9th Annual Jetty Clam Jam

December 4, 2015 • East Coast Contests

  • The 9th Annual Jetty Clam featured the latest run date in event history, and also marked the first time the contest was held on a weekday. After nearly two months of waiting for a good weekend, Jetty co-founders Jerey DeFilippis and Cory Higgins faced a dilemma, especially with the seasons changing, the holidays coming up, and shorter days on the horizon. “We had more discussion as far as when to run the Jam this year then ever before,” DeFilippis said. “We really didn’t want to run it on a Friday, especially after we only gave a week’s notice that it might run on a weekday. But with the holiday weekend, and a lot of cold behind that, we felt it was the best decision.” Higgins added, “It felt like throwing a curveball to the community. But after posting on social to gauge the response, it was clear it was the right move to make.” Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Jon Coen wears many hats at the Jetty Clam Jam: contest MC, behind-the-scenes supporter, wordsmith who writes up the most in-depth contest report around (which he graciously shared with us for this Fight Club), and damn smooth competitor who's always a threat. “There’s this long running joke on LBI about how none of the wives, girlfriends, mothers, kids, etc. can make weekend plans in the fall because of the Clam Jam,” Jon said. “This year, we had to wait like two months, and to be honest, it was becoming a real pain in the dick, even for the guys. There was an undercurrent of, ‘Let’s just get this thing out of the way.’ But after you actually got a few of those bowly waves and had some chowder and it wound up being such a beautiful November day with everyone you want to be with all in one place, it was a reminder of why Jetty holds this event and why we tear our schedules apart to do it. It’s the best day of the year.” Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Oh, and Jon and his wife Ann Coen, who also lends her visual expertise to photographing all angles of the Clam Jam, are raising one rad little kid, Archie, seen here learning the ways of the ocean. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Jetty Co-Founder Jeremy DeFilippis is more than just a spectator and organizer: he also competes in the Clam Jam, year in and year out. In 2015, he and teammate Austin Bocchicchio advanced through Round One before matching up against eventual champs Randy Townsend and Greg Musgnug in Round Two. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • The bracket-style event randomly teams up two LBI surfers of different generations who then surf together to try and advance through the bracket. This year, Nick Rossi, who won the Clam Jam in 2010 with John Bonner, teamed up with longtime standout Jack Ryan, who's been surfing the island longer than Rossi has been alive. That results in a tighter bond among the community, both during the contest and in the months and years that follow. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Pat Emery and John Sener also bowed out in Round Two, losing to Ryan Kelly and John Walters even though Pat's frontside hacks were on point. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • A warm front the day before the contest brought rain and onshore winds, which intensified in the evening before going offshore during the night. The first surfers to the beach on Friday morning were greeted with waist- to head-high surf and northwest winds – basically an ideal scenario for Long Beach Island. And Harvey Cedars’ sandbars, which have been in a state of flux since Superstorm Sandy, a massive beachfill project, and an extended early season nor’easter, were set up fantastic. Photo: Kyle Gronostajski
