Jersey Devil

| posted on November 27, 2012

East Coast native Dean Randazzo, still getting as shacked as ever after multiple battles with cancer. Photo: Gilley

Rob Gilley

Previously in denial about his photographic past, Rob Gilley now rummages through his trove of mediocrity.

It has almost been a month since Super Storm Sandy steamrolled through the Northeast and cut an unprecedented swath of destruction. Many coastal residents of New York and New Jersey had their homes obliterated and lives turned upside-down. Some people are still without power.

I have faith that these people will rebuild their homes and their lives, and that a stronger community, both in spirit and structure, will rise and take its place*. What bolsters this faith is the knowledge of what happened after 9/11, and the familiarity with the resilient character of people that come from there—people like Dean Randazzo.

I first met Dean on Long Beach Island almost 25 years ago, and have loosely followed his surf career since. After Dean moved to San Diego, I also got to see him surf in person a few times. What I’ve gathered from observing him over the years is that his surfing reflects his character: Hardy. Irrepressible. Strong.

As many know, Dean has had four separate bouts with Hodgkin’s disease since 2001, and has not only overcome them, but has returned each time from these battles as a stronger warrior. His fast, high-energy, powerful carving approach hasn’t lost a beat. Like an indestructible Swiss watch, he just keeps on ticking.

At some point in Dean’s career he got the nickname The Jersey Devil. I’m guessing this was due to his come-hell-or-high-water, blistering approach to riding waves. Evidence of Dean’s unrepentant methodology could be seen during his time on the World Tour—he surfed heats like Dane Reynolds before Dane Reynolds surfed heats like Dane Reynolds.

Dean’s surfing can really be appreciated when the waves get big and perfect. Those who’ve watched Dean’s legendary performance at a triple-overhead Mexican point break in The Decline know what I’m talking about—routinely air dropping, getting deep pits, and throwing manly carves in places where others were hesitating or faltering. Despite a plethora of pros and underground heroes out that day, he surfed with unmatched strength and dominance.

In the face of all this robust evidence, I find it incredibly ironic—and inappropriate—that we call Dean “devil” and Sandy “super.” What I propose is to signal a time-out and make an official switch: Let’s start using “super” to describe Dean Randazzo, and “devil” to describe the storm that sent so much misery and hurt to the Eastern shores of the United States.

*to support, ensure and expedite this rebuilding process, please make a donation to Hurricane Sandy relief charities like

Randazzo, highlining during his legendary session in Mexico. Photo: Divine

  • Jim Cook

    Hey Rob great article. I’m on Long Island and it is still pretty bad in the Rockaways, Island Park and Long Beach. Everyone is recovering and the surf is still rolling in despite the relocation of much of the sand bars. Another great place to donate to is Waves for Water, they are doing great things out here…

  • Jimmy the Saint

    I can’t say I have seen much footage of Dean surfing, but then again I am not sure that matters. I have of course seen his name and photos of him in articles in magazines that questioned why he didn’t get more coverage even before he got ill. It is not really important how good a surfer Dean is that is of interest to me, but the lessons he could share with us. I would really like it if Surfer magazine did a series of articles on people who have been through hell and high water and continue to surf. I would much rather read a long article on how surfers have dealt with issues like illness and disabilities than on the next generic up and coming pro with their iphone. Whilst I know Surfer has, of late, done some great articles (one on US soliders who were injured surfing for instance) it has missed other oppurtunities. The short article on the guy (forgive me – his name escapes me) who is charging Mavs whilst not being allowed to drive could have been a much longer article. I thought it was the best part of that magazine. I would love to read a long article on Dean in Surfer with Dean on the cover, he deserves it!

  • Irish

    My home break is south of Jersey at Assateague Island, Maryland but I’ve had the pleasure of conquering a couple nice sets in south Jersey. Dean, to me, was a photo in East Coast surf shops or a story told to me by some of the salty old guys with whom I love to surf. I loved reading this. There is so little coverage on East Coasters, and the world needs more Deans. Keep stuff like this coming.

  • Logan

    I never get tired oh hearing your perspective Gilley. I have surfed with Dean and seen him surf many times in SD. You are the coolest.

  • Tyler Vaughan

    Is that footage of Dean in Mex available online anywhere?!