13th Jetty Clam Jam Is Another Surfing Community Shining Event

Underdog Team of Panetta and Hans Takes Win
By JON COEN | Sep 25, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Tab Hans

On Saturday, Jetty ran its 13th annual Clam Jam surf contest at 68th Street in Brant Beach. From the start, this has been a very special contest for Long Beach Island surfers. Not just for the community aspect and unique format, but also because the Clam Jam is held “on call” for weekends throughout the fall to get the best waves possible.

Most years, the surf winds up being the big story and some big name surfer from the Island goes on to take the win. This year, the surf was lacking, and it was a true underdog team that held up the trophy at the end of the day, as Tanner Panetta and Tab Hans beat one team after another enroute to the final, and then took a close win from the early favorite team of Billy Webster of Barnegat Light and Timmy Raimo of North Beach.

Following a summer of flat to small surf conditions, the LBI surf community was riled into a frenzy with swell from Hurricane Dorian two weeks ago, when the Island saw a solid six- to eight-foot swell and was the center of the surfing universe for an afternoon. The weekend of Sept. 13-14 was the first potential date for the Clam Jam, but the surf didn’t cooperate. Then this past week, Hurricane Humberto tracked well off the East Coast, sending back a large swell for Friday, with solid leftovers for Saturday. With a three- to four-foot swell dropping just slightly during the day and offshore winds predicted for the whole morning, Saturday was the call.

The 2019 Clam Jam won’t be remembered for its great conditions, but rather for the surfing done despite the conditions. Humberto was exiting from the swell window. While the waist- to head-high waves were plenty big enough, the long period swell was offering mostly close outs: short, tough rides. It was, however, the earliest Clam Jam ever and the result was a gorgeous, bluebird day with temps in the low 80s and water temps near 70. The weather made for great turnout on the beach. Most of the surfers had friends, family and even dogs on the beach to enjoy the day.

“The early round was pretty solid,” said Panetta, who splits his time between Ship Bottom and Philly. “The wind was west and there was plenty of swell. Once it went south, things got less consistent and more challenging. There were fewer waves on offer, so getting a couple right away was important.

“As the wind picked up, finding a decent face to do some work on became really tricky. So our focus was just to land one good turn each.”

The Clam Jam follows the same format since its inception. In early September, each surfer’s name is written on a clam shell. A median age is determined, and the shells are divided into two groups, younger and older. The shells were picked at random, one from each group and matched to make teams during a party at the Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House on Sept. 6. The idea, from the start, is to create more dialogue between surfers of different ages. The Clam Jam is credited with bringing the generations together, making one of the strongest and most fun surf communities in New Jersey.

The early morning conditions were made more challenging by the early low tide, but as it filled in, the contest saw the best waves of the day. From the start, surfers such as Jamie Whitesell of Harvey Cedars and Josh Law of Beach Haven made their marks. Whitesell, 49, is still proving one of the best in the event. He and partner Evan Zodl, who has surfed this event since he was a teen, advanced well into the day.

In an odd coincidence, Law was partnered with Steve Carpitella again after the pair won the Clam Jam in 2018. Law consistently found the open faces and powered out huge frontside turns, and even landed a stylish slob air. The two powered through the whole event but were stopped in the semifinals by Raimo and Webster. Raimo has not so quietly become one of the most talented surfers on LBI with very little competitive career. He is fearless in big surf and with style to burn. Webster is a veteran lifeguard competitor and paddler for the Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol. He surfs a longboard every year; between his old school noseriding and progressive turns, his team always makes the late rounds. There was no doubt this team would be in the finals.

But that’s where they faced Hans and Panetta.

Both Panetta and Hans’ original partners weren’t able to attend the Clam Jam,  so Panetta and Hans were teamed together by the beach marshals the morning of the event.

“We both thought the other guy looked familiar; I guess just from spending time in the same waters and hanging around the same towns. But otherwise, it was a pretty fresh intro,” said Panetta, who has been doing design work between Philly and New York the past few years with both big and small companies to develop brands and experiences. While he misses his family’s home in Ship Bottom, he finds the same kind of community in parts of Philly.

“There’s so much creativity, drive, passion and pride flowing through the place. For me, that creative drive stems from surfing, working, and generally growing up in LBI,” he added.

Panetta made the finals in 2013, and that was also against a team featuring Tim Raimo.

The two stayed consistent all day, not putting up the highest waves but both contributing strong scores to their total. They beat Adam Frack and Dan Wilgus in the quarterfinals, and then in the semifinals faced another team of underdogs: Dave Werner and Shane Everet. Werner is a marine biology teacher at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Sciences in Manahawkin. Everet is a student at Southern Regional and competes for the school surf team. The pair had to beat heavily favored Conor Willem and George Jacobs to get to the semi.

Hans surfed the Clam Jam years ago but hasn’t been around New Jersey for the last few.

“My wife and I moved to El Salvador around 2015. We stayed almost four years, worked seasonally to support ourselves and did some volunteering. That became our base, which allowed us to travel the world. We surfed and made great friends,” he explained.

This winter they spent some time in Florida before returning to New Jersey. While in Sarasota, Hans hooked up with a friend who owns Gum Surfboards and shaped a board at his shop.

“I wanted a board that could do everything. So I shaped a 5’1 egg with the wide point back, pretty basic bottom contours, and single to double concave and a slight vee in the tail. I kept the rails pretty thick and the deck is real flat. It’s very cruisy but you can still rip on it,” he added.

And Hans did rip on it, all the way to the final.

Webster and Raimo had lived up to the hype all day, Webster styling through on his longboard and Raimo putting on a display of critical backside surfing in the tough conditions.

But Hans and Panetta kept chipping away in the final, finding the waves that allowed speed, and getting off solid turns. Now their names will be added to the Clam Jam trophy that stays on display at the Jetty flagship store in Manahawkin.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

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