All we can say is wow! Since Hurricane Sandy the term #JerseyStrong has been tossed around and said many times. Until now I hadn’t really understood what that meant. Early in 2014 I met a young man, Logan Kamen, who is 13 years old and from Freehold, NJ. He is an avid surfer to put it lightly. He competes on a high level and absolutely rips. He reached out to us while we were doing a wetsuit drive to get the groms in Peru in the water without freezing. Logan took it upon himself to enroll several surf shops around the Jersey shore to put drop boxes in their stores so that people could donate their old wetsuits. Before we knew it he had brought a giant suitcase full to Florida and then ended up shipping a giant box later on. We took them all to Peru with us tucked in all our board bags plus one huge suitcase as checked bags. That was when we originally realized how cool this kid was.
Fast forward a couple of months to when he and his family came to South Florida and we had a chance to meet to have our first discussion of the Groms Take Over event. We all decided we could pull off an amazing event for the kids, by the kids. I warned him and his mother that it would be up to them to organize while I would be busy organizing other events. That didn’t scare them off.
Before we knew it we were getting email after email of them telling me about all the people who have stepped up and are willing to help us pull the event off. It was so amazing to see the surf community in Jersey come together to support this kid and his event. It is a real testament of what kind of character this kid has. It became very clear very quick that he is well known and well liked because of his positive vibe and how he charges the waves.
I arrived at the airport on a Thursday night and the grom and his mom picked me up and drove me to their house in Freehold. I was so amped because I had been watching the charts following Hurricane Gonzalo and knew I was in for a treat. Logan confirmed that the waves would be real good the next few days and how lucky I was because we were gonna score. On Friday we spent the day surfing. We hit a few spots and surfed each one for at least a couple hours each. His mom drove us around where ever we got texts saying that certain places were firing. I felt like a complete grom. I didn’t grow up surfing but I got the full experience of what it is like being a grom and be driven to the spots while mom waits and watches every wave from the beach. It was epic! Thanks for that experience Kirsty!
Later on that evening we went over to the Manasquan High School Surf Team meeting to give a little speech about who Share The Stoke Foundation is and explain the work we do, not to mention stoked out some groms with boards. I think they have something like 50 kids on the surf team which absolutely blows my mind. They were all there and excited when two of their main team guys got boards.
Saturday rolled around and we had to postpone our event until Sunday because the waves were PUMPING!. Logan had also been selected to compete in the Surfing America Prime event in Atlantic City. So we made the hour drive and watched him compete and win his heat. Soon after we left so that we could organize for our event and get a surf session in. We ended up at LBI and got majorly barreled just like the day before.
Photo credit: Colleen Wright KerteszPhoto credit: Colleen Wright Kertesz
The waves were insanely good and very challenging. After our sesh we rushed around picking up things and planning for Sunday morning.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse:) Naturally, the last few days were absolutely perfect, warm and blue skies. Sunday morning was a different story. I think it was in the mid 40’s and super windy. Of course that wouldn’t stop us or the groms frothing to surf. We met Tyler, our super stoked emcee and volunteer, in Belmar to begin set up. Jerry from New Jersey ESA also showed up super early to get the sound system in check and anything else we needed. Before we knew it it was 9:00 a.m. and kids were starting to show despite the frigid air. We had decided to reorganize the entire event because of the cold weather and go straight into the contest because all the groms were freezing. Logan had decided to simplify things and make up four categories for the surfers. We had beginner, girls, intermediate and advanced groups. As the horn blew, the groms ran to the water to get some waves. It was amazing to see the froth these kids exhibited. It was contagious. You couldn’t help but feel it and live it too.
After each heat we would announce the winners and pass out the trophies complete with epic gear donated by several local companies. The kids were so stoked! We also gave away a few Firewire Surfboards to some of the kids that had been selected by the community based on their leadership skills and good attitudes.
To finish off the day we had the finals for the advanced group. After a serious battle a winner was crowned. And like any other event, the groms chaired the winner up the beach on their shoulders. At that moment I saw the purest form of stoke. Photo credit: Mary Dunham, Shore Shot Images
I saw three boys connect on a level that some people will never experience. They were so happy to celebrate their friends’ sweet victory. It was a moment that I will never forget and will always cherish. Another moment that will stay with me forever was when I was presented a Corey Hudson art piece. Logan had the idea to have this amazing artist make a special kind of award for Share The Stoke Foundation. It was a wooden plaque/trophy kind of thing made from wood salvaged by Corey himself after Hurricane Sandy decimated Belmar Beach houses and boardwalk. He volunteered after the storm and repurposed the wood to make epic art. I was so touched by the gift and can’t wait to get it back to headquarters and on the wall. It is one of my most prized possessions.Photo credit: Mary Dunham, Shore Shot Images
After we packed up all our stuff and wrapped up the event we boogied over to the high school state contest where we found our last grom that had been nominated to receive a new board. Between two of his heats we walked him up to the van and handed him over his new board. He was in total shock and couldn’t believe it was for him.
In a nutshell, the trip went off without a hitch, kids were stoked, the community was stoked, we were stoked and we can’t wait to create something even greater next year. Thanks Jersey for all the love and showing us what is possible when people come together. #JerseyStrong