LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP - The Long Beach Island Longboard Classic was created to celebrate classic surfboards. But it has become more of a celebration of LBI's classic surfboard riders.
About 60 surfers competed on original surfboards from the 1960s in the second-year event Saturday in Haven Beach. The throwback surf contest, complete with live surf music by the Diamondheads, also featured an environmental fair with eco-minded organizations.
"We more than doubled the attendance and the number of participants," said Tom Beatty, president of the local environmental group Alliance for a Living Ocean (ALO) and owner of Wooden Jetty Surf Shop in Beach Haven, which sponsored the event. "Plus, we raised over $3,000 for ALO."
Part of the allure of this contest was the gathering of LBI's surfing community - especially the surfers who shaped the island's surf scene in decades past. Randy Budd, Bill DeWitt, Kemp Kane, Dawson Smith, Jesse Frack and Jack Ryan still continue to impress on the vintage gear.
The Nugent family, of the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Township, is a perfect example. Bob Nugent, 58, owner of Ship Bottom Shellfish in Ship Bottom, not only found long clean lefts but also watched his 16-year-old son, Dane, surf to the finals.
Bob's brother, Ron Nugent, 54, now lives with his wife and two children in San Diego, but he surfed to the semifinal, and his son Ray took second place in the juniors division.
"This is 10 times more fun than most of the shortboard contests I do," Dane Nugent said. "My dad has a collection of all these longboards in the garage, so there's always something to ride when (another board) gets small."
Last year's event was graced with overhead waves. And while it made for an exciting day, the conditions were very challenging on the old equipment, especially considering the contest rule that bans surfboard leashes.
On Saturday, the top waves were 2 to 3 feet, very consistent, and the wind remained light all day. The swell improved with the rising tide. They were ideal conditions for this type of event.
By the time the men's final started, the increasing pulse of swell from Tropical Storm Colin, which is east of Florida and moving northward, was evident. The rising tide pushed the waves up on the sandbar and made for a reform on the inside.
The men's final started out as a battle between Jared Temple, 22, of Beach Haven and Kurt Schibner, 23, of Woodland Township. They had dominated the early rounds.
But Alex King, 27, of Spring Lake pulled out a variety of old-school maneuvers to steal the day. He took off on a right and immediately cross-stepped to the nose, backed off, went back to the nose and then performed a coffin (laying down on his back on the board) and stood up again, right before hitting the sand.
"My friend Dave Hough and I wanted to surf this event last year, but we were chasing that hurricane surf," King said. "Actually, I haven't surfed in a month. I've been living in New York City. This event was great. The band was a super addition.
"And the surf just got better all day long. I thought the shorebreak was where it was at in the finals. You could really hook into it."
James Contreras of Point Pleasant Beach took second place, followed by Temple, Schibner, Dane Nugent and Mike Dancha of Surf City.
Sisters Kim Kepich, 20, and Jill Kepich, 17, both of Millstone, took first and second, respectively, in the women's division. They rode boards borrowed from their uncle, Vito DeFranza, a legendary central New Jersey surfer himself. Last year's champ, Alexis Brooke, 26, of Maple Shade, took third. The Kepich sisters also stole the tandem division, in which two surfers ride the same board, turning it into a virtual circus act.
In his first-ever event, 14-year-old Bruce Mogavero, of the Haven Beach section of Long Beach Township, found the best waves to win the juniors. He is a regular at the 110th Street beach, where the contest was held. Ray Nugent, 15, of San Diego, took second with a noseriding style that was far beyond his age.
Mike Brennan, 17, of Cranbury, won the skimboard contest. Tom Forkin, 47, of Toms River, aced the paddleboard race. Long Beach Township's Kevin Budd, 13, who finished in the top three of the junior, paddleboard and skim, received the Ironman award.