ATLANTIC CITY - Maddie Peterson hoped for some bigger waves at Saturday's Surfing America Prime Series East contest on Revel Beach.

"I try to really show people that there are good waves here because no one thinks that there are waves here," the 14-year-old surfer from Wildwood Crest said with a laugh. "But every time people come here, there are no waves. But we'll show them (eventually)."

Saturday's waves were good enough, though, as dozens of youth surfers from along the East Coast competed in a qualifier for the USA Championships.

"(The waves) are small but fun," Surfing America executive director Greg Cruse said. "They're surfable. You can definitely determine who the better surfer is on these waves. It's not epic, but it's definitely good for a surf contest. It can get really good here this time of year, so it's not the best conditions that you can have here, but it's fine."

The event was originally scheduled to continue today, but Cruse said the wave forecast was not favorable so they finished the contest on Saturday.

Peterson finished second in the girls under-16 and under-18 categories (Complete results on B7).

This is the second year for the event in Atlantic City. Last year it was next to The Pier at Caesars.

Surfing America holds three Prime Series East events each season, with the top 50 percent of competitors qualifying for the USA Championships based on their two best scores. Surfers qualify for the Prime Series events through regional contests sanctioned by the National Scholastic Surfing Association and Atlantic Surfing Federation.

At the USA Championships, which will be in Lower Trestles, Calif., next June, surfers can make the PacSun USA Surf team. Peterson became the first New Jersey resident ever to make the team when she finished fourth at last season's USA Championships this past summer.

Saturday was the first Prime Series event of the 2012-13 season, and in her first heat Peterson earned 10 points - a six and a four.

"I think maybe some of her local knowledge might have paid off," said Ryan Simmons, the PacSun USA Surf Team coach.

Peterson is home-schooled as she travels to various events around the country, so sleeping in her own bed this weekend was a treat.

"All my friends (from other states) are like, 'Where are you staying?' " she said. "I'm like, 'I'm staying at home.' It's actually really nice because I never get to stay here and have a (major) contest."

Prime Series events have pro-style computer scoring with judges from the Association of Surfing Professionals. At most events, they set up scaffolding on the beach, but the Garden Pier provided the perfect elevation for the judges Saturday. Simmons provided play-by-play over the loudspeakers.

"It's different (from smaller events)," said Salters McClary, of Pawley's Island, S.C., whose 13-year-old daughter, Emory, competed. "The way they do the scoring and everything, they just do a super job."

Ten-year-old Rachel Presti of Melbourne Beach, Fla., competes almost every weekend. Her 8-year-old sister, Audrey, watched from underneath a towel to stay warm on the chilly Saturday morning. Their mother, Miriam, took pictures of the action. And for Rachel's father, Tony, it was an opportunity for family and friends to see his daughter surf - he is from Elmwood Park, Bergen County, but moved to Florida about 20 years ago.

"It's kind of nice because everybody keeps seeing her online, but they've never seen her surf in person, so they were all, like, stoked to come down and watch her surf in person," Tony Presti said.

While the Presti family was at last year's Atlantic City event, 10-year-old Tommy Coleman of Vero Beach, Fla., was there for the first time. His grandfather, Jim Anderson, said he was enjoying the city.

"I was impressed with the Boardwalk," Anderson said. "I've never been up here before."

He likely will have a chance to come back. Cruse, the Surfing America executive director, said he expects not only for Atlantic City to become an annual stop for the Prime Series, but also for a stand-up paddleboard contest to be added next year.

"I love the venue," Cruse said. "It's easy to get into. It's central to a lot of our surfers that generally have to travel to Florida to surf in competitions, the major ones. It's family friendly. There are lots of hotels, places to eat, things to do. So if you're going to travel to a surf contest, it's nice that mom and dad can go to the casino or go out to a nice dinner or what have you.

"It's just a perfect venue. It's great."

Contact Jason Mazda:

609-272-7193