Locals headed for Cocoa surf contest
Brandon Mills is the guitarist for the
Island Rockers and an Anna Maria Island
skimboard champion. The band will be
performing at the National Kidney
Foundation Pro-Am Surf Festival in
Cocoa Beach on Labor Day weekend.
A surfing tradition started by Anna Maria Island native twins Rich and Phil Salick will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Labor Day weekend when the air horn blows at the National Kidney Foundation Pro-Am Surf Festival in Cocoa Beach.
Two other Island native siblings, Giorgio and Izzi Gomez, grandchildren of Jim and Ronee Brady of the West Coast Surf Shop in Holmes Beach, will compete in the contest, which has drawn 100,000 spectators in the past.
Another sibling pair and their bandmates – the Island Rockers – will perform at the festival; Lexi Achor, 14, and Abbey Achor, 9, sing and play bass with drummer Ethan Bertrand, 9, and guitarist Brandon Mills, 10, nephew of the Salicks and a local skimboard champion.
This is the first road trip for the Island Rockers, three of whom attend Anna Maria Elementary School. Besides standards such as “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Johnny B. Goode,” they have some original songs under their belts, and far from being nervous, they are stoked.
“I’m used to playing in front of people,” said Bertrand, including the recent Anna Maria Bayfest. Led by Island music instructor Scott Achor, the band won an online talent contest based on votes for their performance at the Gulf Coast Talent and Film Expo in Palmetto last year and also won first place in the 2009 Anna Maria Island Community Center talent show.
Waves of compassion
Surfer Rich Salick is no stranger to awards, either, as a member of the USA Martial Arts Black Belt Hall of Fame and the Surfing Hall of Fame.
He had qualified for the world championships as a member of the World Surfing Team in 1973 when he was stricken with kidney disease. His brother, Phil, also a Surfing Hall of Fame member, donated one of his kidneys, enabling Rich to return to surfing with the permission of one of his doctors, Dr. Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade.
Salick’s comeback as a pro surfer garnered him a first place trophy and recognition as the first athlete ever to return to his sport at the professional level after a kidney transplant.
The brothers started the surfing contest to raise funds for local dialysis patients, a shop-versus-shop competition between the Cocoa Beach businesses Ocean Avenue Shop and Salick Surfboards, where Rich built surfing legend Kelly Slater’s first surfboard for the 8-year-old grom.
The first Florida Team Invitational tournament raised $125. The contest rose to the next level when Dr. C. Craig Tisher of the National Kidney Foundation heard about the Salicks and suggested a national event.
Last year, that event raised more than $140,000 for the National Kidney Foundation; to date, it has raised more than $4 million.
Rich has had two more kidney transplants since the first one, from his older brother, Channing, and his younger brother, Wilson, and also is battling leiomyosarcoma, a form of cancer. He continues to work for transplant and dialysis patients as Director of Community Relations for the National Kidney Foundation of Florida.
The 25th Annual NKF Surf Festival has grown into the largest charity surfing competition in the world, increasing awareness of kidney disease with an emphasis on prevention and support for organ donation and transplantation.