SEASIDE HEIGHTS – After three years, the Smith Optics Garden State Grudge Match belt is back in southern New Jersey, thanks to 21-year-old Zach Humphreys of Margate.
On Thursday, he beat defending Grudge Match champ Sam Hammer, of Lavallette, at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights by a score of 14.5 points to 10.5.
This was Humphreys’ first victory at the event, which features the best surfers in New Jersey. He is the first local surfer to take the title since Dean Randazzo in 2007.
“It just felt good to surf,” Humphreys said. “I haven’t had any waves in three weeks.”
Simply holding the Grudge Match this year was a challenge for organizer Rob Cloupe.
The event is held “on call,” meaning that Cloupe waited for the best day of surf in October. Competitors must be ready to drop everything and get to Seaside Heights the morning of the contest.
But erratic swells early in the waiting period and then a three-week flat spell pushed the event late in the month.
A poorly defined low-pressure system drummed up a marginal swell for Thursday morning. At daybreak, it was 2-foot with south winds. But the ocean came together for the start of the event.
By afternoon, the waves were shoulder high, with perfect offshore winds. It wasn’t the heavy barrels of years past, but it was still quality conditions.