ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Dean Randazzo is known for racing down the face of a steep wave and shredding surfing competitions around the globe. Now, he is preparing to race around Absecon Island on a paddle board for the 12th annual Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation Paddle For A Cause.
His fierce, never-say-die determination earned him the moniker “The Jersey Devil” on the Association of Surfing Professionals World Championship Tour. In 2008, while Randazzo was battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma for the fourth time, seven of his friends created the Paddle For A Cause - overcoming hurricane swells to paddle around Absecon Island to show their support for the local surfing legend.
In the past, Randazzo has supported the annual Paddle For A Cause either on the sidelines or participating the 4- and 8-mile social paddles. His lung capacity has diminished through his four bouts with cancer and many rounds of chemotherapy.
“Since my first round of treatment, I really couldn’t paddle around in the lineup like I used to,” Randazzo said. “I had to be more focused on strategy rather than just surfing all out.”
This year, The Jersey Devil is training like Rocky Balboa. Randazzo is preparing for the 12th Paddle For A Cause with daily cardio and weight training.
“I think I am finally ready,” said Randazzo. “I have been training for the last few months and I’m feeling stronger than ever.”
Mike May, a longtime friend and supporter of the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation, created a 22.5-mile course to force competitors to put in the mindset of someone who is fighting for their life. It’s to remind the paddlers that the event is to support people with cancer and the event is widely considered one of the most challenging paddleboard courses on the east coast.
“After about three hours you start questioning your ability, you start questioning the reason why you did this. It is a mental struggle,” said Paul Giunta. The Somers Point resident is a past president and has raced in the paddle multiple times.
Though it’s been more than 10 years since his chemotherapy treatment, Randazzo is just now feeling up to the task.
Dean Randazzo. | Photo Courtesy: Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation
“I guess I was thinking about Mike May when he told me about his idea for the paddle when I was in the hospital, he did it in honor of me and lately I’ve just gotten this undeniable feeling like I've got to do this paddle,” Randazzo said. “I’m fortunate to be here, no excuses. If it takes me eight hours, it takes me eight hours. I’m gonna finish it.”
Dean Randazzo is no stranger to competition having won the attention of the Association of Surfing Professionals during a stellar performance at the 1990 Cold Water Classic. Ascending international rankings, he qualified for the ASP World Championship Tour in 1996, the first New Jersey competitor to do so.
At the height of his career in 2001, Randazzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He struggled to reveal his diagnosis for fear he would lose the sponsorships that funded his career. At the U.S. Open of Surfing in 2001 in Huntington Beach, California he told the national media that he had cancer.
Dean received multiple bone marrow transplants from his brother Joe to help him battle through four rounds of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and climb back up the ranks of competitive surfing. His return to Lower Trestles in San Clemente, Calif. in April 2002, earned him third place, after placing second the previous year before his diagnosis. He won the Garden State Grudge Match in 2002, and again in 2007, and in 2004 Randazzo earned MVP at the X Games and won the Red Bull Icebreak.
Today Randazzo still surfs competitively on occasion but has taken to passing on his talents to the next generation of surfers. In 2013 he opened Jersey Devil Surf Shop in Atlantic City along with his brother Joe and a group of investors.
Last year he created the Randazzo Surf School in North Wildwood, New Jersey, which offers training camps for kids and beginner and advanced lessons for surfers of all ages. When he isn’t hitting the waves he is selling houses for Dwell Real Estate.
Randazzo recently described his past and his for the paddleboard race on The High Note podcast with Shaun Smith. The episode can be seen and heard at highnoteblog.com/dean-randazzo.
The 12th annual Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation Paddle For A Cause is a multiple course paddleboarding event being held on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at the Frank S. Farley State Marina at Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
The marquee event is the 22.5-mile race around Absecon Island, which draws paddleboarding and rowing competitors from around the world and offers prizes for men’s and women’s prone and stand-up paddleboarding divisions. The course was designed to challenge racers as a reminder that they are helping people struggling with cancer.
Paddleboarding teams can also complete the 22.5-mile as a relay and an open division welcomes all kayaks, outrigger canoe, surf ski and lifeguard boats in solo race and team relay formats.
There are noncompetitive fun paddleboarding and kayaking events with 4-mile and 8-mile courses that navigate from the marina through the back bays to The Wonder Bar. There is also an 8-mile race. A virtual paddling event allows supporters to fundraise online and participate in the event without getting wet.
Dean Randazzo and DRCF president Mark Zappone present top fundraiser Jon Baker with an award at the 11th annual Paddle For A Cause. | Photo Courtesy: Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation
All paddlers and virtual paddlers are required to fundraise $200 to participate with proceeds benefiting the foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides grants to financially assist people with cancer.
After the action on the water, an after party and awards ceremony will be held 4 p.m. at The Deck at Golden Nugget. The party is included with registration and $25 to all others. See TheDRCF.org for information on registration, ticketing or to make a donation to a paddler.