After a 25-year absence, Saturday May 6th, 2017 ushered in the new NJ Surfing Championships. The event began Saturday and ran for two days of pumping NJ surf. 16 renowned NJ surfers entered the Professional Division and one Zach Humphrey’s was declared NJ’s surfing champion.
- Zach Humphreys
- Sam Hammer
- Rob Kelly
- Kyle Tester
A large swell had been forecasted in the days prior to the event and did not disappoint. Eastern Lines Surf Shop sponsored the event and owner Don Tarrant took the reigns as the chief organizer.
“We have two ESA (Eastern Surfing Association) districts and an NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) district, so there’s really no such thing as a real NJ champion. This gives us an opportunity to really have one,” said the Belmar local.
Tarrant continued to say, “That’s kinda cool and that’s why we did it years ago. However, things happened and people got busy, but these guys have been on me for the last couple years to reinstate it.”
Saturday saw the brunt of the seven-foot south swell that rolled up the coast. 25 mile-an-hour south winds battered surfers as they geared up and paddled into their heats.
“We got waves, but it’s been challenging today. We’ve had to change a bunch of stuff around, we couldn’t send out the Boys [division],” said Mr. Tarrant. “But ya know, we make due, we’ve done it long enough we can figure it out. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be beautiful, it’s a good day for the finals and I hope everyone’s stoked.”
Despite devil winds on Saturday, contest organizers and surfers alike frothed at the idea of a NJ surf contest with large waves.
21-year-old Red Bank local and Pro Division surfer, Alex Brooks said, “I hadn’t ever heard of the contest before, but I was stoked to surf a contest with a shot at some cash in decent waves.”
Varying conditions always make surf contests interesting for the surfers as well as the viewers. Usually contests in Jersey suffer from lack of swell, however the NJ Surfing Championships had no such issue.
“In round one the waves were big but pretty bad. But, for the semi-finals the waves were pretty good. Lots of barrels but some kind of closed out and I ended up not really finding the wave I was looking for,” said Brooks.
20-year-old, Pat Parenty was also another member of the Pro Division. Parenty surfed the bigger and gnarlier waves on Saturday, but was not able to advance to the semi-finals.
“[Drawing Sam Hammer] sucked, I saw him throw that man hack and knew it was all over for me,” said the Ocean Township local.
In addition to the Pro Division, surfers from Junior Men, Men, Masters and Longboard divisions also fought to claim champion status.
“I surfed against BareWires employee, Cooper Fortney. He was so psyched and his surfing was on point. He really crushed the heat,” said Monmouth Beach local and Men’s Division runner-up, Justin Perry.
“I saw Humphreys got a sick left tube in the Pro final and that was definitely the winner. It really sucks we couldn’t have more heats in the men’s division… There’s a lot of good guys around here that underestimate themselves I think,” continued Perry.
Surfers were motivated to win by the sizeable waves and cash prizes, however the trophies themselves were also something special.
“I’ve been doing the trophies for Don for four or five years now. I make them out of Sandy Storm reclaimed wood,” explained local artist, Cory Hudson.
Hudson has been salvaging the wood for the past five years and claims to have found most of it right near the contest site in Belmar.
Hudson said, “So I started making a few of the trophies to try to showcase the wood that used to be the boardwalk and that used to be the homes and businesses. I’m from this area and Don’s a local legend. So it makes sense for a local contest and a local making the wooden trophies.”
While sticking around is always difficult for surfers who do not make the final rounds, the contest itself is always a fun environment that radiates local, Jersey pride.
The smell of eggs and pork roll from Fins wafted upwind. Bradley Beach’s surf-themed restaurant pitched a tent and served the hungry competitors and contest-goers.
“Anything Don’s [Tarrant] gonna do, we’ll be out here to support Don. We are selling smoothies; poke tuna and the best pork roll, egg and cheese you can get,” said Fins Co-Owner, Shawn Ryan.
JETTY Surf Apparel was also another sponsor of the event. Anthony Hediger and Jetty Event Coordinator attended the event and set the tent; on a mission to get the surfers outfitted in the latest JETTY attire.
“This is the first time for us at this event. We kept it easy, just one rack or two, a couple hats. We’ll feel it out, test the waters and hopefully come back next year,” said Hediger. “The sun’s out, the rain was iffy and held off and now you can’t really ask for much more,” finished the Beachwood native.
For more information on the contest’s history and results please visit www.njsurfchamps.com.