ATLANTIC CITY — Sure, the National Weather Service said the ocean water temperature was 6 degrees above freezing at 10 a.m., and the air not much warmer than that. Do you think that was going to stop a bunch of surfers?

You must be joking.

Saturday morning, 70 people surfed the waves off Steel Pier, looking to raise money for the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation.

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They were participating in the fifth Freeze For A Cause, which the organization said expected to raise at least $2,000. It was a large turnout, organizer Paul Guinta said, since previous events never drew more than 30 people.

Atlantic City police allowed a couple of dozen dozen cars and trucks to park on the beach, and beachfront crowds were relatively large for the winter.

“It’s unbelievable,” Guinta said on the beach. “The support from the surfing community is just overwhelmingly positive.”

The Somers Point-based foundation raised about $100,000 in 2012, according to its most recent tax return. It spent $86,300, mostly on medical assistance for South Jersey residents and grants to similar charities. It was founded in 2001 when Randazzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. Randazzo, a professional surfer originally from Atlantic City, has fought off the disease four times, while still surfing professionally.

And if you put on a wetsuit, Guinta explained, it wasn’t that bad out. “I was surfing this morning, and I was actually sweating.”

Out on the beach, Christian Perez, 17, of Manahawkin, Stafford Township, paddled out with five others for a go at the waves. His parents, Mike and Annette Perez, watched from the shore.

The weather was about as perfect as it could be for a late-February day on the beach. It was sunny and warm, unlike in recent weeks. And instead of a flat, glassy sea, a storm the previous night had stirred the waves into action.

Christian Perez has surfed for about nine years, his parents said, and has done the Freeze For A Cause the past two. Family and friends watched as Perez, wearing a full-length wetsuit, cut back and forth through well-formed 3- to 5-foot waves.

“It’s fun,” he said when he finally paddled back onshore. “I was doing waist-high sets — chest-high” he said, when a friend corrected him.

His friend, Brian Aji, 16, of Ship Bottom, had similar thoughts. Aji went out in the first round of surfers.

“It was fun,“ he said. “I caught a lot of good waves.”

How was the water?

“Oh, really cold,” Perez said, his wet face turning a lurid mix of red and purple. “I’m actually really hot in this wetsuit.”

Why jump in when it’s so cold?

“You know what?” Perez asked. “To do it for a cause. To help people.”

Contact Derek Harper:


@dnharper on Twitter


More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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