  • Dennis O'Connor with the kind of smooth, in-the-pocket surfing that earned him and teammate Jeff Pennella a Round Three berth. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Ryan Kelly was more than happy to clear his schedule and take the day off from running the kitchen at his family's Old Barney Restaurant and line up a few of these beautiful bowls. Kelly and teammate John Walters lost in Round Three to eventual champs Townsend and Musgnug. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Meanwhile, even Chris Huch's beautiful frontside carves couldn't make a difference against Cory Higgins and Peter George, who was on fire throughout the contest. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Huch's teammate Brian Coen got all the encouragement he needed from his nephew Archie before their heat. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • The beauty of the Clam Jam is that there's no delineation between shortboards and longboards, with surfers of both stripes sharing the water and judges scoring both types of maneuvers equally. Russ Griffin of the Stafford Police Department was smooth as butter in the kind of waves that perfectly suit a nine-foot-plus style. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Past Clam Jam champ and LBI kingpin Conor Willem bowed out in Round Three, as he and teammate Jesse Frack couldn't top the shortboard/longboard tandem of eventual finalists Billy Webster and Ron Ferrara. Photo: Jim Givas
  • A bluebird day at one of the East Coast's most beautiful surf spots. Photo: Kyle Gronostajski
  • Adam Frack and teammate Maxwell Signore made it all the way to Round Four thanks to some solid lip bashes and a hard-charging approach. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Original Jetty teamrider and Ocean County Vocational Technical School teacher Dave Werner made it all the way to semifinals, surfing strong alongside teammate Matthew Ward and forcing eventual champs Randy Townsend and Greg Musgnug to beat them twice en route to the final. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • On the other side of the draw, Billy Webster and Ron Ferrara crushed nearly everyone they competed against. “As soon as I found out I was with Ron, I knew we had a good chance of making it through a few rounds,” said Webster. “The waves were not quite as big and barreling as Ron and I prefer, but it was definitely an awesome day of waves and beautiful fall weather. I’ve always enjoyed surfing the Clam Jam because it is a very special local event, with great camaraderie between all competitors and spectators. It’s really nice hearing the guys in your heat hooting you into waves and cheering for good rides, even if they are competing against you.” Webster understood that well, surfing against Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol co-worker Randy Townsend in the final. Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Ron “Wavebandit” Ferrara, getting the proper Clam Jam runner-up treatment. “The Jetty Clam Jam is one of those happenings in this community that make it unique,” Ferrara said. “The combined vibe with contestants and spectators is cheerful and encouraging, yet still carries a strong sense of competitiveness. It’s fun to advance and if you do well, you’re stoked. However, if you lose, it’s just as fun to free surf, hang out with everyone, and experience how the rest of the day unfolds. It’s a party I look forward to every year.” Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Recent college graduate Greg Musgnug helped teammate Randy Townsend cruise to victory at the 2015 Jetty Clam Jam. “I knew of Randy, but I’d never met him before the Clam Jam,” Musgnug said. “I’ve seen him surf a few times, and it’s always crazy to see him boost in knee-high slop. He’s the local pro and the best guy on the island. To see him compete was a totally different experience, though. I mean, the man caught 11 waves in 15 minutes. He’s just ridiculous.” Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • Case in point: “It was really cool to surf against Randy in the final,” Billy Webster said. “We work on the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol and train all summer for the lifeguard competitions together, but I rarely get to compete against him. Randy is hands-down one of the best surfers in New Jersey, so I knew Ron and I had a big challenge ahead of us. I think we gave them a good run for their money. I was just happy to be surfing the final, because before this year, the farthest I have made it was through the third round.” Photo: Ann Coen Photography
  • “Although the event was not nearly as profitable as those that preceded it, we wanted to run this one for the surfers,” said Jetty co-founder Cory Higgins, seen here helping to celebrate Randy Townsend and Greg Musgnug's victory. “To have 80 guys still show up, and to draw a decent crowd on the beach, was very fulfilling. We’ll never keep everyone happy, but we certainly try.” Photo: Jim Givas

