Jetty Coquina Jam Has Grown to Serve Its Purpose and More for the Community; Surfing Makes Olympic Debut

Jetty Coquin Jam LBI SurfingThe Jetty Coquina Jam once again put the spotlight on women’s surfing and raised a lot of money for the Jetty Rock Foundation and David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation. (Photo by Krystal Aguilar)
On Sunday, I jumped in the water for a few waves right next to the Jetty Coquina Jam. As I was paddling north against that drift, I passed by two adolescent boys.
“Isla could actually win this thing,” the one boy told the other.
I didn’t catch the full response, mostly because the wind was whipping at 25 knots, but it carried the same tone of enthusiasm.
Isla Carvajal did not win the Coquina Jam, but she and her partner, Lauren Zodl, did make the finals. Carly Coble of Manasquan and her partner, Ava Malandro of Beach Haven, surfed their way to victory in an exciting final with Coble dropping a heavy backside hack in the pocket.
Overall, it was an inspiring day. It always is. How can it not be?
It’s a feel-good beach party in the middle of summer where everyone gets together to watch females of all age surf, eat great food and raise money for the Jetty Rock Foundation and David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, which goes directly to families battling cancer.
Isla Carvajal and Lauren Zodl teamwork to the final. (Photo by Karijana Kristbergs)
There’s something very strange and unique to our country that we need elaborate events that depend on generosity to save hardworking people from financial ruin when they get sick instead of building a better national healthcare system, but we can save that conversation.
This is the reality we’re in, and if this is what helps our community, there’s no better way to do it.
What struck me about the two boys’ conversation was their genuine enthusiasm for their friend. First off, adolescent boys are not known for enthusiastic support of their female peers’ accomplishments. Second, they were talking about Isla Carvajal as some kind of local surf star – which in a way she is. All of the women who fought that southerly wind and current all day, running back up the beach mid-heat to get waves, were rock stars. And while the focus of the event has become raising money (this year the event’s goal was to reach $100,000, and though the final tally isn’t in, it will be in that neighborhood), these kids are the proof the Coquina Jam’s original intent, going back to 2009, has reached fruition.
If the goal of the first Jetty Clam Jam in 2007 was to bring the surf community together, the mission of the Coquina Jam was to build on that inclusivity while putting the spotlight on the Island’s female surfers.
Isla Carvajal is fully focused in the Jetty Coquina Jam. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)
Those two boys were just teething when Jetty ran the first Coquina Jam on a week night in Harvey Cedars. But in its 13-year history, the event has fostered a spirit of support where the crowd on the beach now know the surfers and are cheering for them.
Aside from the massive amount of relief that certain families will feel when they get checks from David Caldarella (David’s Dream) and Jeremy DeFilippis (Jetty Rock) this week, the coolest thing about the event was watching the number of kids out on the low-tide flats, racing to meet the girls as they exited the water after surfing any late-day heat. Just as these kids are reaching that apathetic pubescent stage, they’re caught up in the excitement of rooting for friends and riding waves.
Mary Frack, 67, and Ella Rose Riechenbach were teamed up for the Coquina Jam. (Photo by Karijana Kristbergs)
Isla Carvajal had a whole crew of her Lifeguard in Training friends. On the other side of the bracket, Ava Malandro had an entire contingent of Beach Haven kids in her corner, some who had ridden the shuttle up, cheering in the shallows for each wave she rode.
On the same day that Caroline Marks and Kolohe Andino advanced closer to medals in surfing’s Olympic debut, the names on everyone’s lips on LBI were Beach Haven’s Lizzy Beyer, and Lauren Rothstein and Hannah Todd of Surf City, as well as Joanie Sapienza of Manasquan, who survived the pandemic as a nurse practitioner and had to rush off the beach to make her shift at the hospital. Folks were also paying close attention to Mary Frack (who is still getting Coquina scores at age 67, partnered with 10-year-old Ella Rose Reichbach), as well as every local surfing bartender, artist, mental health professional and tiny little girl who surfed her heart out.
Sorry, Carissa Moore who?
