OCEAN CITY - Mark Schloesser initially wasn't interested in putting his "Superman" board shorts and pink rash guard to the test Wednesday morning on the beach between 14th and 15th streets.
Despite coaxing from world-class surfer Rob Machado and his father, John, the 3-year-old from Lawrenceville remained rooted to the sand instead of climbing onto a long board during Hurley's Rip My Shred Stick Tour stop.
Finally, pro surfer Andrew Gesler came up with the solution. The Ocean City native got Mark to lay on a short board in the sand, then toted both the toddler and the board into knee-deep water, guided him onto a wave, and watched a frown turn into a wide smile.
"It's great to work with little guys like that," Gesler said. "The biggest thing is to get them over that initial fear. Once they get past that, they really start to enjoy themselves."
John and Alexis Schloesser brought their three children - Mark, Ryan, 7, and Jack, 12, - to Ocean City's beach Wednesday to participate in a noncompetitive surfing contest designed to stress the fun aspect of the sport.
Sixty aspiring surfers ranging in age from 3 to 16 rode 3-foot high waves while Hurley-sponsored pro surfers such as Gesler, Machado and Aamion Goodwin provided advice and guidance.
Machado, 39, is considered among the best surfers in the world. For kids to get lessons from him was akin to a Little Leaguer receiving batting tips from Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, a Millville native who was last season's American League Rookie of the Year.
Between heats, parents and kids posed for photos and videos with Machado, who was born in Australia but grew up and still lives in San Diego.
Machado arrived at Ocean City on Tuesday night after a three-country surfing adventure that featured stops in Japan, Mexico and Nicaragua. He caught a flight from Managua, Nicaragua.
"It's cool being out here with all the kids," said Machado, who used to compete on the Association of Surfing Professionals tour but now stars in surfing movies. "It's all about having fun and that's why I started surfing in the first place, and why I do it now. I competed for about 15 years and now I just do it for fun again. It's like I've come full circle."
Gesler, 29, was teaching groms (young surfers) in the same waves where he learned to surf.
Gesler, who now owns a production company called Dark Fall with Margate's Alex DePhillipo, grew up on North Street in Ocean City.
"My uncle bought me my first surfboard when I was 10, but I had been standing up on boogie boards since I was in diapers," Gesler said with a laugh. "I really enjoy working with Hurley, riding their bus up and down the East Coast, and sharing the same New Jersey waves I surfed when I was a kid."
Wednesday's Ocean City event was one of 23 stops on this year's Rip My Shred Stick Tour. They started in California and also visited Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The tour will stop in Point Pleasant Beach today and in Ship Bottom on Saturday before continuing to Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Michigan. The final event will be July 20 in Costa Rica.
Every event is open to surfers aged 3 to 16 and no experience is necessary. Heats are judged, but the focus is toward the level of fun a surfer is having rather than their technique.
Wipeouts are scored just as high as verticals if the surfer smiles.
Thus, Mark Schloesser received impressive marks for the way he grinned as he rode his first wave.
"I've been surfing since I was 8 or 9 and I'm 41 now," John Schloesser said. "I want my kids to have the same experience."
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