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Nor’easter leaves behind plenty of ‘epic’ waves for Jax Beach surf competition

Jacksonville Beach native Cody Thompson took home the title

For the second year in a row, Jacksonville Beach native Cody Thompson is the champion of the Red Bull “Night Riders” surf competition.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – For the second year in a row, Jacksonville Beach native Cody Thompson is the champion of the Red Bull “Night Riders” surf competition.

Thompson was among six professional surfers who hit the waves at Jacksonville Beach on Sunday morning for the popular competition that has been around for nearly a decade.

But this weekend’s nor’easter forced them to switch their plans a bit. There was a literal night and day difference this year.

As the name suggests, the Red Bull “Night Riders” surf competition is usually held at night and was set for Saturday. But organizers were forced to reschedule for Sunday at 10 a.m. because of dangerous conditions from the weekend’s nor’easter.

This year, the competition was renamed the “Light Riders.”

Many of the riders said Sunday’s waves were some of the best they have ever seen for the contest.

“You’re going to see guys going a lot higher than normal because you can see and you can read what’s happening out there,” said Thompson before the competition. “Guys are going to push it a little harder.”

“We have epic waves,” said Tristan, Cody’s brother who also won the competition in 2014. “The current has mellowed out tremendously, the waves are perfect.”

Those who are a part of the event said it was a smart and safe move to Sunday.

“The wind was really wild,” Cody said about the conditions Saturday. “When you hang big lights and speakers, it is a big concern. Another thing is the current was going crazy and it’s going right into that pier.”

“When you can’t see anything at night, those waves come out of nowhere,” Tristan said. “When there are six to seven or more waves coming out of nowhere, that’s really dangerous with the current going into the pier.”

The surfers were towed by someone operating a personal watercraft (PWC) to reach epic heights.

They each had 15 minutes to showcase their skills and wow fans with tricks.

The waves on Sunday were more manageable, but still presented challenges to the professionals.

“It is extremely tiring,” Tristan said. “A lot of adrenaline is pumping and when you get whipped into a wave and you’re paddling back out, you have to actually paddle through some pretty solid current.”

“You can actually anticipate what the waves are going to do,” Cody said. “It’s a lot safer for the guys, for the [PWC] drivers and everyone can kind of see what’s going on.”

Competition host Daniel Terry says adapting was necessary.

“Mother nature throws a lot of things at you,” he said. You have to stick and move and roll with the punches,” Terry said.

The grand prize was $5,000 for Cody Thompson.

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