When Ocean City’s Brynn Gallagher got out of the water, she was asked for autographs.
David's Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation at Coquina JamDavid Caldarella (center), founder of David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, enjoys the Jetty Coquina Jam. The event raised money for DDBCF and the Jetty Rock Foundation to donate directly to families battling cancer. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)
And of course, there was Beach Haven native Jamie DeWitt, who remains the archetype female surfing role model. DeWitt was unbeatable growing up in the amateur ranks. In 1999, she finished fifth at the Pan American Games in Argentina and 15th at the International Surfing Association World Games in Brazil. She moved to the Outer Banks and then Florida, collecting several titles at East Coast pro events. Today she manages two restaurants. She and her husband just launched her own surf school in New Smyrna Beach.
Ten years ago, she became a Jetty ambassador and has returned ever year not only to surf, but to encourage the upcoming generation. She has been in five Coquina finals and won three of them. Make no mistake, in solid swell, DeWitt’s name goes on the trophy every year.
She came out Sunday with the kind of high performance shredding we expect of her, but she and Amanda Flaherty eventually fell to Zodl and Carvajal in the quarterfinals.
For her part, Zodl, 24, who grew up surfing Beach Haven and is currently living in Allenhurst, teaching AP Environmental Science and Biology at Manalapan High School and doing surf lessons, rode a fishy 4-foot-10 twin-fin board and caught some of the longest waves of the event, mixing in traditionally longboard moves (that cheater five is a thing of beauty) while Carvajal backed up her scores by consistently hustling into waves.
Carly Coble of Manasquan rips into a left in the final rounds of the Jetty Coquina Jam. (Photo by Krystal Aguilar)
“Each year you get to see all the familiar faces from the LBI surf scene, but you also make so many new connections, too,” said Zodl. “Now whenever I paddle out anywhere on the Jersey coast, I find girls out in the lineup that I’ve connected with in past events. The Coquina Jam is such a wonderful way to strengthen the female surf community all throughout Jersey. I love that this contest is more about encouraging others out in the water, rather than competing. The team-pairing encourages the younger surfers to realize they always have a female community supporting them in any lineup they choose to paddle out in.”
Even after eliminated, DeWitt made a point of interacting with the young girls, being an example of how healthy it is to balance surf and her career in her late 30s. She announced she would be giving away a 5-foot-6 thruster that she had won a past Coquina Jam on, to one of the hungry younger girls to help the grom advance her surfing. At the end of the day, she chose Carvajal, who not only went hard, but in 2020, raised more money in pledges than any other surfer.
Beach Haven native turned Florida surf instructor, Jamie DeWitt drops down her high-performance surfing on the outside while her partner, Amanda Flaherty, takes notes. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)
On top of all of that, Jetty’s new female hires bring a new energy to the event. Alliance for a Living Ocean ensures there are no single-use water bottles at this event, and there is very little waste overall. Most of the judges and the event photographer were female, and both bands that played were female fronted, keeping the event from getting stale.
There’s a lot going wrong on our Island this summer. Elected officials have no problem buying and tearing down more thriving businesses for their own profit. People are losing their cool on kids because their chicken sandwich took 20 minutes to come out. We can’t seem to get rid of COVID cases because people believe wacky misinformation about vaccination. There’s little affordable housing for the labor force while most second-home kids won’t commit to a work schedule. And people are still toting around plastic bags some 40 years after we know how they choke turtles.
But if you’re looking for the positive, you could find it at the Coquina Jam.
Nine-year-old Kiera Soleau of Point Pleasant was a crowd favorite this year. (Photo by Karijana Kristbergs)
SURFING’S OLYMPIC SPLASH (OR TINY PLOP?): When I sat down to write this column, I had to look up the results of Rounds 2 and 3 of the Olympic surfing event to see who had advanced.
I honestly hadn’t heard the results. All day at the beach Sunday with hundreds of surfers and beach folk, and not one person brought up surfing’s Olympic debut. Even scrolling through social media that night, I caught only second-hand news that Kolohe Andino (Hawaiian sounding, but from California) had beaten John John Florence (Californian sounding name, but from Hawaii), cutting in half the USA’s chance of a medal in the men’s event.
