Two years ago, a 40-year-old Dean Randazzo won the Ron Jon Masters of Pro Surfing event at Sebastian Inlet, Fla. Actually, he dominated everyone in the 40-and-over event.
The Somers Point resident had been hesitant about competing in such contests. He was still competing against teenagers in very competitive pro events and didn't want to get pigeonholed as the "old guy."
Representing the United States at the International Surfing Association World Masters Championship was too good an opportunity to pass up, though. Randazzo will surf for the U.S. team for the second year in a row at the over-35 event that starts Saturday in Nicaragua.
Randazzo finished fifth at last year's event in El Salvador.
"We had Jim Hogan and Tom Curren on the team," Randazzo said Tuesday on the beach in Atlantic City. "They had been top guys on the (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Tour. Curren won the world title three times. People are now putting a lot of value on these events, and countries are sending their top surfers."
The Americans won five individual medals and the team gold last year. Randazzo went on a tear, winning every heat until the semifinal.
"Unfortunately, the ocean went flat and my competition sat on me, so I couldn't get the wave to advance to the final," he said.
But Randazzo will look for redemption starting Saturday. The event runs through July 22.
"This year it's at a spot called Colorados," he said. "It's big and powerful and more my style of wave."
This year's U.S. team again will include Curren, who at 48 recently made a few heats at the Copa Quiksilver event in El Salvador, where the field also included his two sons. Hogan also will be back, along with Alan Sarlo, an original surfer/skater from the legendary Dogtown group. A new addition to the team will be Florida's Shea Lopez, a 10-year ASP World Tour veteran, and Hans Hagen of California.
"I have to admit a feeling of nostalgia coming full-circle from my amateur years on the U.S. and (National Scholastic Surfing Association) national teams," Hagen said in a press release. "If Mother Nature greets us with an open hand, Colorado Beach could potentially be a full barrel-fest. I look forward to re-sampling this world-class beachbreak and escaping from the Southern California summer doldrums."
But the U.S. team won't be the only one stacked with legendary talent. Former Pipeline Masters winner Robbie Page is surfing for Australia. Five-time Hawaiian Triple Crown winner Sunny Garcia will surf for Hawaii, which has a separate team.
Randazzo was the first surfer from New Jersey to compete on the elite Men's ASP World Tour. His career was stunted when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2001, but he won four battles with cancer in the ensuing decade. Each time, he returned to top competitive form. He also started the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation to help others struggling with the disease.
This summer, Randazzo and Tom Forkin opened Inlet Surf, a full-service shop for surfing and stand-up paddleboarding in Gardner's Basin in Atlantic City. Randazzo is fully entrenched in the Dean Randazzo Surf Camp, part of the Atlantic City Surf Club, where he is not only teaching beginners' classes but also working on fundamentals for surfers looking to improve.
"He's an old friend who I've known since he was coming up," said Forkin, the longtime directors of the A.C. Surf Club. "I'm excited for him to be competing and get an opportunity to come back into his own."
Randazzo is surfing for Hyperflex Wetsuits and recently picked up support from Fox apparel and the Beach Shack hotel/restaurant in Cape May. He also will compete in the East Coast Surfing Championships this August, plus the Belmar Pro and Outer Banks Pro in September.