It was only fitting that after a three-week waiting period, the oldest running winter surfing contest in the world would get snow and big surf. Two inches of snow brought on by a huge ocean storm system created some of the biggest waves of the entire winter, and Mary’s Bar at Matunuck was about as good as it gets. “This is definitely the biggest and cleanest surf we have ever had for a New England surfing contest,” said ESA Competition Director, Mario Frade. “We are going back to the late 1960’s, and I still can’t recall conditions this good. We were hoping for 3-4 footers, and we got 8-10 footers instead.”
Thanks to the generosity of Kevin Finnegan and Allen Santucci of the Ocean Mist Bar and Grill, ESA officials set up the judging stand on the deck, and contestants and observers got to eat, drink, and watch the contest.
The great surf also brought with it, icy cold winter water temperatures in the mid-30’s, blistering offshore winds, and head numbing and shock cord tearing wipe-outs. Paddling out and back into the beach proved to be a tricky job, as the powerful head high swells made the shore break a hard pounding close-out.
Surprisingly, the contest area was almost empty for the duration of the event, due to the heavy and big shifting swells, and long paddles out.
The main event was the Open Shortboard Final, which featured some outstanding barrels and deep and hollow sections. It was a field day for goofy-footers, as the left handers offered no mercy to back side riders who miscalculated some of the larger, sectioning waves.
Former East Coast Championship finalist, URI graduate, and one of New England’s greatest surfers, Jaime Kelly of Boston, showed his keen knowledge of Mary’s Bar. He patiently sat through several huge sets, and then took off on probably the longest and best sectioning overhead wall of the day. His effort gave him almost perfect 9 scores on every judge’s sheet, and wrapped up the title.
2nd place short board finisher Ron Belanger returned the favor in the Open Longboard Final, getting tucked into a double overhead section and popping out into a long inside, workable section. Kelly rallied on his last wave, but could not overtake Ron as the horn blew.
Big respect goes to Westerly’s Sophia Martino, the only female surfer to paddle out that day in the huge and sometimes unruly conditions. She charged some big set waves, despite getting caught inside on some heavy close-outs.
All finalists were awarded with a set of Hyperflex 6mm Oven Mitts and a pair of Wet Sox, thanks to area representatives Conrad Ferla and Chris Herbert. The next ESA contest is scheduled for Second Beach in Middletown on April 11th.
Final Results of the 2020 52nd Annual New England Mid-Winter Surfing Championships, held in solid 8-10 foot surf at Mary’s Bar, Matunuck, Rhode Island on March 7th, 2020. Menehune-1. Tiago Freitas Junior Men-1.Chris Synott Junior Women-1.Sophia Martino Men-1.Jamie Kelly 2.Jude Capachietti 3.Ian Lucht Masters-1.Conrad Ferla 2.Aurelien Bouche Pillon 3.Chris Herbert 4.Kevin Kendrick Senior Men-1.Andrew Freitas Legends-1.Ron Belanger 2.Joe Dimao Grand Legends-Peter Pan Men’s Longboard-1.Jamie Kelly 2.Kevin Kendrick 3.Chris Herbert Legends Longboard-1.Ron Belanger 2.Joe DiMao Grand Legends Longboard-1.Peter Pan Open Shortboard-1.Jamie Kelly 2.Ron Belanger 3.Jude Capachietti 4.Chris Synott 5.Andre Freitas 6.Ian Lucht Open Longboard-1.Ron Belanger 2.Jamie Kelly 3.Kevin Kendrick 4.Chris Herbert 5.Joe DiMao