TURF: 6th Annual Jetty Clam Jam; Hudson Avenue, Harvey Cedars, NJ; October 20th, 2012.
ENERGY: Quite possibly the best Clam Jam ever, according to multiple Long Beach Island sources — maybe even the East Coast contest of the year? The Clam Jam’s annual waiting period only lasted a week, lucking in to head-high and bigger mixed swell from Hurricane Rafael and a local south windswell. Meanwhile, winds waffled from near dead to light onshore to afternoon offshores, with sunny skies and 70º Indian summer conditions. Three surfers — Brent Michallis, Jeremy DeFilippis, and Chris Cheeseman — even surfed in trunks in late October.
Best of all, the contest moved back to Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars after avoiding the beach-renourished, somewhat mangled break the last two years. But all that new sand finally worked itself into a fine formation, offering up tube after critical tube throughout the day, breaking a few boards in the process. The area’s tall dunes also provided spectators plenty of room to view the action in an arena-style setting. “Harvey Cedars has not been good for 12 hours straight in about three years,” affirmed Clam Jam participant and ESM Assignment Writer Jon Coen.
FIRST TIME AT FIGHT CLUB: By now, everyone should be familiar with the Clam Jam’s format: 96 LBI surfers young and old are randomly paired up based on age, with one surfer under 30 and one over coming together to fight it out NCAA bracket style. There's no prize purse, no big checks, and no glory beyond island bragging rights and having fun with friends and family. One small change was made this year, with Round One featuring three two-man teams in the water. But after that it was head to head all the way to the final, with the top two waves of each surfer scored and combined with their partner’s top two waves.
SLIDE: How’s this for some random match-ups? Father and son Bill and Brendan Willem ended up on the same team, but got put out in Round Three by family member Conor Willem and Ryan Kelly. Jetty co-owners Cory Higgins and Jeremy DeFilippis also squared off against each other in the same round, with Cory’s barrel for a 6.0 sending he and teammate Josh Law to the semifinals. And the final, when Randy Townsend and Royce Weber took out Kelly and Conor Willem, featured a host of repeats: Randy won in 2009 with Luke Reynolds and took 2nd-place in 2011; while Kelly, placed runner-up in 2010 and Willem won in 2007.
This year’s Clam Jam also featured some impressive high-performance moments. Ship Bottom’s Kyle Calandra nearly landed a kickflip in one round before coming out of the barrel of the heat in the next round to advance. But by the end of the day, it was a barrel-riding contest of epic proportions, with Conor Willem making left tube after left tube to the hoots of everyone on the beach. Ryan Kelly laid down a few mean hacks and Royce Weber lofted a few beautiful frontside airs, but in the end it was Randy Townsend, who not only rides for Jetty but also heads the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol, locking up the final for he and Weber with a phenomenal barrel-to-air-reverse combo for an 8.5. The final tally was 20.5 for Townsend and Weber to 18.5 for Willem and Kelly, a tight heat that kept everyone on their toes before Randy and Royce hoisted the clam-shaped trophy created by local artist Joel Dramis.
THE PAIN: Except for some brutal wipeouts and board-crunching closeouts, there was absolutely no pain at this year’s Clam Jam. How could anyone complain when LBI’s favorite contest goes down in nearly flawless waves with fantastic weather to boot?
THE MAN: Since the Jetty Clam Jam is such a community-oriented affair, we’re going to award this one to the many people who made this year’s contest such a success. First off, Cory Higgins and Jeremy DeFilippis deserve props for making the whole thing happen, while Ric Anastasi managed the judges, Bill Machotka and Randy Budd served as beach marshals, and Freddy Davis and Haley Johnson tabulated things to a tee. A huge cadre of volunteers helped things run smoothly, while Speakeasy Pizzeria provided pizza and Mud City Crab House and Black Whale Bar & Restaurant served up cold clams and oysters.
YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB: “I don’t know what I would do if [the surfers] couldn’t [clear their weekends]. It all reflects on why we started this. They’re not just amazing surfers – they are great people. Some underground guys totally stepped up. Chris Moscufo, John Bonner, Brett Michallis, Grant Mergenthaler… Every year, we get a few new guys come out. This year, we had Eric Perie, who grew up surfing Cedars in the ’80s. I had never heard of him and there he was, getting barrels.” –Jetty Co-Owner Jeremy DeFilippis on the 96-man cast of characters assembled for the Clam Jam
“I never thought I would be surfing all day to the semifinal. I was just out there with this big grin on my face the whole time. And to beat my business partner in a heat was just perfect.” –Jetty Co-Owner Cory Higgins on downing DeFilippis in Round Three
"Overall, we couldn't have asked for a better day. We had great waves in Harvey Cedars with all of our friends around. It's the whole local surf community out there supporting each other. It was just so much fun.” –Co-winner Royce Weber on the vibe of the Clam Jam
"For everything to come together like that — great waves, a mixed swell, west/southwest winds, and the tide not swamping the scaffolding like it would have a day earlier — the stars must have all been aligned. There were good barrels all day, and I thought Royce surfed great. We were partners by the luck of the draw, but I would be stoked to be partnered with anyone there. It's all family to me.” –Co-winner Randy Townsend on the beauty of claiming his second Clam Jam win
FINAL RESULTS OF THE 6th ANNUAL JETTY CLAM JAM:
1. Randy Townsend & Royce Weber
2. Conor Willem & Ryan Kelly
3. Cory Higgins & Josh Law, Grant Mergenthaler & Vince Rossi