Local surfing legend Dean Randazzo, former World Tour star and world-ranked Master, still has it going on.
The Somers Point resident and longtime fixture on the Ocean City surf scene is now 46 and regarded as one of the greatest surfers — perhaps the greatest — to ever come out of New Jersey. With his speed and power and aggressive technique in competition, he earned the nickname “The Jersey Devil.” But since founding the nonprofit Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation, he has been even better known for doing mostly angelic things.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2001, Dean endured four separate bouts with the disease, each time beating it and returning to top competitive form. He has been cancer free for more than five years.
“My lungs and breathing aren’t what they were, I have a slight case of COPD but otherwise (his health is) pretty good,” Randazzo told OCNJDaily.
Since his initial diagnosis, Dean has taken a new focus: using the sport he loves to help others battling the disease and to raise funding to aid cancer research.
Randazzo’s Foundation will present the 9th Annual Paddle for a Cause event on June 11 at the Farley State Marina in Atlantic City, adjacent to the Golden Nugget Casino. More than 100 stand-up paddle boarders took part last year, Dean said, and even more are expected this year.
Paddle for a Cause is a wide ranging event to appeal to everyone from hardcore World Paddle Association members participating in the 22.5-mile competitive race around Absecon Island to casual paddlers taking part in a 4-mile Back Bay fun paddle to the Wonderbar on Albany Avenue. In between there is an 8-mile non-competitive paddle for the more serious participant who might not yet be ready to challenge the pros.
There will even be an option for spectators to take a boat ride alongside the paddlers for a unique view of the action and the ability to enjoy food and libations.
Those paddling to Albany Avenue receive transportation along with their boards, back to the Golden Nugget. An after-party will take place 4 p.m. at the Marina. Each participant is required to raise at least $200, meaning that the event will garner well over $20,000. But participants are encouraged to raise more and prizes will be awarded to those who raise the most. For more information or to register, visit www.deanrandazzo.dojiggy.com
In addition to his surfing and charity work, Randazzo and brother Joe run the Jersey Devil Surf Shop on the Boardwalk at Resorts Casino in AC. A full-service shop selling clothing, boards, and offering private and group lessons, surf camps and a surf school, the shop’s website www.jerseydevilsurf.com offers a surf camp, web cam, wave reports and online ordering of goods and services. “We sell the beach lifestyle,” he said. “You don’t have to actually surf to enjoy the surfing culture.”
A native of Margate, Randazzo has been surfing seriously since his teenage years. He took part in many of the competitions on Ocean City’s Peck’s Beach and was a familiar presence on beaches from 1st Street to 6th St.
“Ocean City’s waves were a little bit bigger and the jetties blocked the current. I always (considered it) a great surfing spot.”
Following his competitive career on the World Tour, he finished fifth overall in the world Masters Championships in back to back years (2011-2012). He also has a fourth place finish under his belt in the International Surfing Association’s World Masters championships.
He said he credits his mom, Mary Lou for supporting his surfing career, especially in the early days, and his wife Barbara.
“And of course, I am grateful to my brother Joe for donating his stem cells for my transplant…I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for him,” Randazzo said.
He credited Ocean City’s legendary former recreation guru Don Pileggi for conducting surfing contests and showing surfing movies.
“In the days before the Internet, that was one of the few ways you could see the top surfers,” he said. “That was a big deal.”
When he was about 16, Dean was arrested in Ocean City for riding the waves during Hurricane Gloria.
“(The police) were calling me in and I knew I was going to be arrested anyway, so I surfed all morning,” he said. “The more I surfed, the bigger the crowd grew on the boardwalk and the jetties.”
After about four hours, the session finally ended and he was booked in his wetsuit.
But Randazzo had the last laugh. He was hired as a lifeguard on one of the surfing beaches. “And my sponsor paid my fine,” he said with a laugh.