Aaron Cormican flying high to victory in Jersey
Aaron Cormican turned 26 yesterday. He celebrated his birthday by boosting above the junky final round surf, and winning $5,000 at the Rusty Belmar Pro.

Cormican, of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, may seem an unlikely surf star, but in reality, there was no one more fitting to win the Rusty. He may shy away from the crowd, and sign his name with a circle around the "A," anarchy-style, but "Gorkin" knows how to make the most of chunky waist-high waves.

Perhaps if the flawless, overhead groundswell that greeted competitors in Round One had prevailed, Cormican wouldn't have been toting the giant check by day's end. If the surf had been bigger and cleaner, someone like Adam Virs, fellow Floridians Asher Nolan, or Tommy O'Brien might have snagged the title.

But in waning south swell with a northeast wind, no one's going to outshine Cormican. For, as small as the surf was, there was enough punch for the odd boost, and Cormican knows a thing or two about airs. Ironically, he's more interested in freesurfing and photo trips than contest results.

In his semi-final heat, drifting toward the north jetty, Cormican pushed into a stomach-high wall. What looked like a closeout to the mere mortal was a blank canvas for the Gork. He rocketed off the bottom, and into the sky, sticking a clean no-hander. With the crowd worked up over his antics, he raced a knee-high section to punt a second air. The wave earned him an 8.5, just short of the contest-high, and secured his slot in the finals.

The finalists of the Rusty Belmar Pro
"It's just like surfing wind slop anywhere," said Cormican, "I just found the right spot on the chop. I just had to connect the dots."

For the past three years, the ESA has put on a stellar event in Belmar, bringing pro surfing back to the enthusiastic Central Jersey crowd. This year, Rusty picked up the event, making it larger than life. The surf, ala Hurricane Maria, was stellar on Thursday, dropping each day until the Sunday final, which still featured very contestable surf.

The Jersey surfers put forth a solid effort in their home state. Lavallette pro Sam Hammer, charged through the entire field of competitors, ousting Justin Schub, and 2004 champ, Brian Hewitson, before loosing to finalists Cormican and Nolan in the quarterfinals.

Randazzo, whose late registration forced him to surf through the early rounds, continues to make the Garden State proud. He took first in each heat en route to the quarters. Randazzo made the semi-finals in 2003 and the finals in 2004. A main event in Belmar without the "Jersey Devil" is like not having your President in national disaster. Sorry, bad example.

The brothers Gudauskas were also a major force in Belmar. Patrick, Tanner, and Dane, all made the finals, semis and quarters respectively. Thirteen different heats saw a Gudauskas surf. Multiply that by an average of nine waves each. MC Scott Goodwin must have said "Gudauskas," 7 million times.

"We love coming to New Jersey," said Dane, "we always get fun waves, good food, and meet cool people."

The Gudauskas parents were back in San Clemente, wondering how the boys were faring.

"Usually whoever does the best calls the results back to our parents," he explained.

Adam Virs, of Ventura, California, Patrick Gudauskas, Nolan, and Cormican rounded out the final. Low tide forced a morning delay, but the rising tide had opened up the bowls enough for the surfers to send the record-crowd into a frenzy. Unfortunately, the trend toward better surf died in the finals.

Pat Gudauskas leading the West Coast charge
Asher Nolan was able to combo several waves, sticking a backside air reverse. Adam Virs found enough juice for a sweeping roundhouse and a trip through the inside. But, it was Cormican who paddled the entire length of the contest area to find the golden ticket. On his seventh wave, he wrapped a cutback, nailed a massive lay-back in the soup, and faded for another turn on the beach. By the final horn, the Floridians were carrying Gorkin up the beach, celebrating his second ever WQS victory.

Last January, Gorkin made the finals of the Sebastian Inlet Pro, beating Ben Bourgeois, and falling just short of Corey Lopez and Kelly. Not a bad year for a freesurfer.

Happy Birthday Gorkin.

All photos courtesy of Ann Coen and Tom Spader. For more action from the Rusty Belmar Pro go to www.LocalSwell.com.