Jersey Devil

East Coast native Dean Randazzo, still getting as shacked as ever after multiple battles with cancer. Photo: Gilley

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

It has almost been a month since Super Storm Sandy steamrolled through the Northeast and cut an unprecedented swath of destruction. Many coastal residents of New York and New Jersey had their homes obliterated and lives turned upside-down. Some people are still without power.

I have faith that these people will rebuild their homes and their lives, and that a stronger community, both in spirit and structure, will rise and take its place*. What bolsters this faith is the knowledge of what happened after 9/11, and the familiarity with the resilient character of people that come from there—people like Dean Randazzo.

I first met Dean on Long Beach Island almost 25 years ago, and have loosely followed his surf career since. After Dean moved to San Diego, I also got to see him surf in person a few times. What I’ve gathered from observing him over the years is that his surfing reflects his character: Hardy. Irrepressible. Strong.

As many know, Dean has had four separate bouts with Hodgkin’s disease since 2001, and has not only overcome them, but has returned each time from these battles as a stronger warrior. His fast, high-energy, powerful carving approach hasn’t lost a beat. Like an indestructible Swiss watch, he just keeps on ticking.

At some point in Dean’s career he got the nickname The Jersey Devil. I’m guessing this was due to his come-hell-or-high-water, blistering approach to riding waves. Evidence of Dean’s unrepentant methodology could be seen during his time on the World Tour—he surfed heats like Dane Reynolds before Dane Reynolds surfed heats like Dane Reynolds.

Dean’s surfing can really be appreciated when the waves get big and perfect. Those who’ve watched Dean’s legendary performance at a triple-overhead Mexican point break in The Decline know what I’m talking about—routinely air dropping, getting deep pits, and throwing manly carves in places where others were hesitating or faltering. Despite a plethora of pros and underground heroes out that day, he surfed with unmatched strength and dominance.

In the face of all this robust evidence, I find it incredibly ironic—and inappropriate—that we call Dean “devil” and Sandy “super.” What I propose is to signal a time-out and make an official switch: Let’s start using “super” to describe Dean Randazzo, and “devil” to describe the storm that sent so much misery and hurt to the Eastern shores of the United States.

*to support, ensure and expedite this rebuilding process, please make a donation to Hurricane Sandy relief charities like www.redcross.org

Randazzo, highlining during his legendary session in Mexico. Photo: Divine