BELMAR — More than 150 surfers from around the world competed from Thursday through today in the Foster’s Belmar Pro and South Jersey’s entrants had a very big final day.
Dean Randazzo, 43, of Somers Point, won the Masters Division and 14-year-old Maddie Peterson, of Wildwood, took second in the Hannah Women’s Pro.
The big story of the men’s Pro was that three of the eight semifinalists — Rob Kelly, 22, Michael Ciaramella, 18, and Randazzo — were South Jersey locals. It was the best overall showing for New Jersey surfers in the nine-year-history of the event.
Randazzo had a convincing win in the round of 32. He chose to sit off the south jetty at Belmar’s 18th Avenue, but the waves he awaited never materialized. He then paddled north toward the other competitors at the last minute, where he picked off two waves on his forehand, displaying the kind of power surfing he is known for to advance. He tried the same strategy in the semis but couldn’t find a wave to open up.
“I saw waves over there and wanted to stick to that strategy, but sometimes it just goes that way,” he said.
In that heat, Kalani David, 14, of Hawaii busted a massive air reverse to advance, along with Evan Thompson of Florida. Thompson, 20, had been excellent in both the Pro and Fin’s Junior Pro heats.
In the following heat, however, the tide rebounded and the rights got better for Ciaramella and Kelly.
“That’s how it works sometimes,” Kelly said. “One heat will be really slow and then the swell will pump for the next heat. It’s still tough with the walled-out conditions, so you have to just get off the bottom and make the turn count.”
The two locals were thwarted, however, as Micheal Dunphy of Virginia and Mark Dawson of North Carolina went to the final. Dunphy went on to repeat his Belmar title from 2012. It was still Kelly’s best-ever Belmar result.
It was Ciaramella’s best pro result to date, too. Without a seed, he had to surf six times from the round of 80, impressing the judges each time with progressive surfing on his backhand. He struggled early in the semis, but in the closing minutes got off two big forehand hits for a 6.07.
“It was kind of a situation where whoever happened to be in position when the best wave came through was going to get it,” Ciaramella said. “Dunphy got that one long one and I didn’t really get that wave until there was a minute left.”
Ciaramella will leave Tuesday to start his freshman year at University of California San Diego.
Peterson, the 14-year-old from Wildwood, competed at Belmar for the second time, and she surfed extremely well this morning, beating Casey Kwiecinski of Bradley Beach and Caroline Duerr of Manasquan in the Hannah Women’s Pro semifinals.
Surfing the rights on her backhand, she took a commanding lead in the final with a 6.77 and a 5.23. But shortly before the horn, 16-year-old Nikki Viesins caught the wave of the final and posted an event-high score of 9.33 to win 15.83-12.
“I surfed here two years ago and I didn’t do very well, but I’ve been training. I made the U.S. team and I’ve been working with the coach and I feel like I’m progressing,” she said. There’s waves and we’re blessed to have everything come together today.”
The Masters event started Saturday with some extra buzz due to the presence of Reno Abellira, 52, and Buttons Kaluhiokalani, 53, two legends of the sport from Hawaii.
They surfed well in both the 8Eighty Longboard Pro and the Masters Pro, but in the end it was some of the same guys who dominated the pro —Matt Keenan and Randazzo — who made the finals, along with Juan Ashton of Puerto Rico and Jeff Myers of North Carolina. Randazzo was back in his power surfing form for that final and held off Ashton for the win.
Tony Silvagni, 25, of North Carolina won his fourth Belmar Longboard title over tough Californians Steve Newton, 28, and World Longboard champ Taylor Jensen, 25. Knox Harris, 17, edged out Evan Thompson in the Fins Pro Junior final.