Team Gesler Hammer’s Sam Once Again at Cold War 2, Bonus Photo Gallery Here!

December 20, 2017 • East Coast Contests

Story by: Jon Coen

Please scroll down for a full bonus photo gallery by some of Jersey’s finest shooters…

In general, cold water surfing doesn’t look all that good. Surf journos (this one included) have romanticized it for decades, but a 5-mil wetsuit isn’t flattering on anyone. They don’t feel great either. Dudes will tell you that #Lifesbetterina5mil, but what athlete would rather be ensconced in a tight body condom than pulling in bareback? Winter wetsuits are about as sexy as pajama pants with Uggs.

G-g-g-g-greetings from frigid Asbury Park, just what the Cold War had in mind weather-wise and the waves weren’t damn shabby at all either. Photo: Ben Currie

Winter doesn’t always look so comely. The sky is gray. The dunes are brown. The ocean is greyish brown. We claim to love winter surfing because we love surfing. Period. It just so happens that for much of the East Coast, winter produces the heaviest swells. New Jersey had six weeks of tropical groundswell starting late summer. But one single October south swell made it all look silly. Winter means less heads, more dredge.

Between frigid flatspells, waves unload on our beaches in the winter. Good waves. And while there’s barely any room left at every hollow wave in the world, the fact that you can occasionally score shacks at a random sandbar with just a few friends makes New Jersey special. And every once in while, it comes off looking like the Surfers Journal was hired to design an LL Bean catalogue. For a winter weekend, or a day, or a few hours, it turns magical.

Like surf scribe Jon Coen says, less heads, more dredge. Central Monmouth Counties piping hot waves on a cold winters day. Photo: Ben Currie

Last Sunday, the Garden State looked idyllic for the Cold War. Andrew Gesler’s tall frame doesn’t look bad in a 5-mil. Crystal head-high tubes fired across the well-shaped sandbar. Asbury Park’s handsome beachfront architecture made for a beautiful surf venue. Hell, half the surfers are male models. There was no ugly littoral drift like most winter swells. Ben Graeff even looked good with that GoPro hanging out of his mouth.

And let’s face it, the dusting of snow was absolutely adorable.

As if on cue for Cold War 2, a beautifully snow dusted Asbury Park Casino greeted competitors and spectators alike. Photo: Tim Torchia

This is what the Cold War was supposed to be – the best surfers from the Mid-Atlantic in the spotlight with a window period to get ideal winter conditions, a full celebration of the sub-subculture. Lavallette’s Sam Hammer and Ocean City’s Andrew Gesler a couple of Jersey lookers, had picked two attractive teams.  It just took a bit of time to make it so pretty.

Despite this part of the Atlantic being more active in March than any other time of year, the first Cold War in 2016 only saw chest-high onshore waves. Event directors Rob Cloupe, Sam Hammer, and Tim Donnelly decided not to hold the event at all last March to preserve the integrity of the event. So when they reopened the waiting period and a nifty little swell showed up with a few inches of fresh, that was the first victory of the day.

Oh yeah, it’s on! Photo: Donald Cresitello

The second win went to Team Gesler, comprised of Mike Gleason, Clay Pollioni, Ben McBrien, Brendan Tighe, Travis Beckman, Randy Townsend, Connor Willem and Rob Kelly. They won 5-4 over Hammer’s squad of Logan Kamen, Vince Boulanger, Simon Hetrick, Tommy Ihnken, Zack Dayton, Ben Graeff, Balaram Stack, and Pat Schmidt, the last two who flew back from their North Shore residencies to try to stake their own chilly claims.

Ben Mc Brien in perfect trim setting up a classic, Jersey beach break barrel approach. Photo: Cresitello

Beckman was smooth as a freshly shaved face. Vince Boulanger’s attack had that rugged look that all the ladies love. Baby faced Logan Kamen took it to the swarthy Brendan Tighe. Then things got hot. Brendan Willem went to work on his power game before finding a legit backside barrel and ending it with a hook for an 8.5, the highest wave of the day to that point.

With the tide coming in and the sultry swell sticking around, Simon Hetrick went to town against Clay Pollioni, putting up an 8.67. But Pollioni caught a wave in the final seconds for a shapely backside tube of his own, earning a 9.75 and MVP for his team.

A close-up photographic analysis of Clay Pollioni’s MVP winning, near perfect 9.75. Photo: Matt Lang

“I almost wrote myself off before the five-minute mark, and then that wave came. It just felt awesome,” said Pollioni.

