A shockingly cool surf competition is set to make waves off the Asbury Park boardwalk in March, and this year comes with a wintery skate challenge.
The Cold War surf competition is designed to showcase the heavy, booming waves of the Atlantic’s winter ocean and challenge some of the East Coast’s best surfers in conditions that could quickly kill a human without a wetsuit.
“This body of water right here is some of the coldest temperatures you’re ever to feel,” said 37-year-old Sam Hammer, a professional surfer who grew up in Lavallette. “Our water can get down to 33, 34 degrees.”
Hammer said the waves feel different at that temperature than in the typical summer 70-degree range.
“The winter ocean is completely different from the summer ocean,” he said. “There’s more energy. The water feels more dense. When it hits you… it goes through you. It just feels like there’s more power.”
To survive in water so cold, surfers must wear full body wetsuits, which constrict movement and add an additional challenge to the competition. Surfers from around the East Coast will be participating, many of whom catch waves in much warmer waters. Hammer said that could bring the Jersey surfers an advantage in the Cold War competition.
“The wet suits and the cold, it kind of equalizes the playing field,” he said.
Surfers hope March will bring a storm from the south up the coast, and with it, massive waves. The actual day of the competition will be announced just 48 hours in advance of expected ripe conditions.
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“There’s never been this much talent in the water on the Jersey Shore, ever,” said Tim Donnelly, a surfer from Asbury Park who helped co-found the competition. “It’s kind of an amazing time to be surfing at the Jersey Shore.”
About 1,000 spectators braved the winter beach last year to watch the first competition, he said. This year, the event has expanded to include a cold condition skate contest, the Asbury Ice Bowl, to be held at the Forth Union skate park in the boardwalk Casino.
“That little area has turned into a hub of creativity in action sports,” said Donnelly. “I think Asbury Park is kind of the perfect venue for this.”
New Jersey legend Andrew Gesler and Hammer will divide participating surfers into two teams during a kickoff party on March 4 at The Wonder Bar.
“If you’re someone that’s not really familiar with the surf scene here, the ocean in the winter, this is a great event to go check out,” said Hammer. “There’s a lot of interaction with the crowd. It’s a really great event.”
Follow developments at coldwarsurf.com.
Amanda Oglesby, Asbury Park Press: 732-557-5701; aoglesby@GannettNJ.com