You know what it’s like to watch the Belmar Pro – pumping surf with thousands of fired up fans on a beautiful September weekend. Some even know what it’s like to surf the Belmar Pro. But there are very few people who know what it’s like to win the Belmar Pro.
Belmar Pro surfers have come from all over the world, and the winners have been a variety of global heavies and hopefuls. In 2003, at the inaugural Belmar Pro, it was Shaun Cansdell, of New South Wales. Back then the Fosters Belmar Pro was part of the ASP’S World Qualifying Tour. Cansdell beat out a Floridian, a Hawaiian, and a Jersey boy to take $5,000 and the win, with waves courtesy of Hurricane Isabelle. By 2006, Cansdell was on the ASP World Tour.
With the Belmar Pro established in 2004, the stage was set for an epic showdown. And what two better surfers to have in the water than the “Jersey Devil” Dean Randazzo and Floridian Bryan Hewitson? Hewey was actually born in nearby Neptune, NJ.
“It was a big win for me as my Mother has 4 siblings from there, and my father had 11 siblings that grew up in Neptune City. It wasn’t a money thing, or a points thing. It was about being able to pull out a victory in front of all my family that lives up there. It was really cool to see them all. And to be able to give them something to cheer for, I was super stoked,” recalls Hewey, “I remember the waves being pretty good, as I think I made it thru one or two heats with a barrel ride. It’s no Pipeline, but to be able to get a decent score for a barrel, something had to happen.”
That year, Hewitson’s town had just been ravaged by a series of hurricanes, so he packed up the family and made the drive to escape Florida. Winning was a bonus.
2005 saw more solid surf in the early rounds and one of the greatest assembled fields of competitors ever seen in New Jersey, including all three Gudauskas brothers. But an East Coaster prevailed, as Aaron “Gorkin” Cormican punted two airs on one wave for an 8.5 to beat out Asher Nolan, Adam Virs, and Dane Gudauskas.
“It was a different kind of win because it was on my birthday,” says Gorkin, “and it was when I was kind of learning how I needed to surf heats. It was a coolio vibe up there too. All the groms were stoked on surfing and cruising.”
When the Belmar Pro took a year off in 2006, it came back with a flaring vengeance for 2007, a full barrage of new sponsors, tent village, demos, parties and pro divisions. The small surf for the finals meant that whoever could come up with some wizzardry would take the big check. Lucas Rogers found the speed to launch a historic air reverse, but Brian Toth, of Isabella, Puerto Rico, would be the wizard.
2008 was another big turnout for small waves. Kyle Garson, of Melbourne Beach, had been itching for a Belmar win for some time. This would be his year.
“I always enjoy traveling to New Jersey for contests. I was born there and it brings back good memories,” remembers Garson, “The year I won Belmar the waves were really small, but regardless I’m always stoked to win a contest. The final was against Jeremy Johnston, Travis Beckman, and Matt Keenan, and all those guys are good small wave surfers. I was happy to be able to edge them out. Hopefully I’ll have some good results in the future. I plan on traveling up there again.”
Waves returned in 2009 as the Belmar Pro was nearly sunk by a hybrid hurricane on what was supposed to be the first day of competition. Ben Bourgeois happened to be passing through New Jersey that weekend. He hadn’t surfed the Belmar Pro since 2004, but in the meantime had been requalifying for the ASP tour. Apparently, he missed the famous Belmar pizza. Bourgeois’ world-class backhand attack was too much for Jeremy Johnson, Spencer Regen, and Nils Schwiezer, as he went back to North Carolina that year with the cash.
No one will soon forget 2010, or a fella named Igor. While the second day of the event was blessed with a passing front, the weekend was marked by pounding Hurricane Igor swell.
The Pro and Womens Pro ended with excitement with both Michael Dunphy and Jamie Dewitt-Baitinger navigating huge rights to take their perspective divisions in historically heavy waves.
“For the East Coast, that was pretty great,” exclaims Dunphy, “It’s tough with a lot of the contests, but it was so sick to get good waves. I had gotten second in a lot of contests recently and I just wanted to win something.”
That he did in dramatic fashion. The Fosters Belmar Pro returns September 15 to the 18th. These winners may be looking to repeat, but come September, it’s anyone’s game.