Each September our shore community marks the beginning of “locals summer” where year-round residents take back the beach and enjoy their own summer reprieve. It also marks the annual Belmar Pro surf competition held by Eastern Lines each year in early to mid- September. This year the annual 2019 Belmar Pro will bring surf, art and music to the beach from Friday, Sept. 13 through Sunday, Sept. 15.
THE ANNUAL BELMAR PRO
Although in the past few years the Belmar Pro has been held the first weekend after Labor Day, when the contest first started it was always held right around Sept. 11 and this year the contest will once again be held closer to that initial date.
Don Tarrant, owner of Eastern Lines and event coordinator, explained the way the calendar fell every year the contest was being held earlier and earlier in the month, but this year he decided to push it back a weekend. The closer the contest is to Labor Day, the more difficult it becomes for the town of Belmar. Initially Tarrant thought the contest may have needed an extra day due to the amount of entries, it will remain a three-day contest for another year.
“We’re going to be back to three days so it will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” explained Tarrant. “And it’s like in the past we normally run the men’s eliminations on Friday, which is the first day, and then the second day we start all the main events, so like longboard, women’s, all that stuff starts on Saturday along with the men’s.”
In addition to the change of the weekend the annual Belmar Pro has a brand new sponsor for 2019 that is drawing quite some excitement.
“Sol beer came on as a sponsor this year replacing Monster and they’re actually sponsoring the longboard event, so the three main sponsors of the contest are Fins, Playa Bowls and Sol beer,” he said. Sol sponsors the Longboard Pro, Playa Bowls sponsors the Women’s Pro and Fins sponsors the Men’s Pro.
“They [Sol] were talking about taking a larger role next year, they just wanted to get in and get their feet wet and see how it worked out,” explained Tarrant. “So we’re actually having a party on Friday night at Joe’s Surf Shack that’s sponsored by Sol so that will be a Sol party and then we’re having the official Belmar Pro Party on Saturday night at the Beach Haus Brewery.
“So we have parties both of those nights with live music and we have surfboard giveaways and all of that stuff, so we do have stuff to do both nights, which is good,” he added.
While many surfers return year after year to surf the annual Belmar Pro, new surfers constantly arise in the lineup as well, so there’s always fresh competition.
“The surfers change year to year so there’s always a lot of younger pros coming up and some of the older pros drop out, but Rob Kelly who won it last year, he’s in the contest again this year,” explained Tarrant. “Cassidy McClain, who is the past women’s winner, she’s in the contest again this year. Tony Silvagni, who’s a longboarder, he’s won the longboard event five times, he’ll be in the event this year again.”
“He’ll have some real serious competition this year, though, because the current world champion is here so … the longboard event, especially, should be very exciting this year,” he added.
Another element that is new for this year’s contest, but not for the history of the contest itself, is bodyboarding.
“The other thing that we did is we returned pro bodyboarding to the contest,” said Tarrant. “We had pro bodyboarding, it must of been 10 years ago and I was approached by the Association of Professional Bodyboarders [APB] about including it in our event, so we have a separate pro bodyboard division and there’s guys from all over the U.S. and the Carribean coming to compete in just the bodyboard event.”
The bodyboard preliminary will take place on Saturday as well and all the semifinals and finals of each division of the Belmar Pro are set for Sunday.
“Bodyboarding for some reason kind of disappeared a little from the surfing scene and they’re trying to come back so we’re trying to help them out a little bit,” he explained.
According to Tarrant the bodyboarding portion of the contest will be something a little different for spectators to see.
“Some of these guys with the bodyboarding get some spectacular airs and kind of like flips,” said Tarrant. “It’s pretty crazy and we have a whole separate set of judges for them because our judges, they’re really not qualified to judge bodyboarding.”
While each year the annual Belmar Pro circulates a contest poster, this year the poster adds an unexpected element of art and local roots to the mix.
“This year, I don’t know if you saw the contest poster we got a beautiful, it’s actually, I think this is probably one of the best contest posters we ever had,” shared Tarrant. “The wave was done by a local artist, his name is John Glenn, and what we did is we made a hundred prints of the actual painting and he signed them and we are going to be selling them at the event this year.”
According to Tarrant, they have already been selling some of the prints at the store and everybody really likes them. “They’re on an all-black background so the wave really pops off the print,” he added. “They’re beautiful.”
Tarrant shared that Glenn went into the shop and showed him a copy of the painting and his initial response was, “Oh my God, John, I think I have to steal that. Can I pay you to let me use that for the Belmar Pro this year?” Glenn excitedly obliged. According to Tarrant, Glenn is a young artist who will get a lot of exposure from this and he’s totally stoked on it.
“And if you look at the print, that’s actually the Belmar Fishing Pier,” said Tarrant. “Yeah, so that’s actually a wave that breaks right there and that’s actually a real popular place to surf, especially in the wintertime.”
Another art element to add to the mix comes in the form of a mural. According to Tarrant, Jill Hawthorne is going to be doing a live mural on the beach on Saturday and that night the mural will be raffled off at the official Belmar Pro Party at Beach Haus Brewery. Hawthorne is an art teacher who has been doing murals all over the Jersey Shore this summer.
“She just did a huge mural on the side of Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant and she’s currently doing a mural for the Point Pleasant train station …,” said Tarrant. “Along with the live music she’ll be painting a mural right where we’re having the music up by the boardwalk.”
Live music on the beach will take place both Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. “The music is a good backdrop to what’s going on,” said Tarrant. “You get a lot of people hanging out on the boardwalk, they can see the ocean and hear the music real well, too.”
Head to the beach for the 16th Annual Belmar Pro and enjoy the surf, music, art and everything else the contest brings to the community. For more information on the contest as well as a preliminary schedule, visit belmarpro.com.