If one were to un-can the neon, energy-supplying liquid that is Red Bull and then somehow distill it into a happening of some kind, the nocturnal tow-at surf contest, Night Riders, would be that event. Thousands of spectators found their ways to the beach adjacent to the Jacksonville Beach pier to take in the action sports, which were lit up by the moon and some movie-set-style spotlights, while hype music blared from a Spinal Tap-level public address system. And, of course, there was a jet ski!
Pretty lit, if you ask us.
Here’s the recap from Red Bull Media:
Balaram Stack, Long Beach, NY’s finest, just pulled out the win in one of the premiere surf contests on the east coast, Red Bull Night Riders. The tow-at surf competition featured six pros squaring off under the moon and stars, all attempting to pull off the best big air trick.
Each surfer was given 15 minutes to pull off their best aerial. With the momentum of the jet ski towing them toward the waves, and the bigger than average swells tonight down in Jacksonville Beach, the crowd was treated to a competition they will not soon forget.
The event has roots in North Florida dating back to 2010, and the airs seen here was some of the biggest yet. After his victory, Balaram reflected on what sets Red Bull Night Riders apart.
“It’s so fun to have guaranteed air with the jet ski assist. It makes it such a fun event. It’s nice it’s at night too because it attracts the best crowd. Thanks to everyone at Jacksonville Beach!”
Besides Balaram, participants this year included former Championship Tour surfer Cory Lopez, siblings and previous Red Bull Night Riders winners Evan, Cody, and Tristan Thompson and winner of the inaugural event in 2010, Eric Geiselman.
Balaram was the last rider of the night, and knew he had to eclipse Cory Lopez’s score of 6.0 to take the win. He was able to land a tweaked out frontside air the judges scored a 6.5, giving him his first Red Bull Night Riders win in his third attempt. Eric Geiselman rounded out the top three.
The Thompson Brothers are Jacksonville Beach natives, so the crowd was pulling hard for them on their home turf. Cody Thompson, a two-time winner, acknowledged the strong support from his hometown. “The surf community is just unreal in Jacksonville Beach. They really back us. The local vibe and crowd make it a perfect place for Red Bull Night Riders every year.”
His brother Evan, winner of Red Bull Night Riders in 2016, echoed his sentiments. “It’s a great feeling having so much support. It’s one of the few events you can feel that support out in the water and when you’re walking through the crowd before you paddle out. It’s a really legitimate stage for surfers and makes you want to perform for everyone.”
Surfers were judged by a panel of their peers: pros Oliver Kurtz, Asher Nolan, and Blake Jones. As winner, Balaram took home the entire prize purse of $5,000, and automatic entry next year when Red Bull Night Riders returns to Jacksonville Beach for another year of big air in the evening sky.