With a waiting period from April 17 to April 24, and the call scheduled to made the 15th, local meteorologist and ASP-certified judge Ted DelFranco called it, and nailed it—Sunday the 17th was going to be, and was, the day. With extremely consistent, overhead sets, light offshores, plenty of sunshine, a ton of spectators, and plenty of talent, surf contests just don't get any better. Event #1 of the virgin Atlantic City Pro/Am Surf Series was a huge success—the series is off and running and the buzz is turning to a deafening roar.
The Atlantic City Pro/Am Surf Series is designed for pros to pocket some extra cash and to give amateurs a venue to gain experience at the professional level, as well as a chance to bruise some egos while making a name for themselves. To maximize convenience and keep the cost to competitors as low as possible, the contest is limited to 64 entries, allowing the entire event to be run in one day. Designed to be a true pro/am, the heat draw and subsequent results could not have played into the hands of the contest's mission any better. It was uncanny.
The laws of surfing contest physics state that anything can happen—and anything usually does. Shockers quickly became the rule of the day. The first major upset came no later than the first round. Winner of a WQS event (Unsound Pro) and predicted finalist/possible winner, Randy Townsend, went down to an in-form ESA All-Star Pat Emery and hell-grom Lucas Rogers. Randy was no doubt ripping, even getting a clean tube combined with an even cleaner air upon coming out. But Pat was relentless on his backhand, while Lucas blew minds upon easily sticking a huge frontside rotating 540 air.
It didn't take long for the Atlantic City Pro/Am Surf Series' fate to unfold yet again—another major upset occurred in the very next round. More than a few had their chips placed firmly on seasoned WQS-warrior Matt Keenan. With many 'QS finals under his belt, those chips were well-placed. But this is the AC Pro/Am, where anything can happen and anything does. Lucas Rogers and Pat Emery pulled the am one-two punch on another one of the event's top pros. All bets were off and the chips were flying.
One of the day's most intense heats was Quarterfinal Four. Riddle this: three internationally-recognized pros—Frank Walsh, Dean Randazzo, Sam Hammer (and one am)—in the same heat, and it wasn't even the semis yet. This quarterfinal was stacked heavier than most 'QS finals. All were on top of their games, but one of these heavy hitters was unfortunately going to be knocked out. Frank Walsh is renowned for his devastating backhand. He was on point, as usual, absolutely crushing the lip. A testament to the level of talent in the heat, Frank went down fighting to friends Sam Hammer and Dean Randazzo.
As the wind came side-shore out of the South, the conditions got more difficult with some tricky chop on the face, but the lefts were held open and provided chunkier corners for the two stacked semis. In Semi One, am Lucas Rogers continued to punt, rotate, and stick giant airs, while underground powerhouse am Ben McBrien muscled through critical rail turns, landing them both firmly in the finals. In Semi Two, pros Sam Hammer and Dean Randazzo went upside down on their backhands over and over again on the chunky lefts, humbling every surfer within eyeshot.
At the Atlantic City Pro/Am Surf Series, pros pocket dough and amateurs get famous, and the final was an even split: ams Lucas Rogers and Ben McBrien were given the opportunity to take out two internationally recognized pros: Dean Randazzo and Sam Hammer. Lucas Rogers blew minds all day, but in a final with heavies Sam and Dean, his aerial antics were no longer enough, and he finished a respectable fourth, but not before creating a name for himself and putting $500 in his young pocket. Ben McBrien surfed fast and powerfully, but came up short in wave selection and ended his run as the event's underground hero with $750, a huge smile, and a ton of respect. In the end, the pros took the boys to school, sat them down, and gave them a lesson. Sam and Dean went wave for wave, vertical for vertical, critical for critical. It was a close one—a really close one—and it was the Prince of NJ, Sam Hammer, dethroning King Dean. Sam has been exploding through preliminary rounds, only to come up just short of the win, for far too long. In Sam's words, "I finally got that damn monkey off my back!"
With over $6,500 in hard cash being pocketed, pros falling to now-recognized ams, and the winner with $2,000 in his pocket and a pimp suite at the Taj Mahal, the monkeys are howling and swinging from the trees for Event #2.
Thanks to our sponsors for supporting grassroots surfing and making this event possible:
Zoo York Clothing
Murph's Surf Wax
Ocean and Earth
A Dam Good Crab Shack
DV8 Media Group
The Atlantic City Surfing Club
The Law Offices of Tom Forkin
1st – Sam Hammer
2nd – Dean Randazzo
3rd – Ben McBrien
4th – Lucas Rogers