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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