Tom Forkin wants to see Atlantic City become the surfing destination resort it was in the early 1990s.
The Atlantic City Surf School and Club director says the city should utilize its unique aspects to draw surfers and competition organizers to the area.
His vision will start to take shape on Oct. 14-16, when the A.C. Surf School joins Caesars Entertainment Corp. to host the Nike 6.0 Surfing America Prime East competition.
The event will take place on the beach on the south side of The Pier at Caesars.
Some of the East Coast's top amateur surfers 18 years old and younger will compete Oct. 14-15.
The Atlantic Surfing Federation, which qualifies age-division surfers for the U.S. Championships, will hold its inaugural contest on Oct. 16.
The event also will give young local surfers a chance to test their skills.
"It's going to raise the bar (for competitive surfing in Atlantic City) tremendously," Forkin said. "You're going to have the best amateur surfers in the country right here in Atlantic City. Our surfers will get to surf against them at home."
This won't be the first time a surf contest was held near The Pier. In 2008, the Red Bull Night Riders evening competition drew 28 surfers and hundreds of spectators.
Greg Cruse, director of Surfing America - the governing body of amateur surfing in the U.S. - called Atlantic City a natural choice for the event site.
Cruse cited Atlantic City's amenities, possibility for good surf, proximity to an airport with reasonable airfare and city-wide support as factors in Surfing America's decision. He lives in Orange County, Calif., and flew out to survey the area in April and August with USA Surf Team coach Ian Cairns.
"There's more to do than just surf, which makes it an event that competitors are more likely to come to because they can turn it into a weekend for the family," Cruse said.
Cruse said event organizers expect to fill a fixed field of 112 surfers. With families and other spectators, he estimates a few thousand people at the beach.
The Prime Series event is a potential precursor to an even bigger surfing competition in Atlantic City. Forkin noted that there is an Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) event planned for fall 2012 at the same site.
ASP North America executive manager Meg Bernardo, an old friend of Forkin's, visited Atlantic City to scope out the area and was pleased. Forkin said ASP plans to host a Masters event (ages 36-and-up) coupled with a Junior (21-and-under) event. He also listed Kelly Slater and Mark Richards as possible competitors.
"What she saw, she loved," Forkin said. "There's no other venue in the world where you can sit in a gourmet restaurant on The Pier at Caesars and watch some of the best surfers compete."
The Prime Series has become a stepping stone for amateur surfers to break into the ASP Junior tour. Regulations of Prime events are designed to prepare younger surfers for the demands of professional competition.
Unlike many other amateur competitions, Prime Series events have the same ASP-certified judges, computer scoring system and announcers as professional contests. They also use four-men, 20-minute heats, as opposed to the 6-men, 15-minute heats used in most amateur events.
"What we've done is mirrored the setup of professional events. By surfing to the same judging criteria in the same format, it prepares them for the next step," Cruse said.
The Prime Series kick-starts the careers of young surfers. Forkin wants to see it do the same for surfing in Atlantic City.
The process begins next month.
"We're looking forward to kicking that sequence of events in motion," he said.
Contact Brittany Grugan:
Nike 6.0 Surfing America Prime East
When: Oct. 14-15
Where: On the beach next to the Pier at Caesars