ESA Runs Surfing Contest in Ocean City

ESA Runs Surfing Contest in Ocean City

First heat of the day at the ESA competition in Ocean City on June 13. (Photo credit Tony Jewell)

Surfers from all over South Jersey came out in droves to compete in the first sanctioned contest on the East Coast since the coronavirus pandemic. There were over 100 entries for the June 13 contest held at the 7th Street beach in Ocean City.

The contest started at 8 a.m. and ran all day with over 30 heats of fun, competitive surfing at all levels of competition.

There were longboard divisions, shortboard divisions, a bodyboard division and one of the the day’s highlights was the debut of a new division called the “mini-groms,” which is a 10-and-under age group that was allowed a “push-in” assist by a parent.

Pro surfer, Rob Kelly, who served as a judge for the competition said, “It was great to see the SNJ-ESA step up and bring surf competition back to life after everything that has been going on.”

He continued, “From start to finish the event adhered to all the social distancing guidelines. Proving that is possible to run a safe contest will hopefully inspire other organizations to follow the ESA’s lead and provide more platforms for surfers to start to compete again.”

Local Ocean City surf mom and area yoga instructor, Michelle Whelan said, “The whole contest was so mellow, so fun and just beautifully run.”

Her daughter, Sophia, won both the shortboard and longboard divisions for U18 junior women events and her son, Cullen, won the Boys U12 division and the bodyboard division.

Mini-grom competitors with ESA Directors Mike Collins, left, and Chad Gallagher. (Photo courtesy ESA)

Other area winners were as follows:

Eamon McDermott won the Open Longboard, Cooper Jewell won the Boys U14, Ethan Dunn won the Junior Mens U18 division, Brynn Gallagher won the Girls U14 division, and Mia Gallagher won the Girls U16 division.

From Cape May, Kaiden Cameron won the Jr Longboard, Otter Donohue won the Menehune Longboard and Tucker Collins brought home the win for the Boys U16 division as well as the coveted Open Shortboard division.

All contest results can be found via this link: 

The ESA (Eastern Surfing Association) is the largest amateur surfing association in the world. They promote a family oriented surf culture with a focus on a healthy and active lifestyle.

They are a 501c3 non-profit devoted to spreading the love of surfing and to caring for the people and the environment in the communities they serve. Two of the original founders of the ESA, Cecil Lear and David Reese, are still active in the organization that they helped to form over 50 years ago.

Local surf legends and NJ Surf Hall of Fame Inductees, Joe Grottola and Lisa Roselli, have also been at the helm of shaping this organization for nearly 40 years.

Currently the ESA is organized into 25 districts, which extend along nearly 2,000 miles of coastline from Maine to the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama and even the Great Lakes. Each district’s programs are developed and operated by a dedicated group of volunteer directors and staff, led locally now in South Jersey by Chad Gallagher of Ocean City, who surfed in the SNJ District when he was a young grom, and Mike Collins of West Cape May.

Maryann McAfee of Upper Township has two sons, James and Jude, who surfed for the first time in the ESA last weekend. She said their experience was great, noting “they just loved the energy of the whole day and they are excited to be a part of our local surf community.”

McAfee added, “They can’t wait for more.”

The next contest will be held on July 11 at 7th Street beach in Ocean City. Surfers can sign up at and look for the ESA-SNJ contest line up.

Surfer Keira Linthicum, of Ocean City, smiles after a victorious day. (Photo courtesy ESA)