BEACH HAVEN - Challenging conditions and small waves didn't stop some of the area's best female surfers from competing in the fifth annual Jetty Coquina Jam at the Taylor Avenue beach Saturday.
Thirty-two competitors took part in the all-female event, which is sponsored by Long Beach Island-based apparel company Jetty.
During the last five years, it has become a local tradition and a fundraiser for David's Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, with the money specifically going to local families dealing with breast cancer.
In keeping with Jetty's tradition of community events, the Jam is a team event pairing up a competitor younger than 26 with a surfer 26 or older. Longboards and shortboards surf together and judges award for skill in each.
The 16-team format is designed to bring the generations together and give younger females exposure to women who surf beyond their teens as they move into careers and families.
The surf was in the 1- to 2-foot- range with offshore winds all day, providing a few waist-high bowls. Conditions got very challenging with the midday low tide. There was a brief pulse as the tide came back in, but the swell waned by the finals.
Selena Moberly, 16 of Montauk, N.Y., and Brittany Gomulka, 26, of Toms River, won the title.
Moberly is an up-and-coming East Coast talent who surfs for Jetty and made the four-hour ride south to compete. Gomulka is a 12-year veteran of the Seaside Park Beach Patrol.
They faced off against Taylar Herman, 15, and Beth Mann, 46, of Ship Bottom in the final.
"This was my first time in the event. I think it's so cool to have so many women of all ages," said Herman, whose family splits time between Beach Haven and Wilmington, N.C. Her brother and father are both year-round surfers and Herman is keeping with the family tradition.
Mann runs a creative consulting business, Hot Buttered Media. She still surfs every day six months of the year.
"It's cool how she's got her own independent business and she keeps surfing. She surfed awesome today," said Herman of Mann.
Mann surfed the very first Jetty Coquina Jam and thoroughly enjoyed this event. She chuckled at the idea that she's a role model for Herman.
"She's been the role model for me today," laughed the local. "She was so competitive and kept me fired up. That's why we did so well."
The tightest heat of the day came down to a semifinal pitting Gomulka and Moberly against Jamie DeWitt, 30 and Kate Mesanko, 23 of Galloway. DeWitt grew up in Beach Haven, just blocks from the site of the event. She dominated local Eastern Surfing Association and National Scholastic Surfing Association events growing up and did well in pro events before leaving the competitive scene for five years.
In the last several years, she has collected several wins at the Fosters Belmar Pro and currently rides for Jetty. Now living in Florida and working as a bartender, she surfs and travels as much as possible. She returned home to surf this event and run the Youth Surf Clinic held immediately after the Coquina Awards Ceremony.
"When I was growing up here, I surfed with all boys," she remembered, "Even 10 years ago, before I left, there were only a couple girls in the water. Now there are just as many girls as guys in the water on some days in the summer."
Moberly, a goofyfoot or someone who surfs with their right foot forward, managed a solid frontside pocket turn in the heat. DeWitt was the only surfer all day to get off multiple turns on the small waves. Moberly and Gomulka took the close heat by a score of 13.5 to 12.25.
Gomulka, who stayed busy all day, finding little rights, really came alive in the final against Mann and Herman, posting a 6.5 (of a possible 10) that turned out to be the highest score of the event.
"It's really all about having a good time whether it's a contest or not," said Gomulka, "Surfing is something I've done all my life and I'll never stop. I really respect all that Jetty has done since Sandy. Any kind of support for the bigger community like that is really admirable."
This year's Jam raised more than $7,500 for the cancer foundation through sponsorships and raffles.
Since Hurricane Sandy, Jetty has also donated more than $300,000 from the sales of Unite Rebuild shirts, hats and sweatshirts.