positions my father worked but he was doing a lot! After every afternoon came to close, my father grabbed a few beers and we talked with everyone on the staff. I had no idea who any of these people were but later their importance would become clear.

By the end of the last day of the weekend, the contest was facing a very big crisis. Hurricane David was making its way up the coast and the conditions were going south fast. This is when I surfed my big heat and won my way into the finals in some big and challenging conditions. After some deliberation, they decided to run the finals the next week. This for the day was pretty rough on the competitors because in those days there were lots of events to surf.

By the next week, the waves were different and much more tame. At some point, I was on the beach and heard a very familiar voice. My father!! Now he was commentating since someone needed a break.

From that event on, my father went from the extremely helpful guy to paid staff member of the east coast pro circuit.

Not bad for an occasional weekend surfer.

My father really loved surfing though. He just always seemed to be on the wrong side of doing it. As I grew into a bigger role in surfing, his health deteriorated. In fact, he worked many events with some sort of pain that he would only reveal once he returned home and sat down exhausted. But with all of the discomfort, he always smiled as we spoke about the days events at the contest.

But beyond his love of surfing, he had a bigger love for the surfers and for the staff. When he spoke about different people and what they told him, the pride in those people always showed.

During the opening day of the Florida Pro, there were tons of people on the beach. Static observers. Out of all those people, my father was the sole person to switch from observer to problem solver.

One action changed it all.



About 1stpeaksteve

Welcome to The Side Wedge! The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, a writer, surf coach, and hospitality manager. This is a collection of travel tips, motivation, and stories from my past. Finally, I offer surf coaching through The Side Wedge. Please feel free to contact me with questions if you want to improve your performance today! Thanks for reading!
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