GIVE US A BREAK!

posted by / News / February 11, 2004

It’s an election year, and that means the primaries are on everyone’s mind, to some extent. Candidates are traveling about, carrying on about what great leaders they’ll be. If it’s not too late, perhaps someone should nominate Jack Fleming, New England surfer, and Contest Director of the Red Bull Icebreak. From logistics to international diplomacy, he’s a guy that gets things done.

First, Fleming coordinated four qualifying events in the northeast this fall to coincide with four significant East Coast swells, producing six surfers each for the final event. It was an impressive feat, but things didn’t really get tough until February, when a long-awaited swell it was time to rush north to finish things off. Fleming’s job? Oh, not much. Just gather all the top East Coast surfers and media who are traveling around the world, put them on a plane during a harrowing North Atlantic winter storm and get them and their boards to Halifax, {{{Nova}}} Scotia in time to catch a rapid Atlantic swell.

The contest would start early on Sunday. From Halifax, Fleming had three quarters of the competitors (from Virginia to Maine) meet at Newark International Airport, on Saturday morning, February 7th. They boarded flight 2469 to Halifax, and were off, without a hitch, aside from missing the best day of surf since Christmas. Ninety minutes later, they were circling the airfield over Halifax International Airport and ready to land when . . .

“This is your Captain, I have some bad news,” said the man at the stick. Visibility was down to feet, and the competitors and several random Canucks, were flown instead to Bangor, Maine. The bird was refueled at a desolate airport. The competitors leaned that the flight attendant’s name was Judy. She gave them peanuts.

“This is your Captain, we have some more bad news,” buzzed the intercom again. “The weather in Halifax is getting worse, we’re returning to Jersey.” Obviously, the airline did not seem understand the dynamics of an East Coast swell. The Red Bull Ice Break was designed to let the top northeast hellmen do battle in the ultimate frigid arena with the ultimate pointbreak conditions. A Monday, 5-mil groveling contest wouldn’t cut it. Tension was mounting. The surfers were getting agitated. Judy was out of salty snacks.

Somehow, a plane was ready to send off to Nova Scotia, where conditions were improving. And nine hours after they had initially boarded in Newark, the qualifiers were in Halifax. Some boards arrived on separate flights — or not at all — forcing certain competitors to borrow equipment; others surfers had no wetsuits. But when the sun broke the gray horizon the surfers were walking a narrow, icy, path from Fleming’s caravan toward a cliff with snow gently falling on the ground.

The travel-worn pack gazed upon the Canadian pointbreak, a chilling vision of perfection. Nova Scotia had a storybook feel. Four-to-six foot surf wrapped flawlessly into the bay (unnamed, out of respect.) Snow filled a rolling field and a pristine evergreen wood upon the point. Tents were erected. Generators were gassed. Heaters were firing. Jet skis were launched. Portable hot tubs were bubbling. Sets were peeling. Fleming had done it.

The entire field of twenty-four competitors surfed two full rounds in light flurries. Their top two waves of both rounds combined, determined the six finalists. The ocean never faltered. As the wind increased, it blew full flakes seaward. Long waves are rare on the punchy Right Coast, and every overhead line was drawn to the fullest.

Thanks to the completed flight, the final round was heavily New Jersey-laden. Frank Walsh, who consistently dominates regional events had to settle for second. Matt Keenan, known for uncanny wave selection, couldln’t find the best peaks and took third. Meanwhile, VB’s Ian Parnell and Jason Borte applied opposite approaches — Ian attempted the only airs of the contest; Jason flowed a series of eeshes through the inside section — to take down Garden State WQS rookie Andrew Gessler, for fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

But even if the plane had never left the ground, it’s likely the winner would’ve been the same. Jersey Devil Dean Randazzo had been competing in the warmth of Brazil when he got the call that the Icebreak was on. With the WQS event finishing before schedule, he headed directly to Nova Scotia without wetsuits or the snowboard apparel effectively employed by others. Despite the culture shock, as the snow returned to a flurry, Randazzo — in only a light jacket and a Brazilian tan — raised the Red Bull trophy.

Former top-16er and judge Wes Laine was impressed by the quality of the event.

“After Dean’s semi-final heat, he caught a great wave coming in. We just told the guys to let loose, like he had on that wave,” Dean did just that, navigating {{{200}}} yards on one wave, with countless bashes and two cover-ups. Randazzo’s $4,500 exchanged favorably into Canadian currency, as Fleming’s crew reeked havoc on Halifax that night. And we’re happy to report that , at press time, all 24 qualifiers, the Red Bull staff, and media reps, had left Nova Scotia safely — if not willingly. Jon Coen

RESULTS:
1. Dean Randazzo
2. Frank Walsh
3. Matt Keenan
4. Ian Parnell
5. Jason Borte
6. Andrew Gessler

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