SHIP BOTTOM - Amid the mix of children paddling and soft-top surfboards littering the tiny waves at the 29th Street Beach, Australian surfer Adrian "Ace" Buchan sped down a 2-foot line and slashed a big off-the-top move on Tuesday.
Buchan, 28, from New South Wales, is currently ranked 17th on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour. But he still remembers how much fun it was to learn to surf.
"I reckon it's a great event," Buchan said of the Hurley Rip My Shred Stick contest held on the beach. "To see a kid's face light up is just amazing. I really enjoy it."
At the start of summer, Hurley sent various pro surfers on a tour covering Puerto Rico, the East Coast, the Great Lakes and California.
At each event, the surfing apparel company runs a very low-key contest with an emphasis on fun, for under-17 surfers. International surf pros get in the water and surf with the kids, encouraging them, and even pushing them into waves.
The contest allows young surfers to ride the boards of their heroes. And while some of the pros' own "sticks" were there, the kids could choose from a selection of high performance boards, small-wave riders, fun shapes - even a handful of boards shaped by Hurley's founder, Bob Hurley.
There are no divisions and the emphasis is on having fun with iconic waveriders.
On Monday, the Hurley tour stopped in Sea Isle City. On Tuesday, it stopped in Ship Bottom and more than 50 kids came out at each location. Tuesday's contest began at 9 a.m. with clean 1- to 2-foot waves during low tide - perfect for an event of this nature.
Trevor Gilman, 13, of Harvey Cedars, was excited to be in the water with the pros
In addition to Buchan, other pros included Brett Simpson, 26, of Huntington Beach, Calif., who won the US Open in 2009 and 2010, and Ocean City's Andrew Gesler.
"Brett Simpson surfs so fast and he was hitting his turns really hard," said Gilman. "It's not like your average day of surfing."
In between rounds, a Slip N' Slide was set up on the beach and sprayed with soap, as all the kids on the beach took turns sliding toward the ocean. The rest of the Hurley crew took turns on the mic, judging, coaching and tabulating scores.
Greg Osborne, 11, whose family splits time between Longport and Philadelphia, surfed in both events and was the big winner on Tuesday.
"I know Ace is from Australia and Brett won the US Open, so it was really cool watching them surf in person, seeing how well they surf little waves," he said.
Margate's Pat McCaron, 14, took second place.
After being declared the winner at the Sea Isle event on Monday, Ventnor's Cassidy McClain traveled up to Long Beach Island and took third place.
"The Hurley guys are just really a fun group to work with," the 16-year-old said. "This is a contest I would love to do again, but I'm turning 17 next year."
In the afternoon, the competitors and Hurley team all gathered at Farias Surf and Sport in Ship Bottom for a picnic and to watch video and photos of the day.
"It's great that the town of Ship Bottom works with us," said shop owner Brian Farias, 32, of Brant Beach, "and the lifeguards are great. This helps to kick off the summer. We love hosting family-friendly events that bring over a hundred people to Ship Bottom on a Tuesday morning."