Summer Nor’easter Makes for Exciting Jetty Coquina Jam

Dana Rose Brown and Morgan Iglay Take 2017 Trophy
By JON COEN | Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The toughest thing about holding a surf contest is getting waves. You can have nice weather, a crowd and great surfers, but without waves, the event just doesn’t have the same draw. When last weekend’s summer nor’easter coincided with the ninth annual Jetty Coquina Jam, it made for a more interesting event for sure.

An unusually strong low-pressure system came through Long Beach Island on Friday night, kicking up chilly northerly winds on Saturday. On Sunday morning, the clouds and rain of the storm had fully moved out, leaving behind 3- to 5-foot waves and a blustery north breeze, but abundant sunshine.

There was certainly no lack of surf at any point in the day, making the challenge not finding a wave, but getting through them. Contestants had to walk several blocks north of the contest area to compensate for the strong north-to-south drift. They were given extra time to paddle out prior to their heats, but it was still a struggle to get to the outside.

“I definitely had the most fun around midday. Round One was pretty rough, maybe because I was over excited about actually having surf and underestimated the drift. Rounds Two and Three were fun, still challenging, but there were some good waves if you could be in the right place at the right time,” said Jamie DeWitt.

DeWitt, 34, who has surfed for Jetty for nearly 10 years, is a native of Beach Haven. Growing up, she dominated the local events and surfed among the best amateurs in the world. Today she is a surf instructor in Florida with a convincing collection of East Coast pro event trophies. DeWitt returns each summer to surf the Coquina Jam. She was partnered with 13-year-old Nicole King, who lives in the neighborhood where DeWitt grew up.

“The conditions were definitely the toughest there have been all summer, especially when the wind picked up and chopped up the surface of the waves. After the first round, the tide really started to fill in and the paddle out was extremely difficult. My partner and I decided early on that our strategy would be to make sure we each caught at least two waves, even if they were small, to just try to make something out of it. Due to the rough conditions, I think that strategy really helped us to get as many points on the board as possible,” said Dana Rose Brown, 20, of Little Egg Harbor, a surf instructor for LBI Surfing.

She studies ocean engineering at the University of New Hampshire. During the school year, she surfs the breaks of New England.

The Coquina Jam is Jetty’s sister event to the popular Clam Jam. It features all female surfers and is held in the summer to fully showcase LBI’s surf community to summertime visitors. The younger girls are randomly paired with more experienced surfers to create two-woman teams, Jetty’s tradition of bringing the generations together. The event has also become a mix of local women and competitors from around the state.

Some of the early round standouts were locals. Emily Pahlow, who had a stylish soul arch through the pocket of a set wave on her longboard, Sammy Alvarez, Leah McGlynn and Allie Panetta were all able to navigate the conditions. And, of course, DeWitt, who exacted a trio of backhand turns on one wave.

New to the event this year were three competitors from Manasquan: Seton Iglay, 9, Audrey Iglay, 12, and Morgan Iglay, 15. The three sisters are all surfers and skaters from that iconic surf town, and the family spent a few years living in Hawaii. All three were on teams that advanced to the second round or beyond.

Conditions seemed to get tougher as the day progressed. The wind, which was forecasted to lay down, did not. It just kept howling through the high tide, making things so disorganized that many of the ladies took to finding reformed waves on the inside. This also led to some dramatic crashes in the shorebreak.

But Brown, 20, and Morgan Iglay were able to beat out Sammy Alvarez and Lucy Carberry in the semifinals. DeWitt and King knocked off Panetta and Julianna Redding to face Brown and Iglay in the final.

“The final was hard. It was pretty slow and I was exhausted. But it’s always my favorite event and this year was awesome, having surf bigger than knee-high,” DeWitt said.

The team aspect of both Jetty’s Clam and Coquina Jams means that both surfers have to perform. Though DeWitt was unstoppable all day, Brown and Iglay were each able to get decent scores while DeWitt found only one wave.

“The first time I’d heard of Jamie and saw her surf was at the Coquina Jam a few years ago. I remember that her partner wasn’t present for the final, but she still won. That really showed how impressive of a surfer she is. It was a great experience,” Brown said, “Morgan is a spectacular young surfer, and it was amazing being able to surf beside her through all the rounds. She’s such a smart and strategical surfer. I was very impressed by her ability to stay calm and also put everything out there during the contest. It was great to be a part of such a fun contest and compete with so many talented female surfers.”

At the end of the day, Iglay and Brown were crowned as 2017 Coquina champs.

“I had such a fun day at my first Coquina Jam,” said Iglay. “Just making the final against so many older and more experienced surfers was amazing. To win was even better.”

“I was so proud of all the ladies for holding their own in the rough, drifty conditions. Really goes to show you how growing up surfing here trains you to handle heavier surf,” added DeWitt.

For the last seven years, the Coqina Jam has been a fundraiser for David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation. David Caldarella is a Manahawkin native who was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer in 2010. He beat the disease and dedicated his life to helping local families battling the disease. To this point, he has donated well over $700,000 to over 850 families.

Caldarella, who is normally at the beach to present the winners the Coquina Jam trophy (made by local artist Joel Dramis for the first Coquina Jam), was home with pneumonia unrelated to cancer on Sunday.

“I was bummed to miss it this year. But in a small way, I feel like I was there with all the texts, videos and pictures being sent my way all day,” he shared. He was able to watch the final on Jetty’s broadcast via Facebook live.

This was the best turnout the event has enjoyed so far, raising over $9,000 for Caldarella to disperse to local families this week as he prepares for his Island Gala this Friday night at the Sea Shell Resort & Beach Club.

“I’m stoked on the best turnout ever,” he added, “and Coquina Jam always holds a special place in my heart as the event that put David’s Dream & Believe on the map for good.”

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

 

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