S.J. teen surfing in world meet

Wildwood's Maddie Peterson is the first entry from New Jersey to compete in the world meet in its 24-year history. JACK McDANIEL
Wildwood's Maddie Peterson is the first entry from New Jersey to compete in the world meet in its 24-year history. JACK McDANIEL
Posted: April 06, 2014

Maddie Peterson's first day in Ecuador was April 1, so she had to play a joke on her father.

Peterson, away for the International Surfing Association World Junior Championships, sent him a text with some distressing news. She told him she had hurt an ankle badly and wouldn't be able to compete in the event.

Her father, Jamie Peterson, became nervous. The former Wildwood High School football coach had helped her get to competitions around the country, and his daughter was on the brink of making some history.

Maddie Peterson was almost in tears when she revealed it was only a joke. The 16-year-old Wildwood Crest resident will become New Jersey's first entry in the 24-year history of the World Junior Surfing Championship, which begins Saturday.

"It's really cool to be a part of something like this," said Peterson, one of 12 Americans in the competition. "I'm really honored to be chosen to come here."

Peterson began surfing when she was 3. Her friend's father ran a surf camp and got her on a board. She took to the sport and never looked back. She went to school until she was 12, then was home-schooled so she could work on her surfing.

"I just love the water," said Peterson, who will compete in the under-16 portion of the event. "It's just getting in the water when I was 3. I've just always been in the water."

Around the time she began home schooling, she picked up a sponsorship from Billabong, then two years later moved to Under Armour, which remains her primary sponsor.

The sponsorships allowed her to travel for different competitions. She is a four-time National Scholastic Surfing Association East Coast champion and won the NSSA National Championship last year.

By the time she is 21, Peterson would like to compete on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour.

The different competitions have allowed her to travel the country and practice on bigger and more challenging waves, such as the ones in Florida and California. New Jersey is a difficult place to become a better surfer.

"It's like trying to be a snowboarder living in Miami," said Dean Randazzo, who is from Atlantic City and is the only person ever to make it to the tour from New Jersey. "You're dealing with elements that kids from Florida or Hawaii or California don't have. You deal with the cold weather.

"She gets to get good waves and not get stuck in New Jersey with snow storms and flat spells slowing her down. She's a little bit ahead of the game with those competitions."

The World Junior Championship is another competition to get her ahead. While she continues to improve and work toward her goal, she remains proud of her untraditional background.

"Like you're trying to do the best for the U.S., you want to do your best for New Jersey," Peterson said. "It's like protecting your family. You want to do well for your family and represent your family well. You want to represent Jersey well."

"She's really doing well in all these contests," Randazzo said. "This is a bigger one on a bigger stage. The whole world's kind of watching the ISA World Championship.

"I hope she does well down there and brings it home. It's great for her to be representing Jersey, another person out there, kid out there, pushing it from Jersey."


ncarroll@phillynews.com

@NickJCarroll

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