FLORIDA TODAY Staff Report Published 12:24 p.m. ET June 8, 2021
Recent Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High graduate Sarah Stotz, center, displays her varsity letter, the first student at the school to earn such an award for surfing. At left is Crystal Cooper, her longtime Salty Sweet sponsor, and at right is the school’s outgoing athletic director, Vern Wells. (Photo: Provided)
Traditions in surfing go way back at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High, and now school officials are doing something to honor their stars.
Sunday at the Cocoa Beach Hilton, outgoing athletic director Vern Wells honored Sarah Stotz with the school’s first varsity letter for the club sport, which the team has dominated locally and on the East Coast.
“Not even Kelly Slater has one of these,” Wells said, drawing laughter from the audience who attended the Waterman’s Challenge award ceremony.
Slater, the 11-time world champion, does have his baggies “retired” at the school, which boasts dozens of former world touring pros, Hall of Fame inductees and junior champions.
Recent Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High graduate Sarah Stotz recently became the first student at the school to earn a varsity letter for surfing. (Photo: Provided)
“Our principal (Mark Rendell) is 100 percent behind it, and he’s a surfer,” said Wells, who will go back to the classroom in the fall to teach students with special needs. “Maybe we can all push (the FHSAA) to recognize surfing as a varsity sport (as is done in California).”
Stotz won the 18-under women’s shortboard division at the Waterman’s Challenge.
Just this year, the Cocoa Beach Surf Team qualified for the National Scholastic Surfing Association national event in California by winning the East Coast Regionals for the sixth consecutive year. Stotz won the overall girls individual title.
The NSSA Nationals were to have taken place this month but again was canceled due to COVID-19 ramifications.
Instead, the Cocoa Beach Surf Team will spend a long weekend surfing off the coast of North Carolina, in Buxton, near the Cape Hatteras coastline.
Just some of the Cocoa Beach graduates who have made a huge impact in international surfing include Gary Propper, Claude Codgen and Bruce Valluzzi (Class of 1966); Mike Tabeling (1967); Greg Loehr (1970); Matt Kechele and Charlie Kuhn (1980); Rich Rudolph (1981); Todd Holland (1987); and Slater (1991).
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