A Super Surf Week in New York (recap / photo gallery)

A Super Surf Week in New York
By: Chris Hamlet

This year the NYSea Open Pro event was held Wednesday July 16 and kicked off the 5th annual New York Surf Week, which has grown to be one of the most momentous events of summer in New York. Beginning the day with rainy and mushy 2-3 foot surf, spectators and contestants alike had no idea what the day was holding. As the tide began dropping at noon, the sun came out, wind turned offshore, and swell jumped up another foot and a half, creating some highly contestable surf. “The last two years and this year especially we’ve gotten really lucky with the conditions,” says Cliff Skudin. “Having the contest on the first day of the waiting period, really sets up the whole week ahead with some good energy.” The whole week featured a Vendor Village atop the boardwalk as well. Free giveaways, delicious local food trucks, and clothing companies drew large crowds everyday.

Amidst the contest, the professional surfers took time out to aid Surf for All, a charity based out of Long Beach, NY, dedicated to assisting developmentally disabled teenagers into the ocean. The ocean has proven to be a source of spiritual healing. Before the quarterfinals would head into the water for the days competition, the blind and visually impaired were treated to some time in the ocean. “NYSea does a lot for the community. Being able to come down, watch and be a part of this event is an incredible feeling,” states Montauk local Leif Engstrom. The Surf for All programs would continue to hold different events for varying disabilities throughout the week at National Boulevard. After an inspiring display of watching these blind teenagers surf waves into the shoreline, the contest was back underway.

Falling in the semi final would be local ripper Richie Bogart and New Jersey native Tommy Ihnkin, which would go on to end in a nail biting final between the two event favorites Leif Engstrom and Balaram Stack. Balaram posted some big scores early in the heat, putting Leif’s back against the wall needing upwards of an eight-point ride. “Balaram is the one kid you don’t want to draw in this contest,” notes Leif. “Luckily I got one that came to me that gave me a good wall.” In the dying minutes of the final heat, Leif put together a nine-point ride to take the lead and win over Balaram, taking home the first place prize.

As the contest wrapped up people got ready for the digital art show, which took place at The Park Sports Bar and Grill. Local surf photographers Mike Nelson, James Parascandola, and Matt Clark displayed their work atop 30 different high definition T.V screens for viewing pleasure. Having the photos on the screen gave them a crisp feel, comparable to looking through the lens of a camera giving you a different perspective than viewing them on canvas. Ranging from shots of lone barrels, scenery, Hurricane Sandy destruction, silhouettes, and aerial surfing, every photo on screen was available for print on 11×17 hard paper right in the back of the restaurant.

Thursday night, as friends and supporters arrived tattered and beaten from the endless summer sun, they piled into the bus and rode into the Brooklyn city night, preparing for the new and highly anticipated New York surf thriller, Empire Now. Premiering for the first time ever at the Villain in Williamsburg Brooklyn Transition and NYSea productions were set to illustrate to the rest of the world what the eclectic group of surfers can do.

Set in the streets of New York, the plot revolves around a golden treasure chest. “We came together to build something different. We wanted to deliver an epic surf video using the streets of New York,” says producer Will Skudin.. The chest is passed among surfers trying to keep it out of the hands of masked men, used as transitions into each section of the film. The opening segment features surfing on the sandbars of Long Island and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Ranging from a feverish display of big wave surfing in the outer reefs of Hawaii and slabs of Ireland to aerial maneuvers in the heart of the tropics, the film demonstrates the skill level of surfers who come from New York. The film will be available for purchase later this year.

Next on the NY Surf Week agenda was the NYSea party thrown at Warehouse 5, Island Park, New York. With a guest list containing hundreds, and ticket sales through the roof, Warehouse 5 held one of the biggest events of the summer. Upward of 850 people who attended were treated to a skate jam on the indoor mini ramp, and live reggae music performed by local favorite Jah Stix. As the night went on and the Imperial beers flowed, guests mingled, danced, and partied until morning hours.

Needless to say, Saturday started a bit slow, but once 5 o’clock p.m. rolled around, the beach and boardwalk at National Boulevard flooded with people who came to honor the annual paddle out for George “Geeza” Geiser, an avid surfer and well known the community of Long Beach, New York. George tragically passed away on November 7th, 2009. The paddle out was then followed by a skate contest and beach concert right on the sand. A four-foot mini ramp constructed by Red Bull gathered skaters from all around, while local favorites Jah Stix and Groundswell performed live music. In an open skate jam format, New Jersey’s Sean Plundeke repeated his performance from last year’s competition, beating out locals Nick Borrelli and Matt Nesseman in the final. Even Danny Kass, two time Olympic snowboarding silver medalist for the United States team showed up to skate, but fell short to Sean, who was well deserved of the grand prize.

Sunday would be the final day of Surf Week, which focused on the younger generation of surfers. A surf competition for ages 17 and under would start the day off, moving into another premiere of Empire Now at the Sands Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, NY that night. The kids contest began that morning in 2-3 foot choppy surf conditions and would remain pretty much the same throughout the day. New Jersey grom Cooper Fortney ended up taking down Southampton’s Jared Bono, and other New Jersey pals Logan Kamen and Jude Clarke in the final heats of the day. Brooke Baldassare made her way through the heats of the day and came out on top in the girls division. Cooper and Brooke both were stoked to take home the grand prize package containing Solo Shot cameras and backpacks overflowing with goodies from NYSea and Flip Audio Headphones.
In attendance of the second movie premiere were about 100 kids and their families, who hoped to gain an inside look at New York surfing. A mechanical surfboard atop a blow up bouncer and a non-stop flow of free popcorn were some of the attractions that kept the kids busy until the start of the screening. One grom stated, “The end was my favorite part,” referring to a bone-chilling tow session at Teahupoo with Keali’i Mamala and Will Skudin.

All in all the week turned out to be a full success and proved to be a fun-filled summer adventure. It’s great to see something like this come together and be so impactful. “Surfing has become a major part of our community, and it all stems from what NYsea has helped do,” stated Chief of Long Beach Lifeguards Paul Gillespie. As a Long Beach local and passionate surfer myself, I can fully appreciate the hard work that was done and am already eagerly awaiting New York Surf Week 2015. Thanks to all main sponsors Hurley, Earthmissions Travel Agency, Imperial Cerveza, Flip Audio Headphones, z100 radio, WaveJet, WRV surfboards and of course, NYSea.


NYSEA Open Surf Contest:

1. Leif Engstrom

2. Balaram Stack

3. Tommy Ihken

4. Richie Bogart

Kids Surf Contest:


1. Cooper Fortney

2. Jared Bono

3. Logan Kamen

3. Jude Clarke


1. Brooke Baldassare

2. Selena Moberly

3. Dakota Ejnes

4. Liz Kohler

Open Skate Contest:

1. Sean Plundeke

2. Nick Borrelli

3. matt Nesseman

Kids Skate Contest:

1. Bennie Osnow

2. Harrison Paletta

3. Toma Mamala

All photos by Grant Monahan