LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP -The forecast called for a 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms, but the Jetty Coquina Jam made out instead with a perfect summer day.
The squad of Sarah Dodds, 27, of the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township, and Selena Moberly, 14, of Southampton, N.Y., won the third annual all-female surfing contest and got to hold the very ornate Coquina Jam trophy.
The Coquina Jam format randomly pairs each girl with a woman 25 or older to form 16 teams of two, a way of bringing the generations together. The event began at 8 a.m. with 2- to 4-foot surf, light south winds and ominous skies. But by mid-morning the weather cleared and the surf continued through the finals.
Through the morning there were some great performances by women on long and shortboards. The Coquina Jam is unique in that competitors all surf in one division, no matter what they ride.
Ashley Pellegrino, 41, of Barnegat Light, and Danielle Berndt, 27, of Manahawkin, were able to keep up with stylish longboard skills. There were some valiant efforts put forth early on, including one by Mary Frack, 57, of Barnegat Township, who was surfing Long Beach Island before many of Sunday's other competitors were born.
"I got five waves in my heat," said Frack, who was quick to her feet on several good-sized lefts. "I don't think I ever got five waves in a heat in my life."
Also looking impressive early were Jill Kepich, 18, of Seaside Park, and Cory Destaffano, 20, of Caldwell.
Dodds put up a 4.5 (out of 10) for a strong frontside turn in the first round. It remained the highest wave score of the event until the final. She and Moberly, whose mother made a five-hour drive from New York so the daughter could compete in the all-female event, had to defeat Anita Harrington, 16, of Basking Ridge, and Berndt in the semifinals.
"The level of surfing is just so high from where it was two years ago," said Deb Green, 31, who recently finished her doctorate in neuropsychology but drives from Philadelphia to surf LBI all year round whenever the waves are good.
"Between the new girls coming into this event from all over the region, the local girls getting more experience and the younger girls getting better, it's great to see."
Green and Dodds consistently put up the biggest numbers and their teams faced each other in the final as hundreds of spectators focused on the water. Green was partnered with Allie Panetta, 23, of Ship Bottom, who will start graduate school at Richard Stockton College in September. Panetta made several impressive waves on her backhand.
Dodds and Green found the best waves in the final, overcoming a challenging rising tide to get open-face on the steeper inside section. Dodds was awarded a 4.7 for a backside off-the-lip to roundhouse cutback to elevate her team.
She and Moberly got to raise the Coquina Jam trophy, made in 2009 by local artist Joel Dramis, at the end of the day, but all of the finalists' names will be added to the trophy.
Afterward, Moberly was thankful to have been paired with such a talented surfer.
"I love the fact that it's all girls. It's so much more comfortable and the fact that it's all for charity is awesome," Moberly said.
Since its inception, the Jetty Coquina Jam has been a fundraiser to fight breast cancer. This year, Jetty, a New Jersey-based apparel company, worked with David's Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation to raise more than $7,000. David Caldarella, a stage IV cancer survivor, was on hand all day. He picked two local families battling breast cancer to be recipients of the funds.
Dodds, who spent the last year traveling, working and surfing in Australia, is home for the summer, lifeguarding for the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol. While life and surfing in Manly, Australia, was great, she said, this event was something that she missed last year.
"It feels so good to be back," Dodds said. "All my friends are here. My entire family showed up. It seems like the whole community is here, so that's pretty rad. And I got lucky with my partner. Selena is a true 'grom,' and she surfed so well."
Jetty's Clam Jam, featuring the male surfers of LBI, is slated for Oct. 16.