Warm Fuzzies at CLIF Cold Shot Awards

In its third year, Cold Shot is just getting warmed up

It’s a cruel irony. On the East Coast, the best waves of the year happen during the frigid winter months. Usually between December and April, typically when water temps are below 50 degrees and the air is near freezing. This is when the CLIF Cold Shot challenge commences.

Last Wednesday was what many would call one for the books with a stellar turnout for the award ceremony and crowning of the champions of the CLIF Cold Shot challenge. I was asked to be one of the hosts or better yet MC the event and I humbly accepted.

Cold-water surf photography is being celebrated in a way that doesn’t happen often enough these days in the surf world.

The CLIF Cold Shot is a photo exhibit and fan-decided photo competition, celebrating the coldest, most raw and beautiful moments from the winter’s surf season. Even with what some say was one of the more dismal winters for waves in years, the annual competition celebrated its third season and in a fashion that was bigger than ever. The submissions from 212 registered photographers with a total of 986 entries and 2,637 votes, battled it out for $9K in prize money, and the prestigious title of CLIF Cold Shot challenge champion.

Some of the biggest names in action sports and cold-water surfing threw in their two cents as well. NYSEA’s carefully curated panel of judges this year included Todd Glaser, Sal Masekela, Lakey Peterson, Jason Murray, Peter Devries, David Carson, and Sachi Cunnigham. Also judging and so graciously helping us announce the winners at the award ceremony were Emmy award-winning filmmaker Taylor Steele and legendary cold water and NY surf photog pioneer Mike Nelson. They joined an exuberant crowd of NY surf scenesters over beers and shared stories, while taking the time to shed some insight on what it takes to be a surf photographer or cinematographer in the conditions we experience as cold-water surfers clutching cameras.

As I was handed the mic to help announce the winners and nervously interview two of my childhood idols, I was thoroughly impressed by what surrounded me.

Haters might say I choked.

There I was in a room full of stoked surfers, many of them peers and friends, all showing one thing in common regardless of surf ability, or photo portfolios, or this and that, which was the love for it. “It” being that feeling that only a cold-water surfer knows. The isolation, frigid temperatures, the chase and commitment. That and the importance of what cold water surfing means to not only New York and the East Coast, but to surf culture and the boundaries that can be pushed. There were photographers and surfers from Maine to North Carolina. The vibes were high, excitement was in the air and if there was one thing for certain, it was the fact that wintertime East Coast surfing is alive and thriving, and the chase to push it to the next level is more present now than it ever has been. Haters might say I choked, but one thing’s for certain, boy did I have a blast and a few good laughs joining the party and grabbing the mic for my friends at NYSEA.

Then there were the winners.

In the two categories, there were four winners decided in each and cash prizes for all finalists.

In the empty wave division:

  1. Trevor Murphy, Cape Cod, Mass.— “Beach Break Heaven”
  2. Chris St. Lawrence, Upstate New York – “Freezer Burn”
  3. David Sieczkiewicz, New York – “Focus Empty”
  4. Mike Incitti, New Jersey – “Sinking Deep Into the Essence”

And for the Surfer photo division:

  1. Ryan Mack & Sam Hammer, New Jersey – “Underneath Surfer”
  2. Jon Carter & Brett Barley, Outer Banks, North Carolina – “Purple Skies & Golden Lines”
  3. Chris St. Lawrence & Kyle Latch, Upstate New York – “Goldmine”
  4. Timmy Torchia & Mike Gleason, New Jersey – “Gleason Out Back”

The gallery showcasing the competition was open to public viewing at 198 Allen Street for two days – May 29, the day and night of the awards ceremony, and the following night the 30th, when a celebration of women’s surfing photography called a Women’s Surf Night out with Lava Girl Surf took place. The show made for not only a singular exhibit but one of the busiest corners in the Lower East Side of Manhattan that evening.

The CLIF Cold Shot celebrates the epitome of what east coast surfing is all about. Getting the best waves, no matter what it takes. It’s clear to see. The legacy of cold-water surf photography is being celebrated in a way that doesn’t happen often enough these days in the surf world. It gives photographers an opportunity to showcase their work, maybe even win some cash, and it all happens right here in New York. Thanks to all the voters, submissions, photographers and surfers, and of course CLIF Bar and NYSEA for putting on such a unique event and competition. See you next winter.