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Tommy Tant Classic Surfing the Weekend As Palm Coast Crashes In With Its Own Festival

| November 3, 2010

tommy tant surfing classic

The 11th Tommy Tant Classic is about to crash the waves in Flagler Beach.

Tommy Tant was 24 years old, an all-or-nothing surfer of waves and lives, a native of the Barrier Island and an emissary of compassion. In 1998, he paid his parents a visit in their Flagler Beach Beach home. (His father, Tom, is the Flagler school district’s finance director.) Tommy was sleeping in his bedroom, the same bedroom he slept in while growing up. He had an aortic aneurysm. He died: he might as well have been surfing one moment and gone under the next, though he hasn’t.

To honor his memory, friends held a contest the following year in Flagler Beach. Zoee Forehand, owner of Flagler Beach’s Z-Wave Surf Shop, took note and directed the contest for the next three years. What began as an intimate tribute to a young man who barely got to know the world has turned into an annual event that draws a world of surfers, visitors and national television attention to Flagler Beach for a weekend every fall, in his enduring name.

The Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic is back this weekend: three days this time—three days of opening and closing ceremonies, amateur and professional surfing competitions (Saturday and Sunday), a food festival, a concert, booths, auctions and art scattered over the weekend, and what amounts to free access to the Flagler Beach pier, courtesy of the event’s organizers (who’ll be paying the city for every individual who walks onto the pier).

(A full schedule of the three days is available here.)

Some 14 restaurants led by Blue at the Topaz and Flagler Fish Company will fill the city’s Veterans Park from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. that evening, giving visitors a tasting of the city’s restaurants and entry to the concert featuring Braddigan for $15 ($10 for students) . All the event’s profits, incidentally, are donated to scholarships and the Flagler Resource Center food pantry.

Professional surfer Bruce Irons (“some people call me BI”), the 2004 World Championship Tour’s Rookie of the Year, was scheduled to compete in Saturday evening’s Night Riders event—a first in the classic: six surfers will compete in night conditions, but with stadium lights flooding the pier, and a few other surprises thrown in. (The classic has been held in October in previous years, but was moved to November this year because of the nighttime event, which couldn’t have been held in October because turtle nesting season was still in full swing. The floodlights on the pier would have disoriented the turtles.)

Whether Irons participates is uncertain: On Tuesday his brother, Andy, a three-time world surfing champion, died in Dallas. He was 32. A medical examiner there said there was no foul play or indications of trauma. Toxicology tests are being conducted. Authorities won’t know the exact cause of death for weeks, the Dallas Morning News reported Thursday, “but his family said he was suffering from dengue fever, and police say an anti-anxiety drug and a bottle for the prescription drug Ambien were found in his hotel room.” Irons was in Dallas on a lay-over while returning home to Kauai from Puerto Rico, where he’d pulled out of the 2010 Rip Curl Pro Search.

Meanwhile, the city of Palm Coast (along with Beach FM), which is making it a specialty to muscle in on Flagler Beach’s special events, decided to hold its first “Seafood Festival” at Town Center—inland, away from any beach—over the same two days that the Tommy Tant Classic is being held, and with pretty much the same fare: music, seafood, art.

There’s something to be said for multiplying festivals, even simultaneous ones that offer different experiences. Copying them outright—though no one will be surfing on the grass of Town Center—might defeat the purpose of enriching weekenders’ schedules rather than competing for them.

“They have not contacted the city,” Flagler Beach Acting Manager Caryn Miller said. “They don’t call us to see if we have anything going on.”

The Tommy Tant Classic organizers, including Tom Tant, appeared before the Flagler Beach City Commission on June 24 to schedule the event on Nov. 6-7, and to ask the city to give $500 in sponsorship. The city agreed to both items. Palm Coast announced its seafood festival nine weeks later, on Aug. 31; the letter inviting vendors to apply to be at the festival was mailed in mid-August.

It’s expected to be cold and perhaps not too wavy this weekend in Flagler Beach. But as Jordan Kahn, the notable outdoors writer and surfer wrote in the News-Journal last year, “When the Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic comes to this beach town’s boardwalk each year, things change. Last year, a red tide that hung on for weeks suddenly died off the night before the event. This year, overnight, the waves jumped from flat to waist high. And by morning, the boardwalk and beach transformed into a city of tents and sponsor booths like the madhouses that descend on big-money pro contests.”