Since Surfing Mag, Surfer Mag and Transworld Surf Magazine are no more, I went to to read its coverage on what you would think would be a historic day for surfing. There was Sean-o Doherty’s brilliant story on Friday’s earl-round action and a forecast of the upcoming swell for Shidashita, Japan, but no Monday-morning breaking news wrap of Sunday’s elimination round comp. The Olympic website gave results in a format that was too wonky to read. I finally had to pull the results from some surfing news aggregate site and later found a better breakdown from the World Surf League, which is very, very, very excited about all of this.
There has been a push to get surfing into the Olympics since the ’90s, maybe even earlier, although it was from a small but energized group in the surf industry. I have read along, more interested in if anyone cared than in the nuts and bolts of the qualification or the actual action of surfing in the Olympics.
And now that it’s happening (there might have been a medal ceremony by the time you read this), I feel like we’re finding out how it all went down.
One thing I have heard over and over is that we are watching “the best in the world compete on a global stage.”
OK, that sounds dope, even if you’re only a passive fan of competitive surfing. And I am sure for the competitors and their camps (families, sponsors, friends, coaches), it is a coveted dream come true.
But we can already watch the best in the world compete in nine World Championship Tour events, two or three World Qualifying Series events and a handful of specialty events each year. Those are in much more exciting conditions than the very average beachbreak of Shidashita, and many dedicated, year-round surfers aren’t full-time webcast watchers.
My first instinct when I heard that Olympic surfing would make its debut in July (originally in 2020) was that no one on LBI would watch it live.
July on LBI. First off, most surfers are working. Unless it’s broadcast on TV at the bar, this is our money season, and we’re out hustlin’. Second, it’s summer. If we’re not working, we’re at the beach. Maybe we’re offshore on a tuna trip. Maybe we’re hanging out with friends that we don’t see for nine months. Maybe we’re kayaking at Stafford Forge. Maybe we’re picking the tomatoes before they spoil on the vine. Maybe we’re just sitting on the deck with cool beverages, enjoying the company of friends and perfect weather.
We’re not rushing to turn on the television.
I remember thinking that if we had little 2-foot, warm summertime waves, I would be up my street surfing rather than watching. In reality, I was more likely to be watching my neighbor’s two cute little kids splash around in their kiddie pool than the finals. Come to think of it, we don’t currently have a working TV. And we don’t need one.
As I said, it’s July.
I have written for surf outlets for almost 20 years. Granted, had someone paid me to go to Japan and cover this, I might be wearing my little USA Surf Team hat and posting selfies of me and Steph Gilmore from the empty beach in Japan with a much different attitude.
But what I learned about surfing in the Olympics is that outside a few rabid fans, the excitement is not among surfers, it’s among people who watch the Olympics. And while they watch them only every four years, they are dedicated spectators, and there are many millions more of them around the globe than people who have ever been on a surfboard. When I was a kid, Mary Lou Retton was a household name. Since gymnastics didn’t have an annual All Star Game or Super Bowl, we knew her through the Olympics and the Wheaties box. Even though they are only every four years, a surfer might get more global recognition from a big result in the Olympics than for a lifetime of junior pro, qualifying and World Tour events.
The finals went down in the middle of the night Monday in our time zone. American Carissa Moore and Brazilian Italo Ferreira took the womens and mens gold medals respectively.
Not one person mentioned it in the water on Tuesday morning.
So, my instincts were mostly right. The Jetty Coquina Jam had a bigger impact locally than the Olympics. Guess we have to see if surfing retains any interest globally in August. And those tomatoes won’t last forever on the vine.
GETTING WET: The summer of waves took a few days off. This may have been the first days all summer that you couldn’t go out and ride something at lower tide on a big board. Would have been a challenge in a canoe, frankly.
Last week we had pretty much everything stacked against us for getting swell. For one thing, the exciting weather we had wasn’t of the wave-making kind. Last Wednesday’s rainstorm was likely the deluge of the year. While winter weather is more extreme overall, we just don’t get dumped on like we do when the air is so moisture-laden in the summer and the storm bands stay over us for that long.
