A major surfing competition returns to Atlantic City this weekend when more than 100 amateurs will compete in the Under Armour Surfing America Prime East event on Saturday and Sunday.
Atlantic City has a rich surfing history, from Duke Kahanamoku's demonstrations at the Steel Pier in 1916, to the city hosting the best surfers in the world at the OP Pro East in 1983 and the Heritage Rip Curl Pro in 2004.
But this East Prime event is bringing top-caliber surfing back to Atlantic City.
The contest will start at 7 a.m. each day on the beach in front of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and next to The Pier at Caesars. It will feature five divisions: Boys Under 14, Boys Under 16, Boys Under 18, Girls Under 16 and Girls Under 18.
Maddie Peterson, 13, of Wildwood will be a favorite local in the Girls Under 16 contest. Other locals to watch include:
n Ocean City's Mikey Vanaman, 11, who took a pair of titles at the Chip Miller Surf Fest in July;
n Longport's Perry Siganos, 15, who won his division at the Dean Randazzo Surf for a Cause in September;
n and Longport's Greg Osborne, 13, who aced the Superheat at the recent Absecon Island Surfing Championships.
They will have their hands full with surfers such as Luke Marks, 13, of Melbourne, Fla., who already has competed at the national level.
"My goal was to get a top-rated surf contest back to Atlantic City," said Atlantic City Surf Club CEO Tom Forkin, "to give our kids an opportunity to surf against some of the best competitors on the East Coast."
Forkin grew up locally and surfed on the U.S. national team in 1983 and 1984. Many of his former teammates are now players in the surf industry. For years, Forkin has lobbied Surfing America to bring an event back to Atlantic City.
"We met with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority," said Surfing America's Greg Cruse in a phone interview from the organization's headquarters in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. "The city has been nothing but helpful and encouraging."
The surf contest is part of the CRDA's plan to market Atlantic City for its free beaches and waves - something other gaming destinations don't offer.
Surfing America sees Atlantic City as a fantastic venue, with not only things to do, but it's easily accessible for traveling surfers due to the resort's proximity to Philadelphia and New York.
The Prime East contests are relatively new. While the Association of Surfing Professionals is the governing body of professional surfing, the International Surfing Association handles that responsibility on the amateur level.
For several years, surfing's amateur ranks in the U.S. were disjointed. The former body, known as the United States Surfing Federation, was underfunded and the U.S. team didn't achieve its potential.
In 2005, the ISA recognized Surfing America as the governing body for amateur surfing in the U.S. With the support of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, Surfing America sought to reign in the different organizations and get them all under one roof to effectively grow domestic talent. The events are run under the same format and judging criteria as the ASP, so surfers are better prepared when they move up to the Junior Pro level.
There will be two more Prime East events early in 2012, one in Florida and one in North Carolina. East Coasters are eligible to also surf in any of the California events. However, West Coasters are not permitted to compete on the East Coast.
The top surfers this weekend will advance to the Quiksilver U.S. Surfing Championships in California next summer. Those who do well on the West Coast will earn spots on the Pac Sun U.S. Surf Team. That team will compete in Panama at the ISA Junior World Games from April 14-22, 2012.
Forkin, who lives in Atlantic City, will help coordinate this weekend. The Atlantic City Surfing Club is also in the process of bringing an ASP Junior Pro competition to Atlantic City, as well as an ASP Masters contest for 2012.
The Atlantic Surfing Federation will also host an event in Atlantic City this weekend with divisions for adults and juniors. Both contests are free to spectators. The Prime East contest can also be watched via live webcast at Surfingamerica.org.