COLD WAR SURF | Cold Water Contest In Asbury Park, NJ
“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti
When speaking about surf contests, normally, you may see a quote like the one above to kick off my thought process. I share it here now, as the quote makes perfect sense to me, in relation to each individual’s personal surfing journey. Yet with that said, like many young surfers who grew up before the advent of social media, my surfing skills were honed in the fire of competitive surfing.
Most weekends as a teen revolved around awaking early, driving to a foreign break, and rounds of surfing heats all day. I have fond memories of those days and feel gratitude toward all the surfers who were around then, as they all directly or indirectly influenced my surfing.
So here I find myself putting focus on my own story, when I should be focusing on the new cold water surf contest hitting Asbury Park, NJ this winter season. Essentially I wanted to clarify, although I hold very little interest in professional contest surfing, I respect the path. I’m also particularly jazzed about this upcoming event here in New Jersey.
New Jersey surfers are the underdogs among the underdogs and I imagine we wouldn’t want it any other way. We’ve had heavy hollow waves, top notch local surfers, and professional-level chargers for years; almost totally hidden from the public eye. Jersey surfing is a brotherhood and sisterhood of those dedicated to pushing themselves beyond the vice of bodily comfort, enduring a variety of elemental challenges, for their love of riding waves.
Over the past few years, with the increasing number of photographers shooting from both the beach and the water, New Jersey surfing has made a dent on the world stage. Once a place that conjured up thoughts of knee high July dribble, mass armies of oiled up knuckleheads swarming the coastal region in the summer, and Bruce Springsteen’s gravel-filled voice; now brings forth visions of double overhead frozen freight train barrels.
Asbury Park has an interesting story of its own as a small city by the sea.
Left for dead after the race riots of the summer of 1970, for years it was a ghost town of sorts. Desolate, dead, and unsafe, Asbury Park was both romanticized and demonized, but with a history obscured. The only thing that brought people into town was the underground music scene, Casino Skatepark, and people on a search for their drug of choice.
Surfing in Asbury Park didn’t become much of a “thing” again until around 2007 and its presence has only grown stronger over the last few years. Yet before the locals of today stood claim to the grinding tubes off “The Pipe”, it was just a handful of surfers who frequented the break in the late 90s. In those days, you may have surfed alone or with one other friend. The wave always looked mean, unfriendly, and ominous. The “Ghost Beach” as it was known as, earned its name for good reason, empty and full of spirits from a time since passed, it gave off a eerie vibe that would make for the best of thrillers and some haunting surf sessions. I’ve heard stories of the surf scene happening there in the 70s and 80s as well, bits and pieces from random sources, but nothing I can speak on from experience.
For the last ten years Asbury Park has seen an economic upswing in small pockets of the community, mainly along the waterfront and the south end of town. Some of that prosperity has spread out to other parts of the community. Yet in all truth, Asbury Park is a city that has a long way to go, and it’s the community of open-minded creatives that is pushing to bridge the gaps.
With an event coming to town like the “Cold War”, I see it not only as a chance to unite the surf community for a fun day of competition, but hopefully to bring the entire community together to witness the best surfing New Jersey has to offer.
I recently spoke with Rob Cloupe, a lifetime surfer, surf industry head, and one of the minds behind the Cold War Surf Contest.
Tell us a bit of your history with the local surf scene in New Jersey?
I grew up surfing Normandy Beach as a kid and then worked my way into the Casino Pier lineup. Started riding for Grogs and competing in the ESA and NSSA soon after. After college at UNCW, I moved back to NJ, and started working in the surf industry as a sales rep right away.
The ‘Grudge Match’ events had a positive impact on the New Jersey surf scene, giving NJ surfers a solid yearly contest event, as well as gaining exposure beyond NJ. When did you begin the Grudge Match, what were some of greatest successes with the event, and why did it end?
The Grudge started in 2002, when my friend Rob Z and I felt that the surf and even the snowboard contests all over the country were really played out. The contests had seemed to be losing any form of passion that competing against someone should have. Contests just became a way to feel good and the formats were the same. A contestant would surf 4 or 5 heats, make a final, and repeat! There was no sense of rivalry or competitive drive. Too many guys getting comfortable with an =17 placing and claiming it as a success!
The Grudge changed all that by putting the rising pro against the underground ripper from the same town, with only them in the water against each other. There were no equal 9ths, just a CHAMP like it should be! There was so many successes with the Grudge, but if I had to pick one it would be that we returned the rivalry aspect of a sport back into the surfing!
