OCEAN CITY - Nick Bricker, of Ocean City, started the Chip Miller Surf Fest in hopes of raising awareness and a couple hundred dollars toward amyloidosis research.
Never did he imagine it would transform into a major event that people would mark on their calendars.
"The first one we did, it was just one tent," Bricker, 41, said in an interview Thursday. "I started this thing wanting to give a couple bucks back and try to raise awareness and every year it just gets bigger and bigger."
Amyloidosis is a rare disease that manifests when amyloid proteins deposit and accumulate in the body's organs and tissues. This accumulation may happen systemically (throughout the body) or locally (in one tissue).
In March 2004, Chip Miller passed away from the disease, and family and friends were not surprised when Bricker decided to spearhead the Surf Fest in honor of a man he knew as a dear friend and a second father.
"I said (to Bricker), 'I'll support you 1000 percent.' I didn't even hesitate," said Lance Miller, son of Chip Miller. "We are just so pumped and humbled by everyone who comes out to support this.
"You are seeing more and more families spread the word. There are people that drive all the way down from Pennsylvania and people that plan their trip (to the shore) around this event."
The first Surf Fest was one-tenth the size that it is today.
But, over the years, Bricker has been able to reach out to local sponsors such as Surfer Supplies, Rose Cafe and other local business that have donated gift certificates for the winners and free items for the children.
Along with the local sponsors, companies such as Oakley, Nike, Fox Deluxe, and O'Neill have set up tents on the beach to support the Surf Fest.
"(Bricker) is the most incredible organizer I could ever imagine," said Joe Keenan, a good friend of the Miller family. "He knows so many people in the (surfing) industry and he has such a good heart."
The event also included a miniature golf tournament and an after-party at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point.
Every year, surfers from New Jersey stop by to put on a show for the massive group of spectators that have come to support the cause.
"We've seen growth every year so we've been really fortunate," said Miller. "It has just grown into such a success and we never think we will ever be able to out do ourselves and yet, every year, we do."
The past eight years, the ocean has not cooperated with the timing of the surf fest, but this year, surfers at the 7th Street Beach were blessed with massive waves that would come frequently, so they had plenty of opportunity to put on a show for the crowd.
Ventnor's Cassidy McClain, 17, repeated as the women's winner and placed fifth in the junior men's final. Mikey Vanaman, of Ocean City, who took first in the groms and boys divisions last year, placed second in groms and third in boys this year.
Sean Santiago won the men's division and Ron Collins took first in the master's division with Lance Miller taking second.
Robert Dephillipo showed impressive tricks on the water and earned a first place in the boys final while Jimmy Naplasic won the longboard division.
Next year is the 10th anniversary of the Chip Miller Surf Fest and Miller commented that "(Bricker) has a lot of ideas but we will definitely do something big."
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