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EASY DOES IT

  • subtitle: Laid-Back Mindsets Prevail As Belmar Pro Prepares To Tackle Its Next Decade

Written by  Jon Coen
Tuesday, 9/17/13

“Those guys are probably a little hungrier than I am. I just tried to stay away from them and do my thing.”

You can imagine some competitors seeing red upon hearing North Carolina’s Ben Bourgeois say that. Because it’s not like the final day of the Foster’s Belmar Pro was some super consistent pumping swell. That came during the first couple days of competition, thanks to Tropical Storm Gabrielle. But on Sunday, when the two-foot bowls on offer left most surfers racing to find that one millisecond of opportunity for a fat lipper, Benny B didn’t get all jumpy. He wasn’t catching 12 waves like Vince Boulanger. He wasn’t tangling up between Michael Dunphy and Evan Thompson. He wasn’t pissing about having to surf at low tide via Twitter. Benny B, the East Coast surf scene’s gypsy king, the former Tour dude, the guy who was born in New Jersey and seems to win every time he comes back, just sat down the beach and waited. He waited for the lefts that were too wide for everyone else and simply rode them smoother than anyone could have imagined.

But this year’s Foster’s Belmar Pro, which celebrated 10 years of classic September surf in the “Working Man’s Beach Town,” was about more than just Benny B taking the final. It was about firing sets finally arriving after the waves hadn’t been more than waist-high in three months. It was about the community and Eastern Lines Surf Shop hosting this contest despite being washed out by Sandy a year ago. It was about new rivalries heating up between the women. It was about Tom Curren showing up to surf the Men’s and Legends divisions. It was about dedicating the new “Cecil Rock” to one of the greatest gentlemen, surfers and organizers in East Coast history. It was about WRV shaper Jesse Fernandez making the finals on the same weekend as his pro riders.

Let’s break it down.

The Longboard Pro was ASP sanctioned again this year. And with Taylor Jensen opting not to make the trip out from California, you’d think that you might as well just hand Tarheel Tony Silvagni his fifth Belmar Pro 1st-place check. But this year was a return to a different kind of logging. And Tony Silvagni can noseride better than anyone. That is, except for Justin Quintal, of Florida.

After winning Joel Tudor’s Duct Tape Invitational in Virginia Beach and Huntington Beach this summer, Quintal came out to the Belmar Pro on a considerably heavier singlefin log than most of the other competitors and proceeded to cross-step right to the nose, where he stayed for the whole heat. Make no mistake, Silvagni was spectacular, putting up a 16.50 heat total, but it couldn’t compare to Quintal’s 9.33 and 8.33 from the opening minutes.

“When I was younger and surfed the ASP events, I would switch over to a high performance longboard, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to take my surfing,” Quintal said of his equipment choice. “This is what I prefer to ride. I just love that feeling of hanging in the most critical part of the wave on Cloud Nine.”

The separate Masters and Legends divisions were an improvement upon last year’s Masters Pro, which wound up pitting guys in their late 30s against guys who have kids in their late 30s. Of course, putting the Legends in the water later in the afternoon this year was a cruel joke, not because they have to be in bed by a reasonable hour, but because they wound up with the highest tides both days.

But, for real, these were very cool events. Sadly, Buttons Kaluhiokalani is suffering advanced stages of lung cancer, so none of the Hawaiians made the trip. But you had Surfing Mag’s 2011 Shaper of the Year Robert Wiener, Tom Curren, Manasquan legend Scotty Duerr and Jesse Fernandez in the final. Curren had to catch a flight and missed the final, but he still owned the highest score of his division, an 8.10, for his ability to navigate Saturday’s shorebreak and complete a 360 on the sand. And it’s fitting that Wiener, credited a key to the modern “more foam + performance shape = better small-wave surfing” equation, took the win. Half the surfers were riding his boards. The other half rode WRVs.

Matt Keenan and Dean Randazzo will likely be fighting it out for Masters supremacy until a few other Jersey guys turn 35. Randazzo got the best of Keenan in 2012. Keenan stole the show this year by air attack.

The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh Womens Pro competitors probably aren’t old enough to remember when “three to the beach” was the stereotypical judging format that surfers bemoaned. So how did Maddie Peterson win the final with a single turn? It was a nice turn.

Conditions were challenging for the women, with the best sets coming in as glorified shorebreak. With time running out, Peterson managed to get a wave out from under heat leader and 2011 champ Casey Kwiecinski, who absolutely obliterated everyone on Saturday. Peterson saw her opportunity and went for one big, backside gouge. 9.0. Thank you very much. And with that, 15-year-old Peterson walked away with her first pro victory.

The Fins Junior Pro kids got a chance at some bucks and points in the ASP 1-star, Fins Pro Junior. They got more than that, actually. They got to surf on Friday at the peak of the Gabby swell. But even when the swell waned, they winged. The juniors wrapped up on Saturday in a final that was an East/West split between Parker Coffin and Sam Orozco of the left coast and Noah Schweizer and Mikey Ciaramella of the Right Coast. This was Jersey boy Mike Ciaramella’s last event as a Junior, and he crushed it on his way to the final, where he took 3rd. Orozco, of Dana Point, CA, took to the air for a 15.60 heat total to seal the deal on his first junior pro final and win.

The Foster’s Pro this year saw some of the best East Coast talent since it was first a sanctioned event back in 2003. You had most of the past champs there, from Gorkin (2005) to Brian Toth (2007) to Benny B (2009) to Michael Dunphy (2010 and ’12) to Vince Boulanger (2011.) Throw in your former WCT studs like Gabe Kling and Randazzo too, and it’s a party. Dean Randazzo, at 45 years old, continues to write new chapters of his legend. And this year, with young Dean Anthony standing on the sandbar a few feet away, he hacked his way to another semi.

Vince Boulanger became a crowd favorite, pushing himself into the most waves and trying countless air reverses and power reverses — landing an awful lot of them. Randy Townsend put on a show with both airs and carves to make the Fosters Pro final for the first time in 10 years. Michael Dunphy showed great wave selection in marginal conditions, finding the nugs that would allow more than one move. But Benny B put together the backside bag of combos he needed for a 7.60 and a 7.37 to remind everyone who’s in charge.

All in all, there were one or two days of stellar waves, and a few marginal ones. The wind and weather mostly cooperated (if you don’t count that bolt of lightning that smashed the horizon on Thursday to postpone the rest of the heat). And Benny B didn’t have to hassle for waves.

FINAL RESULTS OF THE 2013 FOSTERS BELMAR PRO:

FOSTER’S MEN’S PRO

1.Ben Bourgeois

2. Vince Boulanger

3. Michael Dunphy

4. Randy Townsend

F.S.O.S. WOMEN’S PRO

1. Maddie Peterson

2. Jessica Kwiecinski

3. Grace Muckenfuss

4. Casey Kwiecinski

MASTERS PRO

1. Matt Keenan

2. Dean Randazzo

3. Dave Anderson

4. Brian Dalton

FINS ASP JUNIOR PRO

1. Sam Orozco

2. Noah Schweizer

3. Michael Ciaramella

4. Parker Coffin

LEGENDS PRO

1. Robert Weiner

2. Jesse Fernandez

3. Scott Duerr

4. Tom Curren

ASP LONGBOARD PRO

1. Justin Quintal

2. Tony Silvagni

3. Tim Red

4. Steven McLean

   
 
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