These guys got really bummed when they lost in the Grudge since it was a man vs man format and it fueled their fire for 10 years to win. The Grudge was as much about The Pier, as it was the format, and the surfers. The wave was a really special break and it made the event what it was. When the Pier was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, I felt that the Grudge should go with it. We did one more in 2013 to pay homage to the place that gave us all such good memories, but with the true wave gone, it just wasn’t the same.
Being a surfer is New Jersey isn’t for the faint of heart, be it challenging the winter waters, or weathering extended flat spells, it is only for the most devout surfers. What are the unique challenges surfing in cold water?
Everything! From changing out in the cold, to dealing with the freezing cold air/wind, to the ice cream headaches, and finally the restriction of all the gear. You have to truly love surfing to put your mind and body through that type of discomfort.
Tell us about the new event you are currently involved in called the ‘Cold War”?
The CW started over a year ago when Tim Donnelly got Sam Hammer and I together to brain storm about doing another specialty event. I had a contest format that I was working on for a while and really needed an elevated level to implement it. Tim brought that to the table with his connections in Asbury. This event will be like no other, as it has elements of a team and individual surfing event rolled into one.
Why did you choose Asbury Park as the location for this event?
We chose Asbury Park because it’s one of the few areas that has a year round community. Asbury hosts a great art and music scene, a solid underground surf scene and vibe, and is really making strides to bring different elements to the town. We wanted the CW to be an elevated platform, Asbury is the town that could pull it off, and they really wanted this type of event.
New Jersey and New York both are host to packs of great surfers. Was it hard choosing the contestants, when there are so many talented surfers to pull from?
Of course and we all had to field some phone calls about it, but in the end, we had a cap on how many we could invite. Each winning team member is going to get $1000, so the 8 man team format seemed about right. The year after we will be looking to expand the teams, bringing in some talent from the Carolinas and Florida. The best thing about the Cold War is every year it will be different teams and captains. The conditions and match ups the coaches pick will really determine the outcome. Who matches up best against who? Tube rider vs air guy…air guy vs air guy…best vs worst…best vs best! The scenarios are endless.
You have a nice waiting period for his contest, ensuring the best surf for the event. Personally, what type of conditions are you hoping for?
I feel like all contests need waiting periods because no one wants to watch an event with no surf and with these 1 day events we are way more adaptable. Personally, I am hoping for a well over head SE swell with offshore winds about 10-15 mph. I want to see guys get tubed.
Who’s your personal favorite pick for a winner in this event?
It’s a team event and with not knowing who’s on each team, I really can’t pick, but Sam Hammer is hard to bet against. Winning the first pick is going to be critical!
How do events like the ‘Grudge Match’ and now the ‘Cold War’ help elevate our surfing community?
They allow people to get behind something locally that they have a connection to. Most of the spectators know someone in the event and it really creates a passion to see your local hero win. We are playing on the same emotions that fuel major sports events, just on a grass roots level. Why are people so passionate about football or hockey? It’s all about the rivalry! When the QS comes to town it’s hard for people to get excited because the event is 4 days, it’s 4 man heats, they don’t know anyone, and you have to watch tons of heats to see an outcome. These one day events allow people to participate through the whole event and see their friend, foe, and or local hero win or lose. That sparks an emotion! I’m just excited for the shit talking once the teams are picked, some shots have already been fired on social media!
Finally, boardshorts or a 5 mil?
5 mil thats when we get the waves!
Sam Hammer and Mike Gleason going bonkers in New Jersey lightspeed tubes.
The invited competitors for the inaugural Cold War are as follows:
Leif Engstrom (Montauk, NY)
Alex Fawess (Gilgo Beach, NY)
Andrew Gesler (Ocean City, NJ)
Mike Gleason (Long Branch, NJ)
Sam Hammer (Lavallette, NJ)
Zack Humphreys (Margate, NJ)
Tommy Ihnken (Point Pleasant, NJ)
Rob Kelly (Ocean City, NJ)
Ryan Matthews (Asbury Park, NJ)
Ben McBrien (Ocean Grove, NJ)
Clay Pollioni (Ortley Beach, NJ)
Pat Schmidt (Manasquan, NJ)
Will Skudin (Long Beach, NY)
Balaram Stack (Point Lookout, NY)
Randy Townsend (Surf City, NJ)
Conor Willem (Surf City, NJ)
Brendan Tighe (Point Pleasant, NJ)
John Glenn (Ocean Grove, NJ)
Phil Browne (Asbury Park, NJ)
Contest Wait Period:
Feb 27th Through March 18th | Asbury Park, NJ