Long Branch’s Mike Gleason extended Team Gesler’s lead by finding a couple of attractive tubes, ending them with handsome full rail frontside carves before Rob Kelly smoothed another point for Team Hammer.

If  Dean Randazzo is the Jersey Devil then Mike Gleason is the Jersey Beast ripping to shreds anything the ocean can throw at him. Photo: Donald Cresitello

In a fitting showdown, Hammer and Gesler met to settle a 20-year rivalry. And once again, Hammer won the heat but Gesler won the war. With the bag all sewn up, Ben Graeff came out ripping and added one more point for Team Gesler. Each member of the squad took home a cool $1,000 with Pollioni pocketing an extra $1000 and a Traeger grill.

It all came off looking like a the perfect New Jersey winter day. And it was gorgeous.

Team Gesler with their winning check in hand while MVP-ollioni does a little end zone celebration with his. All in good fun, Jersey style, and we guarantee you Team Sam will do the same if and when presented with the same opportunity. Photo: Donald Cresitello


Snow Day. Photo: Donald Cresitello


A very serious looking Team Hammer. Photo: Mike Vuocolo


Coldest War. Photo: Andreea Waters


By flying home at the last minute from Oahu both Balaram Stack and Pat Schmidt encapsulate and understand the meaning of being a “stand-up guy” if your from New York and Jersey  which means you honor your commitments and your word is your bond. Photo : Chris Nissen


Who needs the North Shore and it’s frenzied crowds? Balaram Stack, Team Sam. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


Sam Hammer. Photo: Ben Currie


Captain Sam Hammer. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


Andrew Gesler. Photo: Ben Currie


Two time winning team captain Andrew Gesler. Photo: Rich Mc Mullen


Two way perfection right out in front of the judges tent. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


Conor Willem. Photo : Chris Nissen


Conor Willem, team Carhart and Team Ges. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


Three way perfection during Cold War 2. Photo: Mike Vuocolo


O-h-h-h-h-h, these fuckin’ guys! A warm, Jersey shout out to Cold Wars excellent co-emcees, Jon Coen ( left ) and Surflines Matt Pruett. Photo: Donald Cresitello


The always upbeat and talkative Travis Beckmann would say something on behalf of Team Gesler if only his mouth wasn’t frozen open after surfing his heat. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


After dominating the 2017 ESA Championships, young  Logan Kamen was called up to the Jersey big’s and  impressed during his first ever Cold War appearance. Photo: Donald Cresitello


The Rook, Logan Kamen, Team Sam. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


“Raw” Rob Kelly totally rocking the raw, December pre-winter conditions. Photo: Donald Cresitello


Rob Kelly, Team Gesler. Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


Few walkers on the snow covered boards this day in Asbury Park, NJ. Photo: Donald Cresitello


A puled back view of Clay Pollioni’s now legendary pit. Photo: Andreea Waters


A close up view of Clay MVP-ollioni’s big, fat freakin’ check for his star performance. Photo: Ben Currie


Clay Pollioni and Cold War master portraitist, Rich Mc Mullin making photos, not just taking them. Photo :Andreea Waters


The Cold War 2 crowd- a little L.L. Bean meets working class, suburban Shore street grit.Photo: Donald Cresitello


The Jersey Beast, Mike Gleason hanging out in his favorite cave. Photo: Tim Torchia


You can touch him but not til after he surfs his heat- dude is dead serious before he hit’s the water during a comp but he’s actually pretty damn friendly and accommodating just not until he clubs his opponent into submission that is. The Beast, last years MVP  out of his cage and all smiles after a big win.Photo: Rich Mc Mullin


Simon Hetrick. Photo: Donald Cresitello


Co-event director, Rob Cloupe. Photo: Ben Currie


Sam and Ges hug it out as Andrew whispers in his old friend and competition nemisis’s ear, “Take a good look at that check with my name on it Sam, now let’s go have a couple of rounds on me and better luck next year”. Photo: Donald Cresitello

2017 Cold war Results:

MVP: Clay Pollioni, $1,000

Winner: Team Gesler, $1,000 each

  1. Travis Beckmann
  2. Mike Gleason
  3. Andrew Gesler
  4. Rob Kelly
  5. Ben Mc Brien
  6. Clay Pollioni
  7. Brendan Tighe
  8. Randy Townsend