Hawaiian Teen The Star Of Surf Fest In Ocean City

As reported by Jon Coen in The Atlantic City Press.

OCEAN CITY, NJ – At most surf contests the waves are half the story. Good waves can make or break a competition. But that wasn’t the case with the Chip Miller Surf Fest.

Despite a fairly consistent summer, August has been fairly dismal for surf. The conditions Tuesday were about as poor as Ocean City gets. But even that didn’t stop hundreds from coming to the Seventh Street beach to surf and take part in the festivities.

Bethany Hamilton, 18, of Hawaii, was the highlight of the day for most in attendance. In 2003, she lost her left arm to a shark attack. Rebounding from every surfer’s worst nightmare and coming back to the top of women’s competitive surfing has been an inspiration for not only surfers, but people the world over.

Hamilton, whose father, Tom, is originally from Ocean City, made an appearance courtesy of her sponsor, Ocean Minded, which backed this year’s Surf Fest.

Rachel Fosbenner, 11, of Beesleys Point waited with a group of her Ocean City friends for 45 minutes for a chance to meet Hamilton and have a Hamilton book signed. She and her friends have been attending surf camp this summer. Fosbenner,like many young girls, is inspired by the way Hamilton lives her life.”When she was hurt, she just got up and did it again. She didn’t let losing an arm slow here down,” explained the youngster.

“This trip to New Jersey has been good. It’s beautiful out. There’s no surf, but everyone’s having a good time,” noted Hamilton, “It’s just cool to see a community come together to support such a great cause.”

“There’s no doubt, Bethany put it over the top,” said Lance Miller, son of Chip Miller.

Chip Miller died from amyloidosis, a rare disease that degenerates the body’s organs and tissue, in 2004. In the years following, Miller’s family and friends began the event to not only honor him but to spread awareness of the disease and raise money for research.

After the small waves from last weekend died out, most surfers knew that chances of a nearly flat ocean were very probable. But still, they came out for the cause.

“There were no waves, and we had the most people we’ve ever had down here,” said event director, Nick Bricker, “We had so many people sign up yesterday and at beach registrations this morning. I’m sure you can attribute part of that to Bethany Hamilton.”

Bricker also made mention of the day’s other special guest.

“It’s also nice to see my buddy Dean (Randazzo) home and looking healthy.”

Somers Point’s Randazzo, also rides for Ocean Minded. He remains the only New Jersey made surfer to have competed on the prestigious ASP World Tour. He is currently recovering from a fourth bout with cancer.

This is his first trip home since his rigorous treatment last spring in La Jolla, Calif. He has yet to surf since his latest stem-cell transplant, but his doctors say everything looks good. His current medicine leaves his body very susceptibl to illness, however.

“I don’t have a normal immune system right now. If I wasn’t on this medicine, I would be surfing already,” said Randazzo.

After his stem-cell transplant in 2006, he was in the water just days out of the hospital, and competing in a week.

“This medicine is serious stuff,” he explained, signing autographs beside Hamilton, “I can’t fool around. But what a turnout today.”

Randazzo will host his own Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation Surf For a Cause on Saturday, Sept. 6 in Margate.

Most surfers found it a challenge just to stand on a wave. Though a few Mens and Longboard Division competitors were able to make something of the tiny shorebreak.

In the middle of the day, two New Jersey professional tow-at teams, Frank Walsh and Sam Hammer and Andrew Gesler and Matt Keenan, electrified the crowd by whipping each other at the surf behind personal water crafts. Even in the tiny surf, they were able to launch airs and do turns.

To read the full article, and for photos from the contest, check out The Atlantic City Press site.