What a difference a year makes! After lackluster conditions last year, Surfline Forecaster and former Brigantine local Ryan Starr nailed the forecast for 2019 and our contest went off in 3- to 5-foot groundswell. These conditions made for another great turnout with about 125 local surfers and body boarders competing in 14 divisions! It was this group combined with solid conditions that would make 2019 another great event.

The Brigantine Surf Jam competitor’s shirts held special meaning this year. Pictured on the back of the contest shirt was the celebration of life/memorial paddle out for a local surf legend Ron Klemm Sr. Klemm made a lasting impact on anyone who ever had the pleasure of watching his unmatched style and grace in the water on a surfboard. It was our honor to celebrate his life and show our love and respect to his family. Maybe he had a hand in sending such good swell this year for our contest?

Co-organizer Zack Laielli brought back live computer-based scoring to our local contest, which was such a hit in 2018. After putting in some time setting up the Brigantine Surf Jam on the liveheats.com website we were up and running. This is an amazing step into the future that cuts out hundreds of sheets of paper, handwriting, score keeping, tabulating and most importantly time. It worked exactly like a pro contest where competitors and fans could login and see their scores and results as they happened live!

The surfers of all ages braved some difficult conditions as the waves built in size to occasionally 5-feet-plus and the wind began to howl, putting texture on the faces. The 10 and under competitors did not back down and showed some excellent skills in a very active ocean. I took a moment to ask Mike Laielli, of Primal Surf, what his highlight of the contest was?

Mike replied, “It was talking to the young surfers on the beach and getting their opinions of what was going on throughout the day. They were truly amazing, brave, nervous and humorous all at the same time. I could tell that they were comforted by having all the experienced surfers, lifeguards and firemen on the beach watching over them.”

Multi-year superheat champion, Greg Fuller would choose to get more involved in the contest organization and not to compete in this year’s contest. Although his high level of surfing was missed, it left the door open for a surfer to take the title. Evan Couval, who had already been coming close to the title year after year, would not let this chance pass. Although most heats were incredibly close in score, including some tiebreakers, Evan’s smooth and radical surfing set himself apart from the field, thus earning him the 2019 Super Heat Champion trophy and title.

Each year we also give out two specialty trophies, the Wave of the Day and the Spirit of Aloha. Lindsay Tate would take home the Wave of the Day trophy, earning the honor by showing extreme bravery in the Open Sup competition. The Spirit of Aloha is the embodiment of the positive Hawaiian spirit and attitude. This year it went to Daniel Hurtt, who noticed a fellow competitor’s leash break and that they were in need of assistance. Daniel didn’t hesitate to jump into action, helping the competitor to get safely back to the beach in daunting conditions. Daniel earned the Spirit of Aloha Trophy and showed that looking out for your fellow surfer is the most important thing you can do in the water.

Another exciting change for 2019 was how prizes were given out. Primal Surf made hundreds of gift bags filled with awesome surf-related items. Every competitor received a goodie bag when they picked up their contest T-Shirts, with one surprise. Some bags had “golden tickets” in them. These were prizes donated by local business, placed on a Willy Wonka-style ticket that could be redeemed at their local shops. Primal Surf, Hyper Bikes, Mainstay Made, Soul Berri, Connie Pyatt Photography, Kelly Lentz photography, and Riptide Bait and Tackle artistically created their own tickets and competitors were thrilled to see that they pulled one of these local vendor’s “golden tickets,” which came with incredible prizes. Some lucky competitors even went home with new surfboards donated by Primal Surf and new bikes donated by Hyper Bikes.

Another highlight of the event was having pro surfer Ben Gravy hang out at the Brigantine Surf Jam throughout the entire contest. He even made time to talk strategy with competitors and sign millions of autographs, much to the delight of his fans.

I especially want to thank the Brigantine Beach Patrol for keeping us safe and Public Works for setting up, breaking down and cleaning up the contest area. I also want to thank and recognize the Brigantine Fire Department IAFF No. 2657, Brigantine PBA No. 204, and the CER for sponsoring and organizing this awesome community event as well as Acme for donating food and beverage items for the contest and Zack, of ZL screen printing, for donating his time and materials to make this year’s contest T-shirts at cost to ensure all proceeds go back into the community. Thank you to all of the judges and numerous other volunteers, because without them this event would not be possible! All proceeds will be put back into the community, so look for an exciting give back soon.

Finally thank you to all the competitors and their parents for showing such great Aloha Spirit (smiles, cheers, love and support) during the whole Surf Jam. We should all be proud and consider ourselves lucky to be a part of such a great surfing community! For updates and more photos check us out and like us on Facebook as Brigantine Surf Jam.

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