Jetty Clam Jam 2017 Preview

Local Surfer Vinny Rossi Prepares for His 11th Jetty Clam Jam

Talks About the Very First Clam Jam
Oct 11, 2017
Photo by: Sammy Jo Alvarez Vinny Rossi

Vinny Rossi of Manahawkin was only 16 when he surfed in the very first Jetty Clam Jam. A younger brother of Nick Rossi, who was a hopeful competitive surfer at the time, he was among the youngest surfers that day.

“I was super nervous when it was time to put on the jersey and paddle out. I’d never had to compete with so many people on the beach watching like that before,” he recalled. “I didn’t grow up doing a lot of amateur events like my brother did, so it was a trip for me. But that’s why the Clam Jam was, and is, so epic. Everyone gets a shot to go out there and mix it up.”

It was a gorgeous day in early October 2007. A random bit of south swell had showed up and dogs played by the water, a true celebration of a local pastime during a cherished time of year with clams on the half shell on the beach.

Prior to that event, there hadn’t been a surf gathering specifically for the locals since before Rossi was born.

When he pulls on that jersey this October for the 11th annual Jetty Clam Jam and partners with Bob Selfridge, who has been surfing LBI since the 1970s, he will be one of only a handful of waveriders to have competed in every single Clam Jam to date.

By this point, the Clam Jam is known up and down the coast of New Jersey, and much of the East Coast surfing community is aware of it. It’s been covered by the national surf publications, but it’s still geared toward surfers who live on and around LBI.

The Clam Jam is revered for several reasons, the first being that it’s run by a locally based apparel company. Many East Coast surf and skate companies have come and gone, but Jetty is one of a handful that is thriving today. To be around for so long and still put its effort into something so grassroots is rare.

Then there’s the unique format, which no other surfing event in the world uses. At a party at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House in September, the names of all 96 surfers in the event names’ are written on clam shells and put into two groups, divided by the median age. Those shells are picked out of a hat, pairing random surfers from two different age groups to bring generations together.

Also, unlike most surf events, this one is “on call.” Jetty starts a waiting period the weekend after Chowderfest. They wait until the best day of waves to fall on a Saturday or Sunday throughout the fall. Last year, it was held on the very first weekend. In 2015, surfers had to wait until mid-November. But the result is usually good waves, which makes the jam stand out from other contests, and the surfers much happier. Cold clams on the half shell certainly don’t hurt, either.

Teams were picked at random at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House last Friday, Oct. 6. The waiting period started on Oct. 7, but the winds last weekend were uncooperative. Event directors will look for better conditions this weekend, and if not, the wait will continue.

This is a free event for spectators, and the public is encouraged to come watch. The first heat starts at 8 a.m. The Clam Jam has been moved from Hudson Avenue to 80th Street in Harvey Cedars on account of a better sandbar.

“The event has grown like crazy,” Rossi said. ”There are close to double the amount of surfers since that first day. I was part of the younger group at the start, so it’s been awesome seeing all the new young guys out there every year. I know they’re so amped and nervous, like I was.”

— Jon Coen

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