Surfing is king on the First Coast, and surfing’s king of the First Coast is Gabe Kling.
Simply put, he’s a legend. At 36, he doesn’t do much competitive surfing these days, but back in his prime, he was one of the best in the world.
Kling was born and raised in St. Augustine. He doesn’t really remember when he started surfing because he was so young, but he said he was probably around 4 or 5. His brother, who is eight years older than him, would help him in the water during those early stages.
Kling started surfing as an amateur at age 17, which he says is pretty old these days for a competitor. After graduating high school, he moved to California and started living what he called, “the dream,” surfing every day and traveling all the time.
“I slept on couches and pretty much didn’t do anything but surf,” Kling said. “I pretty much [didn’t have] a care in the world. In my mind, I was living the dream.”
His pro career began about a year or two after that, and Gabe was killing it. He competed almost every week. He said living this kind of life was challenging simply because of all the time he put into surfing, but it was still exactly what he wanted his whole life.
Kling continued this for awhile and even made it to the highest level of competition. He was a world-class surfer. At the time, he was doing about 22 contests a year, competing against some of the guys he idolized growing up.
“It was humbling,” Kling said. “It took me a minute to kind of get over it, and it was just a great opportunity to show what I can do. I was a little starstruck, but it was just fun.”
At age 36, it’s safe to say Kling’s glory days of surfing professionally are over, but he still lives a satisfying life.
Now married with kids, Kling’s two sons, Kason and Shane are 4 and 2, respectively. He’s happy that it won’t be long until they start surfing. While Kling is done with his professional career, he still surfs whenever he can, and he’s involved in surf coaching.
What’s Kling’s advice to any up-and-coming surfers looking to make it? “Go chase it,” he said. “It’s not going to come to you. We don’t have the best waves, and I think that’s why so many good surfers come from here because you get a taste and you just want to go travel the world and surf better and better waves.”
While Kling is without a doubt a legend on the First Coast, there are many who could follow in his footsteps.
Kantack’s been surfing for about five years. He’s played other sports but said nothing compares to riding a wave. He said that in the future, he plans on having fun and competing whenever there’s a contest.
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Beardall has also been surfing for roughly five years. He said when it comes to surfing, he loves it because “there’s no other feeling like it.” For the future, he plans on having a good time, traveling more and competing in contests along the way.
Kaleb has been surfing since he was 3. He’s won two NSSA East Coast Championship Titles and won 3rd place at the NSSA National Titles. His goal is to one day go pro and win a triple crown of surfing.