Story by Mark Sisom, Photos By Robert Siliato and Mike Vuocolo
The 2021 Playa Bowls Belmar Pro brought to you by Eastern Lines Surf Shop is officially over, and considering what everyone’s been through for the past year and a half we are all beyond grateful to have pulled it off this year without a hitch! As a matter of fact we didn’t just pull it off, we got blessed with swell from hurricane Larry right on schedule that lasted for the first three days of competition, ending with a small little south groundswell from a low front in the southern states that provided contestable surf on the finals day, and with picture perfect September beach weather.
On “Day 1”, although cool and rainy weather, the waves were glassy with overhead sets pumping consistently throughout the day as the peaks shifted between different sandbars between the 18th and 16th Avenue jetties across the contest zone. The day kicked off with the Custom X Mens Bodyboard heats followed by the Playa Bowls Womens Open heats, and on into the FINS Mens Open heats out to the rest of the day. It was at this point we started getting glimpses of who the standouts would be.
Day 2 kicked off in chest to overhead long period swell with offshore winds with the Custom X Mens bodyboards heats into the Snot Nose Surf Wax Women’s Bodyboard Open Semis. After that the Blue Moon Longboard Open heats, then Creatures Of Leisure Masters Open semis, and closing out with more rounds of the FINS Mens Open.
The second day had us tentatively tossing around ideas for a title to this wrap-up story and we were hoping to call it “The Tale Of Two Logans” as Belmar local Logan Kamen (now Pyzel board factory employee in San Clemente), and now-honorary Belmar local from New Smyrna Beach, FL, Logan Hayes each got the events only perfect 10’s so far. L-Kamen surgically threaded a ridiculously deep drainer (some were claiming it as longest tube ride in Belmar Pro’s history), and L-Hayes with a blazing ride that started with a tube off the take off, a couple snaps, ending with a huge reverse sticking it at the end of the wave.
Both waves caused loud standing applause from the beach, scaffolding, and even up on the boardwalk. The scores were unanimous from all judges, competitors, and beach-goers alike. They were clearly the standouts of Day 2, along with Paul Francisco, Kyle Tester and young grom ripper Cruz Dinofa also turning heads. In addition to the Logan-Fest, a new first-time Belmar Pro competitor named Ayaka Suzuki started jumping into everyone’s radar, more on that later in the story.
On Day 3 we kicked off heats starting with the SRH Legends Open, followed by Custom X Mens Bodyboard Semis, and going out the rest of the day with the FINS Mens Open mid-rounds.
Day 3 saw “the Logans” continue their domination, while other competitors like Monmouth County local Pat Parenty, south Jersey ripper Kyle Tester, Belmar Local Alex Brooks all started putting some spicy fire on the competition. But this is where we started seeing the glimpses of determination and fire from Florida’s Chauncey Robinson start to light up and gain everyone’s attention and throw down the day’s highest heat score total with a 17.37 in Rd 3 / Heat 4.
Day 4 came out of the gates with the Playabowls women’s semi-finals, into the Blue Moon Longboard semis, then Creatures Of Leisure Masters semis, FINS mens semis, followed by the Custom X Mens bodyboard finals, Snotnose Womens Bodyboard finals, Blue Moon Longboard finals, SRH Legends finals, Creatures of Leisure Masters finals, Playa Bowls Women’s finals and finally closing out the day with the FINS Mens Open heats.
With a dying Larry swell, and discouraging local marine forecast on Day 3, the prayers to the surf God’s kicked in and a questionable south wind swell from a low front in the southern states churned up “just enough” to be contestable and make it all the way through the last heat. Waves were anywhere from waist high to occasional chest to shoulder high sets, and with much cleaner conditions than expected as the heat from inland west of the contest region puffed out the flags to point offshore for the remainder of the afternoon, blessing the contest with an epic finals day!
Besides the “Logan-Fest” continuing, North Carolina’s longboard master Tony Silvagni (who also competed in the mens shortboard) reminded everyone why he’s the man with the most Belmar Pro victories of any division. We lost count how many times he won the Longboard division but we think it might be around 8 times by now! At this point, who’s counting?
Also causing chatter around the contest zone and occasional loud applause from the beach during her heats, Belmar Pro first-timer, and current Women’s World Bodyboard champ Ayaka Suzuki plowed through both the Women’s AND the Mens heats, yes the mens too, as the alpha of both bodyboard divisions. Her masterful bodyboarding skills, and her bright, fun and friendly Ohana-like personality stole the hearts of everyone in Belmar over the past several days.
In the Creatures of Leisure Master’s final Jersey boys Pat Emery, Belmar local legend Brian Dalton and Steve Swenson all put up solid commendable effort, but Chris Howard put up a 14.00 to take the Masters win.
The SRH Legends final saw a close wave for wave battle until Monmouth County legend and new surfing coach to an epic pack of groms, Jack Murphy pull away from the pack linking turns all the way to the beach for a well-earned 8.27 taking the Legends win for the 2nd consecutive time, right in front of his enthusiastic team of groms.
The all-Jersey Playa Bowls Women’s final saw the return of local favorite and former Women’s champ Jessica Kwiecinski go up against in-form surfers Mia Gallagher and Carly Coble, but it was returning Womens Champ from south Jersey Cassidy McClain who pulled ahead and surfed the way champs surf to take the win once again.
In the road to the FINS Mens Open final, South Jersey’s Kyle Tester fought a solid battle in Semi against FL’s Logan Hayes with a 14.70 heat total, but was no match for Haye’s 17.40 total. This is where Chauncey Robinson kicked his gears into overdrive taking out on-fire Logan Kamen in a hard-fought Mens Semi with a blazing 17.27 heat total to beat Kamen’s solid 13.73 effort.
In the Mens final Logan Hayes was leading the wave-for-wave battle that had the beach crowd on edge until with 5 minutes left of the heat Robinson snagged a heat ending 8.97 to take the 2021 Mens win and a shoulder ride up the beach by a very good sported Hayes and others. – By Mark Sisom –