2017 Jetty Clam Jam

2017 Jetty Clam Jam Runs Amid Blustery Winds and Waves

Townsend and Zodl Crowned Champs
By JON COEN | Nov 22, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Barnegat Light’s Billy Webster sits deep in the pocket in the late rounds of the Clam Jam last Sunday. Surf heights started at 4 to 6 feet and fell through the day in the hard offshore winds.

The first weekend of the window period for the 11th annual Jetty Clam Jam was back on Oct. 7 and 8. That weekend happened to feel pretty much like summer – people swimming or lying on the 80-degree beach and surfers in the water without wetsuits. But the wind was sideshore all weekend, so the Clam Jam was postponed.

The jam didn’t run on Oct. 14 or 15, and each weekend in October had waves but unfavorable winds. The trend continued through all of November.

And then, last Saturday, the wind began to blow hard south. The swell built up and the Clam Jam was called on for Sunday. The wind was northwest. In classic LBI fashion, there were brutal gusts that blew up to 40 knots, but the wind was finally offshore.

Almost two months into the waiting period, the conditions changed dramatically. The water temp has dropped almost 20 degrees, and the air is far colder. With the postponements and weather turning, you might think participants would lose interest, but 93 locals still showed up to compete.

The storm hadn’t fully moved through on Sunday morning when contestants gathered at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars under a rainy sky. But undaunted by the wet and wind, everyone was checked in with the first heat in the water shortly after 8 a.m.

“I think the Clam Jam team did a great job in making the call for Sunday’s event. I didn’t see a significant enough swell for the jam, but I’m stoked it held up enough for the entire day,” offered Randy Townsend, Jetty ambassador and Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol captain.

Running the event was a challenge as well, but Jetty and the volunteer squad of Bill Machotka, Lisa Braunwell, Randy Budd and Joe Mangino worked with head judge Ric Anastasi to move things along.

The Clam Jam’s competition format, a tradition that goes back to 2007, is designed to bring the generations together. All the surfers’ names are written on clam shells and picked at random to form teams, pairing young surfers with those of the older generations.

One addition to the event this year was a handful of kids who surf for the Southern Regional High School Surf Team and some junior high students who will in the next few seasons. The contest hasn’t had a lot of new blood in the past few years.

“I love this event, and I couldn’t be happier that there is a new generation of kids surfing on Long Beach Island,” said Townsend.

The main story of the day was certainly the waves, hard-angled south swell that was peaking at 4 to 6 feet in the morning. But the subplot was certainly the wind, which made everything challenging from chairs flying off the scaffolding to difficulty paddling into waves.

There were also some barrels to be had, and the early rounds saw great tuberiding from Billy Webster, Kyle Calandra, Tim Raimo, Paul Dungy and Bob Selfridge, who has been surfing Harvey Cedars for four decades.

By the end of the first round, the wind was already having an effect on the swell, knocking it down to 2 to 3 feet. The outgoing tide combined with the stiff offshores made for tough conditions with fast waves over shallow water.

In the quarterfinals, Southern Regional teachers Jay Capelli and Josh Law beat 2016 finalist Jamie Whitesell and Dennis O’Conner. Heavy favorites Conor Willem, commercial clammer and Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol lieutenant, and Billy Webster took down Brian Coen and Mike McMurray. Webster is one of the few surfers who chooses to ride a longboard, and each year wows the crowd.

Townsend and software engineer Evan Zodl fended off Joe Pantaleo and Mason Lesser. And in a tight heat, longtime Island surfer Mark Halikas and Harvey Cedars’ Peter George edged out Greg Warren and Ryan Kelly. George, one of the Island’s best regularfoot surfers, opted to ride a soft top surfboard in the later rounds, taking an air drop to coffin. The tide started to come back in, and the surf got better for the semis and final.

The Townsend/Zodl team and Willem/Webster team would go on to the final. Willem’s backhand attack gave Townsend a run for his money. Zodl worked to find the corners. Webster, who had consistently put up some of the highest numbers all day, didn’t have the waves that he had in earlier rounds. He backdoored one tube but wasn’t able to come out. Townsend sealed the deal with a frontside air on the inside, the only one of the day, as he and Zodl took the win.

“Every year, it’s a question of who’s going to get teamed with Randy,” said Zodl after the win, “and when they announced my name, it was like ‘Oh my God.’ We’ve surfed together a bunch in the past. He always gives me a wave or two and tries to help me push my surfing.”

Zodl lives in Beach Haven. He attended the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science and graduated from The College of New Jersey last May. He now works for software development company Workwave, out of Holmdel. He is also a local photographer whose work has shown in Island galleries and a noted origami designer with nearly 100,000 followers on Youtube.

“In the morning, there were big, open faces. But at low tide, it became really tough conditions. It did bump up a little bit by the end of the day when the tide filled in and the wind died a bit,” said Zodl. “Billy Webster killed it on that longboard. They both surfed really well, so in the end it was super close.”

It was Zodl’s first time on the podium and Townsend’s fifth Clam Jam title. “It’s just cool to have my name on that trophy,” Zodl added, “especially since my sister won the Coquina Jam (Jetty’s sister event) in 2016 and our friend Dana Rose Brown won this year.”

Jetty will have photos and more information at Jettylife.com.


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