Brant Beach Comes Alive for 12th Annual Jetty Clam Jam

Josh Law and Steve Carpitella Win in Barreling Surf
By JON COEN | Oct 31, 2018
Photo by: Kyle Gronostajski Josh Law threads a winning barrel on the way to winning the 2018 Jetty Clam Jam with partner, Steve Carpitella. Brant Beach had phenomenal waves for the 12th annual event.

Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven, Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars, Taylor Avenue and Holgate – these are all LBI surf hot spots. Even if you don’t surf, you’re aware of them. And they have all played host to the Jetty Clam Jam in the last 12 years. But no one has ever said, “Hey, I am going to check 68th Street and see how the waves are.”

Like everywhere on LBI, Brant Beach has its moments. It’s not a high-profile spot that surfers hit on a regular basis, but last Sunday, it was ground zero for all things surfing on Long Beach Island.

“The storm moved a tremendous amount of sand around at the new location. There was some skepticism from surfers as this location had not really been set up with great sandbars for the past several months, but the power of Mother Nature prevailed,” said Jeremy DeFilippis, Jetty founding partner and CEO.

The Clam Jam has become one of the most loved traditions on LBI in the fall. And while no event or festival is easy to run, the Clam Jam is particularly tricky because it needs waves and the right winds. For the last 11 years it has been held “on call,” meaning it doesn’t run until the conditions align for good waves. Hence it all has to be mobilized in one day’s notice. This year, Jetty started the window period in late September and it took nearly six weeks for the right swell. But there was still a question about the new venue.

“Long Beach Township has been a great partner to Jetty as they have hosted the Coquina Jam at the same location, partnered in their Oyster Recycling Program and recently ran the inaugural Shellabration,” added DeFilippis.

That swell certainly showed and 68th Street did the job. The nor’easter that blasted LBI on Friday and Saturday pushed north of the region, leaving 3- to 6-foot waves in its wake with light offshore winds. One day after much of LBI had been under water and the ocean a violent mess, it was clean and perfect, a situation that is rare on the East Coast. The slow heats and weird winds that normally put a damper on certain heats were nonexistent, making for one of the best Clam Jams to date, not to mention that there were barrels to be had.

“I think it’s safe to say the waves stole the show,” said Josh Law of Beach Haven, who won the event with partner Steve Carpitella of Manahawkin.

The first Jetty Clam Jam was held in 2007 in Harvey Cedars out of a need for a local community surf contest. As has been tradition since then, 128 surfers’ names are put on clam shells and drawn out of a hat in September, pairing younger surfers at random with veteran surfers for teams of two. The format levels the playing field and brings the generations together, both effectively contributing to the feel of a festival more so than a competition. The teams compete throughout the event until two face off in the final. Longboards and shortboards surf together, judged on all-around quality surfing.

The morning began with solid surfing off the bat. The early rounds were dominated by surfers like Ryan Kelly, Dane Nugent, Tim Raimo, Kyle Calandra and Connor Willem. They found open face for big turns and slotted into heavy barrels. In the top quarterfinals, Tim McBrien and Nugent beat Dennis O’Connor and Matt Vareb. Then Jamie Whitesell and Pete Machotka beat Willem and Dan Mueller. Whitesell and Machotka took Nugent and McBrien in a tight semi.

In the bottom bracket quarters, Brian Socci and Raimo ousted John Bonner and Matt Walters while Carpitella and Law held off John Senner and Brian Bowker.

Carpitella, branch manager of Equity Prime Mortgage and Law and a teacher at Southern Regional, won the semi and went on to face Whitesell, of Whitesell Construction, and Machotka, of the Ocean County Utilities Authority, in the final. Whitesell and Carpitella are both longtime sponsors of the event in their respective businesses. They are both older than most of the competitors, but neither showed any sign of age through the entire day. Whitesell has been in the semifinals, but this was his first final appearance. Carpitella, who had been working remotely in California and surfing San Clemente, returned on a 7 a.m flight Saturday to compete in the contest. Law had been in the semifinals of almost every Clam Jam, but had yet to have a finals birth.

“Historically, the waves are really good in the morning, but the final is always slow. You look and feel like you’re forcing something to happen in small waves. But this year, we had great waves right to the end. It felt really good to be able to get out there in real surf. And I can say the same for Pete,” shared Law.

At the start of the final, Law pulled into a speedy frontside barrel, coming out and doing a massive floater onto the shallow sandbar for an 8.4. That opened the door for a blow-for-blow showdown between him and Machotka with each going for it, but hyping each other up.

“I got to surf the final with one of my best friends. Before the heat, we agreed to have a gentleman’s duel. We weren’t going to hassle each other for waves or paddle battle,” said Law, “As soon as I got that first barrel, I wanted to see him get a bomb. We were cheering on each other’s partners.

Machotka had a string of great waves, but his big answer came in the form of a backside barrel later in the heat. Whitesell managed to get waves, but not the huge score he needed. Meanwhile, Carpitella drove into a deep frontside tube and rode out of it for a 6. By the end of the final, after 10 hours of competition, Law and Carpitella would hold the Clam Jam trophy on the podium. Their names will be added to the trophy, which sits on display at the Jetty flagship store in Manahawkin. The day ended with an after-party at the Old Causeway.

“It was just a perfect day for the Clam Jam – good weather, insane waves and some stacked teams. It was a gift to be able to share the final with great friends trading off waves,"”said Machotka.

Law, a father of two, had recently found out that he’d been assigned a new job, teaching U.S. history at Southern Regional High School. During the day, there were several current and former Southern teachers on the beach discussing his new position, while he tried to concentrate on both their advice and the contest.

“There was no after-party for me. When I got to school people had heard about the Clam Jam, so everyone was congratulating me on the win and the new job,” he laughed.

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