Jetty Clam Jam Celebrates 10th Anniversary This October

A Decade of Clam Jams Has Strengthened Local Community
Sep 23, 2016
Photo by: Adrian Antonio

It was a gorgeous day, Oct. 6, 2007. The sun was shining and the water was warm for so late in the season. Families came down to the beach at Hudson Avenue in Harvey Cedars. Dogs played by the waterline. And for the first time in decades, Long Beach Island was seeing a community-based surf contest, the Jetty Clam Jam.

Surf contests had happened on LBI in those interim years, but they were regional amateur events where the focus was on the competition – and who was qualifying for the next regional or championship event. But this was different. Locally based apparel company Jetty decided to run a contest where the focus wasn’t on just one or two hot competitors, but all of the surfers, their friends, their parents, spouses and children. On that day, a great tradition was born, one that has grown to celebrate how tight that community has become. Out of the Clam Jam came the sister event the Coquina Jam. And there are always cold clams served on the beach.

Nick McGregor, longtime editor of Eastern Surf Magazine, has a very good handle on all the surf scenes on the East Coast and has taken special note of LBI.

“The best thing about the development of LBI’s surf community over the last decade is how organic the growth has felt. From local companies like Jetty taking the initiative to organize events, to surfers with generations-deep roots becoming the new face of the island, to older icons assuming leadership roles in the local economy, surfing feels intrinsically woven into LBI’s fabric,” said McGregor. “The island boasts some of the best sandbars and heaviest barrels on the East Coast, a fact that is highlighted every time there’s a swell, and Eastern Surf Magazine receives mind-blowing content from LBI’s most talented wave riders. Plus, nearly every LBI surfer I’ve come in contact with over the last 15 years is down to earth – good, solid, respectful humans who still know how to have fun. And that’s rarer than you think.”

The way teams are picked is one of the favorite aspects of this event. All names are written on clamshells and then picked randomly from a hat, matching a younger surfer with an older surfer. This forces the generations to get to know each other and has made LBI surfing a lot friendlier overall. Unlike traditional surf contests that separate longboards and shortboards, both surf in the same heats, with quality surfing on both being the overall standard. In 2015, longboarder Billy Webster and his partner, Ron Ferrara, went all the way to the final. Greg Musing and Randy Townsend took the eventual win.

At the end of the day, the finalists’ names are engraved on the Jetty Clam Jam trophy, which was made by local surfer/craftsman Joel Dramis a decade ago.

2016 marks the 10th annual Clam Jam. Through the years, the event has seen some amazing moments. No one will soon forget the massive northeast swell and frigid winds of the 2008 Clam Jam. There were two memorable events held in Holgate. There have been amazing barrels and impossible airs landed. 2012 brought peaky surf and offshore winds just a week before Superstorm Sandy changed LBI forever. And who can ever forget the pumping surf courtesy of Hurricane Cristobal that lit up Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven in 2014? The Clam Jam has become part of the fabric of local life, and the local business community gets behind it year after year.

The tricky part of the Clam Jam is the timing. The event doesn’t have a set date, but a waiting period, to ensure the best waves. This year’s event waiting period starts on Saturday, Oct. 8, or potentially Sunday, Oct. 9. If conditions look favorable, the call is made a few days earlier. Otherwise, the event will be held on any Saturday or Sunday with waves thereafter, so competitors have to be ready. Part of the allure is that the Clam Jam could be held on a summerlike day in early October or a chilly day well into the autumn.

This year’s forecast is looking particularly interesting with Hurricane Matthew churning northward through the Bahamas. Matthew could deliver a historic swell for the Clam Jam, but it could also crash right into the East Coast, causing a very different scenario.

The event starts at 8 a.m. with 132 surfers doing battle in the first round and teams of two advancing throughout the day. A sponsor village is set up, and in addition to clams provided by the Mud City Crab House, vendors set up on the beach with hot food and cold drinks. Announcements are made via Jetty's website and the Jetty Clam Jam on social media.

— Jon Coen

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