Event LeadershipMeet our staff, judges and ambassadors for 2023
Wahine Staff Members
Jo Pickett is the force behind the Wahine Classic. This is her 13th summer leading the Wahini Classic after it originally began in 1997. Jo is a competitive surfer and a yoga enthusiast who teaches surfing lessons around the world. To read an article about Jo and her surfing family, click here.
Photo credit: Chris Brehmer
We’re excited to welcome Gina Gray is the director of the Wahine Classic this year. Gina has served as our tabulator for the Wahine in the past. Gina is also the co-director of the southern NC district of the Eastern Surfing Association.
We’re thrilled to have Will McEachern as our announcer this year. Will is avid member and supporter of SNC ESA. He’s also the manager of the 17th St Surf Shop in Wilmington NC, which sponsors Wahine.
Emergency Medical Technician, Beach Marshall and Set Up
Craig Newkirk has been a friend to the Wahine Classic for several years and we are so thankful for his support again this year. Craig serves as our EMT and Beach Marshall during the Wahine Classic and he also assists with the set-up of our scaffolding for our judges’ platform. While we take great precautions to have a safe competition, we’re grateful to have Craig available to assist with medical issues during our event.
Leilani Corbelle grew up surfing on Wrightsville Beach and competed in the first Wahine contest at age 7. Since then she has been involved with the Wahine Classic as a judge, organizer and competitor, winning the Pro Shortboard division in 2020.
Jacob Venditti is a pro surfer who founded the “Live Fearlessly” foundation after spending countless days in the hospital with lung infections caused by cystic fibrosis. Live Fearlessly aims to both inspire and enable young people with cystic fibrosis to get involved with extracurricular athletic activities of their choosing in order to build self confidence. We’re excited to welcome Jacob as one of our judges this year!
Bear Holtze has been a competitive surfer on the east coast for the past 10 years. He has substantial judging experience in the shortboard and longboard divisions. We are so excited to welcome Bear to the Wahine Classic!
Brandon Mitchell was born and raised in Wrightsville Beach, and spent 7 years living on the west coast working for Channel Islands surfboards. He has traveled the world surfing professionally and is an accomplished competitive surfer. Now Brandon devotes his time to his business Wrightsville School of Surf, which specializes in private surfing lessons and advanced competitive surf coaching. His goal is to help the next generation reach their full potential.
We’re excited to have Roxanna Chaney joining our team of Ambassadors for the 2019 Wahine Classic. Born in Northern Virginia, Roxy moved to Colorado when she was 9 years old, and became a competitive ski racer and was ranked fourth nationally in ski cross. To be closer to family, the Chaney family moved to Wrightsville Beach in 2015. Roxy has fallen in love with riding waves ever since. She participated in the Wahine Classic in August of 2016 and cherished the incredible vibe of the competition. Roxy currently attends Isaac Bear Early College.
The Wahine Classic is proud to welcome Delilah Hutchins as a 2019 Ambassador. Delilah participated in her first surf camp when she was just four years old and now at age 12, she’s already an experienced surfer. Delilah says that for her, surfing is a family thing. “I’m in the water all the time and my whole family surfs, including my two shredder stepbrothers.” Delilah rides a longboard and a 6’8” fish. In addition to surfing, Delilah is a student, musician and an artist. She plays the guitar and loves to sing. She also loves to hang out with friends, go to the beach and travel. Delilah says, “I can’t wait for this year’s Wahine Classic!”
Samantha is a Wahine Veteran and reigning Women’s Longboard Champion. She is a Wrightsville Beach native and has been surfing since she was a toddler. Samantha has a very impressive surfing resume which includes numerous District and Regional titles and she is currently East Coast Champion in Womens Longboard and Shortboard in the Eastern Surfing Association. Her sponsors are Hobie Surfboards, South End Surf Shop, SUNdays Cafe, Indo Jax Surf Charities and she is a mentor for the ESA All Star Team. Just in the past couple of years she has been to India, the Middle East, Central America and California spreading the stoke to special needs kids with Indo Jax Surf Charities. Samantha is a graduate with honors of Cape Fear Community College. She is a Black Belt in Tang Soo Do and is a working Actress, Model and Film Maker.
We’re grateful to have Leah Thompson, 17, serving as an ambassador for the Wahine Classic again this year. Leah is sponsored by major surf industry brand Rip Curl as a competitor and model, traveling the world for photo shoots and waves, and competing in national amateur events. Leah is a long-time supporter of the Wahine and has won many surfing titles in our event. Leah begin surfing competitively at age 12.
Leah is the creator of a foundation for orphans in Kenya. She plans to have an Amani Bead Sale event at Aussie Island Surf Shop on July 7 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. All proceeds support New Life Homes in Kenya.
Callie Hertz has been surfing since 2016. Her first competition was the Wahine Classic which she has competed in for the last 3 years. In addition to the Wahine, Callie regularly competes in the ESA SNC contests and has also competed in the O’Neill East Coast Grom Tour and the Sweetwater Pro Am. During the summer, Callie teaches surf lessons for Tony Silvagni Surf School in Carolina Beach, and also works at the surf shop that sponsors her, CB Surf Shop.
Callie is the oldest of 5 children, who have all been homeschooled for 6 years. When she is not in school or working, you can often find Callie doing dawn patrol surf sessions with her siblings and friends. Prior to surfing, Callie was a level 7 junior-olympic gymnast.
Whitney learned to surf when she was 8 years old on her home beach of Folly Beach, South Carolina. She began competing at age 9 and won her first SC Governor’s Cup (U12) at age 10. Whitney is a member of the Southern South Carolina ESA, and competed in Easterns last September. During the summers, she serves as a Junior Mentor for a surf camp in Folly Beach.
Whitney is an honors student, and swims year-round with the South Carolina Swim Club swim team. When she’s not in the water, she loves to go the local skate park with her friends.
Last January, Whitney traveled to Nosara, Costa Rica to surf for a week with Jo Pickett, a dream come true. This year will be Whitney’s third time competing in the Wahine Classic. Whitney loves the spirit of the Wahine Classic in particular because it empowers females of all ages while having a fun weekend of surfing.
Cali Brannon, age 14, competed in her first Wahine Classic when she was just 10 years old. It was an amazing experience. She has continued surfing in Holden Beach, North Carolina where she lives for the summer months.
Cali enjoys reading, gymnastics, photography and surfing. She and her sisters spend countless hours on the beach and love swimming, surfing and walking their two dogs Beasley and Reagan.
Mia Brannon, age 12 has been surfing since she was 5 years old. One of her surfing highlights was surfing in the Wahine Classic in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Mia loves the beach, Minecraft, and drawing. She hopes one day to become an author and illustrator of children’s books. She spends her summers surfing and swimming in Holden Beach, NC. She is in the water so much that her mom thinks she maybe part mermaid!
Lily Brannon has competed in the Wahine Classic several times and says her experience, “was incredible!” One of her surfing highlights was surfing with Jo Pickett in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Lily hopes to travel to Costa Rica this winter to surf the waves in Central America. It will be a dream come true if surfing Costa Rica becomes a reality. Lily surfs almost every day during the summer at Holden Beach, North Carolina. She also enjoys hanging out with friends, watching classic movies and listening to vinyl records.
For registration help, questions, sponsorship information and more, please contact us.