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13 Responses for “Tommy Tant Classic Surfing the Weekend As Palm Coast Crashes In With Its Own Festival”

  1. jollymon says:

    Poor Palm Coast. Like a bully suffering from an identity crisis. Didn’t you try to steal the 4th of July celebration from Flagler Beach last summer too? Honestly guys, get a grip. You really need to stop trying to take over the county and the other cities within it. That just is not going to happen. And Beach FM, you need to stop being the bully’s sidekick. It’s so obvious, and so unbecoming. Botton line, PC is just jealous because beautiful little Flagler Beach has something PC will never, ever have — a great big, gorgeous Atlantic Ocean and beach running the entire border which draws people to it like moths to a flame. Now, stop trying to be something you’re not and get over your silly selves and come on over and enjoy some real seafood and watch the surfers!

  2. Kip Durocher says:

    Sadly, Palm Coast did not have to steal Flagler Beach’s 4th of July event, our city leaders gave it to them.
    But I have several reports that the PC cracks were light weight at best.
    We will see ~ but the weather and surf have always done it’s duty and more when Tommy Tant comes to town.
    Kudos to the resturants ~ that is always great. All you can eat gormet dinner for cheap.
    I predict a fantastic time for all.

  3. Barney Smythe says:

    Waves this weekend should be great, thanks Tomas. As for the overpriced (coupons because the city can’t trust the vendors??) frozen seafood festival, not even going to waste my time.

  4. Kip Durocher says:

    →Mr. Smythe
    ROFLMAO “frozen seafood festival”

    made my day hahahaha

  5. Jealous Palm Coast says:

    I’ve noticed over the years that most of the groups in Palm Coast can’t play nice with anybody. they seem to think that every event in Flagler County belongs to them and if you want to have an event you have to bow down before them. Even worse if you have already been holding an event that has been a success they will either try to muscle in on it or become very negative and nasty about the other event. Its a shame that with all of the beautiful locations in palm coast the really like to force every event to be held in the vast wasteland of Town Center. I know that the Tommy Tant Memorial Classic will be a success as usual.

  6. some guy says:

    I do not see how one is taking away from the other? You can spend saturday at the beach watch the surfers and then sat/night at the PC sea food fest.

  7. NortonSmitty says:

    Did Mickey D’s set up a booth to sell their famous squarefish sandwhich?

  8. New media needs to be held accountable says:

    Pierre should rename this to “Palm Coast Bash Site”. I’m done. Do you all REALLY think the people at the City Hall sit around figuring out ways to compete with Flagler Beach? Could it be that their new PR person who used to work at DNJ didn’t think about it? Why not ask how they came to that date? I agree that there is room for everyone, why do you always have to bash the city? Do you shop in the stores, eat in the restaurants, walk or ride the trails? Can’t you write anything positive? This link if off my computer for now on. Bye. Bye. you bunch of downers!

    I for one LOVE Flagler Beach, LOVE Palm Coast, LOVE Marineland, LOVE Beverly Beach, LOVE St. Augustine, even Love Bunnell! They all have something to offer.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I really dont understand this back and forth about PC stealing events/dates/etc… I recently moved here and am glad to have options available rather than one single event that will likely be over crowded since its the only thing going on. Also if you dont like people from PC coming to Flagler events why complain when they plan their own?? C’mon cant we all just get along?!?!

  10. Joe says:

    Way to go, you can really stir a pot, I think its great that there are several events to check out this weekend, just curious on why you tried to pit one event over the other though?

  11. Barney Smythe says:

    To bad from what I have read elsewhere the Seafood Festival sucked. Maybe PC really needs to come up with something more original.

  12. El says:

    Seafoodfest great idea to bring people to Town Center, however, need to organize more and bring down the prices in order to have people return next year. They did a decent job but could have been alot better.

  13. REALLY says:

    ok, the small beach town groove in flagler is harder and harder to find around, without over kill. if PC is looking, how about the euro village? they have seemed to droped the ball their, or just forgot about…..LOL, next on the list….town center, it won’t be long, sounds like the same record being played. hey guys in PC…’ll never be orlando on the coast, leave flagler alone. it is so obvious you piggybacked Tant’s weekend, unreal, you have lost several of my neighbors, we live beach side and refuse to participate in your games. big highlight……….remote control boats….REALLY? lololololol

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