LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — The original forecast for the Jetty Coquina Jam looked a bit dicey with Tuesday’s storm pulling away from the New Jersey coast.
There was wild swell forecasted with north winds and choppy conditions.
But luck favored the 16 two-person teams at this all-female surf event on 68th Street in the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Township.
The winds went northwest on Wednesday morning, perfectly grooming the surf all day for the evening event.
Four teams — Mary Frack, 56, of Barnegat, and Taylor Herman, 13, of Beach Haven; Allie Panetta, 22, of Ship Bottom, and Nicole Schmidt, 26, of Manahawkin; Debbie Green, 30, of Philadelphia and Cory DeStafano, 19, of Manahawkin; Kim Kepich, 19, of Millstone and Jessica Johnson, 39, of Beach Haven Terrace — will compete for the Coquina Jam trophy at Jetty’s marquis LBI event, the Clam Jam, in October.
For most of the competitors, the Coquina Jam is the only contest they have ever surfed.
Jetty, a surfing clothing company, started this tradition last year, after the growth of the Clam Jam inspired the idea for an all-female contest. The enthusiasm made it clear that the women needed their own event.
Like the Clam Jam, the teams are chosen at random, pairing one older surfer with a younger counterpart. The teams are then set up in NCAA-style brackets. In keeping with the tradition of both contests, fresh clams were served on the beach.
Jetty ran the first Coquina Jam in 2009 in Harvey Cedars. Unfortunately, Hudson Avenue, the break that has hosted countless events since the 1960s, was eradicated by a beachfill project earlier this year. The event found a new home at 68th Street in Brant Beach.
The waves were very good Wednesday. The strong low-pressure system that moved out Tuesday produced waves in the 2- to 4-foot range with offshore winds.
Green won this event last year with 24-year-old Christina Claps, of Toms River. Though she lives in Philadelphia, Green gets down to LBI for nearly every swell all year. Teamed with DeStafano, Green pushed the limits, picking off set waves on her backhand, grabbing her rail and looking for quick barrels.
“I think there is a noticeable improvement in the surfing from last year,” Green said. “You see girls making friends and surfing together all over the island. And then they came out this year to beat their friends.”
Kepich put up the highest numbers, notching a 6.5 for a layback snap and a 7.5 for connecting several turns and cutbacks.
The Frack/Herman team represented the spirit of this event. Frack is the oldest surfer and Herman is the youngest. Frack, who started surfing in 1965, picked off some shoulder-high waves and rode them all the way to the inside.
“This brings us some notoriety,” Frack said. “Back in the day, they would have a men’s contest and the winner won $100, a full wetsuit and a bunch of other cool stuff. Whoever won the women’s division got a vest.”
“Mary pulled us through,” Herman said. “I was nervous and she calmed me down. She told me to just surf like we do for fun together at Holyoke Avenue (in Beach Haven.)
Other standouts of the evening included Schmidt, Kali Park, Prairie Rugilio, Cherly Syminink and Carly Cappeluzzo.
The Coquina Jam also serves as a fundraiser and raised more than $1,000 for Boarding 4 Breast Cancer, a nonprofit group of females involved in board sports that raises research money and awareness for Breast Cancer.
The overall winner will be decided at the Clam Jam, which is slated for Oct. 17, waves pending. The new location has yet to be determined.