TURF: 9th Annual Jetty Clam Jam; Harvey Cedars, NJ; November 20th, 2015

ENERGY: Fun waist- to chest-high peaks groomed by an offshore wind that switched in the wake of a warm front the night before the contest. “The two- to four-foot forecast really stuck, and the waves broke all day, right through high tide,” said Jetty co-founder Cory Higgins. “It was nice to be back on the north end in Harvey Cedars. And although the event was not nearly as profitable as those that preceded it, we wanted to run this one for the surfers. To have 80 guys still show up and to draw a decent crowd on the beach was very fulfilling. We’ll never keep everyone happy, but we certainly try.”

FIRST TIME AT FIGHT CLUB: A big time — this year marked both the latest date ever that the Clam Jam, which opens its window in October, has ever been held, as well as the first time it’s ever been held on a weekday. But after nearly two months of waiting, Jetty co-founders Jerey DeFilippis and Cory Higgins were facing a dilemma. With the seasons changing, the holidays coming up, and shorter days on the horizon, holding this event, with 96 surfers, sponsors, and an afterparty, was becoming a challenge. “We had more discussion as far as when to run the Jam this year then ever before,” DeFilippis said. “We were having no luck with weekend swells and Friday, November 20th, was lining up to be fairly decent. We really didn’t want to run it on a Friday, especially after we only gave a week’s notice that it might run on a weekday. But with the holiday weekend, and a lot of cold behind that, we felt it was the best decision.” Higgins added that it was a tough decision. “It felt like throwing a curveball to the community,” he said. “But after posting on social to gauge the response, it was clear it was the right move to make.”

SLIDE: The first heat was in the water a little after 8:00 AM, with sets peeling even at low tide. There were young, first-time contestants and surfers who have been riding Long Beach Island since the ’70s, including Jack Ryan, Walter Wiedmont, Jesse Frack, Mark Laman, and Bob Selfridge, who got barreled in the middle of the event. The first rounds were marked with Conor Willem getting a double barrel and strong surfing from Dennis O’Connor, Adam Frack, and Ryan Kelly. Also of note this year was the talent of the Clam Jam longboarders. This year, the log riders were stellar, including Stafford Police Department Officer Russ Griffin, chef/restaurant owner Chris Sanchez, and lifeguard/construction manager Billy Webster.

Webster, who was teamed up with local legend Ron “Wave Bandit” Ferrara, went all the way to the finals. “As soon as I found out I was with Ron, I knew we had a good chance of making it through a few rounds, especially if the waves were big and barreling,” said Webster, who caught more waves, got deeper barrels, and laid down more serious turns than nearly anyone. “The waves were not quite as big and barreling as Ron and I prefer, but it was definitely an awesome day of waves and beautiful fall weather. I’ve always enjoyed surfing the Clam Jam because it is a very special local event, with great camaraderie between all competitors and spectators. It’s really nice hearing the guys in your heat hooting you into waves and cheering for good rides, even if they are competing against you.”

Ferrara, who’s known for his contagious stoke and fearlessness, concurred. “The Jetty Clam Jam is one of those happenings in this community that make it unique,” he said. “The combined vibe with contestants and spectators is cheerful and encouraging, yet still carries a strong sense of competitiveness. It’s fun to advance and if you do well, you’re stoked. However, if you lose, it’s just as fun to free surf, hang out with everyone, and experience how the rest of the day unfolds. It’s a party I look forward to every year.” Webster and Ferrara beat out Willem and Jesse Frack before downing Higgins and Peter George. And on the other side of the draw, Randy Townsend, who was partnered with recent college graduate Greg Musgnug, who had never surfed a contest in his life, defeated all comers. “I knew of Randy, but I’d never met him before the Clam Jam,” Musgnug said. “I’ve seen him surf a few times, and it’s always crazy to see him boost in knee-high slop. He’s the local pro and the best guy on the island. To see him compete was a totally different experience, though. I mean, the man caught 11 waves in 15 minutes. He’s just ridiculous.” Townsend, who also serves as captain of the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol, and Musgnug had to beat original Jetty team rider Dave Werner and his partner, Matt Ward, twice in a row, to get to the final.

THE PAIN: Maybe Billy Webster for losing to his friend and co-worker Townsend — although Billy would never admit it. “It was really cool to surf against Randy in the final,” he said. “We work on the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol and train all summer for the lifeguard competitions together, but I rarely get to compete against him. Randy is hands-down one of the best surfers in New Jersey, so I knew Ron and I had a big challenge ahead of us. I think we gave them a good run for their money. I was just happy to be surfing the final, because before this year, the farthest I have made it was through the third round.”

THE MAN: Townsend found the best waves of the final and exacted his flawless hacks, backed up by a few good waves by Musgnug. Webster and Ferrara had a hard time finding the waves they had in earlier rounds, and Townsend and Musgnug took the win, 17-14, in the final. Their names will go on the Clam Jam trophy to be displayed until next year.


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