But while you may have caught some wake on the Boulevard on your SUP or skimboarded down the street, this one didn’t create any noticeable swell, nor did anything else. June and early July brought us three small tropical swells and Tropical Storm Elsa, which most of us are still wired from. But none of that this week.
It was also a tough week for tides. Not only did we have some really fat highs, but we had two of them a day, mostly swamping any hint of swell.
Things have improved  since  Saturday. The south winds picked up Saturday night. By Sunday morning, the day of the Coquina Jam, the waves were up to 2 foot and peaked with a few belly-high waves that peaked in quality with the incoming tide at mid-day. The wind blew long and hard enough to chill the water down, but not build the surf more than the occasional 3-foot. The wind died on Sunday night but never went offshore, leaving us with cleaner conditions for Monday morning’s low tide, but still pretty bumpy and not lining up great.
Monday afternoon and evening were a nice surprise. After the wind picked up in the morning, it died late day to coincide with the incoming tide in the afternoon and evening for some really fun waist-high lines more like what we had in early July. Tuesday morning was about as glassy as it gets in New Jersey with long, peeling waves in both directions, up to waist high.
The middle of this week looks all but flat. And while there has been a predicted pattern change in the tropics that will be more favorable to storm development, it hasn’t happened yet. Everything near the Equator looks very quiet at the moment.
If you’re looking to get in there, keep an eye on the Friday morning window. It will be small, but offshore. Then Sunday we may see the surf come up a bit with south/southwest winds. We go back to a morning and an evening low tide, which is also favorable. If I had to bet, I would imagine the tropics might heat up in about 10 days.
CHILL OUT: We have to talk about the water temperature for a moment.
A few weeks ago, I was breaking down the mechanics of upwelling and how south winds drive surface water away from the coast to be replaced by frigid water from the depth of the ocean. I also noted that it’s primarily a May-early July phenomenon and that it doesn’t usually happen in August. I was open to explanations as to why, but I “floated” the idea that deeper water just wasn’t that cold by later in the summer.
Well, it’s still cold by late July, as we found out. The surf temp hit its highest point of the year so far on Saturday at 75 on some beaches. Kids were in the water swimming for hours straight.
By Monday morning, the ocean had dipped nearly 15 degrees to a chilly 60, nature’s anti-inflammatory.
There are not too many places in the world that it swings so extremely. Not the coolest thing about surfing here.
HAPPENINGS ABOUND: Things are happening all around us. Make the time for them.
This Friday, July 30, Australian waterman turned Hawaiian transplant SUP racer Travis Grant will offer a SUP Stoke and Racing Clinic through South-End Surf N’ Paddle. It costs $75. Also, if you are interested in a Learn-To-Foil Clinic with Grant, call the shop for details, 609-492-8823.
Puro Verano at SwellColors Surf City, LBIMary Tantillo introduces Puro Verano this Friday at SwellColors Gallery in Surf City. (Photo by Mary Tantillo)
Later on July 30, SwellColors Gallery opens its doors to a reception for Mary Tantillo’s Puro Verano collection, 93 original stained glass panels depicting the sun and summer.
Tantillo is a longtime surfer and forever inspired by the Island’s moods. This collection took over a year to create.
The reception is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with music and beverages from Cantina and Mary’s mother’s famous rum cake.
Next Saturday, Aug. 7, is the much-anticipated 13th Annual ALO Longboard Classic, which starts at 8 a.m. As all surf events are now, this is at the 68th Street beach in Brant Beach. Registration is likely full by now, but you can register as an alternate. There are Men’s, Women’s, Boys/Girls and Tandem divisions.
The Ship Bottom Beach Patrol will hold the Barnegat Bay Challenge on Aug. 12 this year. This is the 5-mile evening paddle that starts at the Ship Bottom Bay Beach and always attracts a very competitive crowd.
August is upon us. This is when visitors to LBI tend to get a little more demanding. Keep in mind that the labor shortage is about to get worse as fall activities start, and act accordingly.
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