New Jersey a surfing haven? Local pro surfer, filmmaker says “yes”

     Rob Kelly displaying his

    Rob Kelly displaying his "Frothy Lip" shirt. Along with his brother, Chis, Kelly has been building and marketing his brand at (Photo: Jay Rutkowski)

    “There are waves in New Jersey?!?!”

    That’s a common question directed at New Jersey surfers when they hunt the globe for the next best wave, and some shore dwellers have answered that query through a newly released film.

    An Ocean City, NJ professional surfer and his buddies shot, produced, and starred in “Frothylip,” a film that not only demonstrates the potency of the Garden State’s waves but also proves that Jersey Shore surfers can hold their own at some the planet’s most coveted surf spots.

    Filmmaker Rob Kelly’s surfing career began 12 years ago, and it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t an ordinary surfer.

    The 23-year-old Billabong sponsored athlete entered the professional ranks during his senior year at Ocean City High School. He’s currently surfing international events on the Association of Surfing Professionals’ World Qualifying Series and participating in various East Coast professional competitions.

    Kelly turned heads in Isabela, Puerto Rico this winter, advancing into the semifinal round of the Rip Curl Pro at Playa Jobos, the surfing blog, SURFBANG, reported

    “Surfing different events with support from Billabong has given me the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and see the world,” he says. “I get to travel with my brother, Chris Kelly of Ocean City, quite a bit as well as other Jersey Shore professionals who are also featured in the film, including Matt Kennan of Ocean City, Sam Hammer of Lavallette, and Jamie Moran of Ocean City, on occasion.”

    Just under 24 minutes of run time, Kelly describes the film as “depicting the yearly migration of a crew of New Jersey surfers to different spots around the world and the good times that come with the journey.”

    If there’s any doubt that the waves in New Jersey can be, at times, “gnarly” and Jersey surfers are rugged and dedicated, Frothylip certainly should erase them quickly. Beyond New Jersey, scenes were filmed in Mexico, California, Europe, the Caribbean, and Indonesia.

    The film segues seamlessly from spot to spot, often with humorous interludes, mixing in vantage points from land, air, and sea that capture high intensity surfing in waves that range from tropical blue to what some describe — especially after a big storm moves through — “Jersey brown.” Typical of surf films, the eclectic music matches the scenes, ranging from relaxed to hectic, capturing the essence of surf travel. 

    But even though Kelly and his friends are well traveled, he says that surfing in New Jersey is a truly unique experience.

    He explains:

    Jersey surfing is so unique because of the drastic changes we go through each year. The seasons being the main thing. In in the summer, the water is warm, and we are surfing without wetsuits a lot of the time. Then in the winter, the water drops to almost freezing temperatures. There are not many places in the world that have as drastic of water temperature changes, if at all. That’s the obvious thing people think of when they think of surfing in New Jersey.

    What’s not as obvious, according to Kelly, is that while New Jersey is not as consistent as other places around the world, “when the conditions align, it can be world class.”

    So good that most professional surfers that hail from the state remain home during the fall, when Kelly says New Jersey gets the best surf courtesy of tropical systems that track up the coast and veer out to sea, delivering large swells in warm water without adverse weather conditions.

    When the winter hits, Nor’easters generate waves comparable to tropical systems, but instead of dealing with harsh weather, many of the professionals leave the state and travel to warmer locales, shore surfers say. But some return at the tail end of winter for some of the last major swells.

    Frothylip documents the professional surfer’s nomadic lifestyle, beginning in New Jersey moving around the globe with the seasons, and it stays true to the migration timeline.

    “The film starts in Atlantic City during a swell from Hurricane Leslie, moves to Mexico, and then captures scenes from California, Europe, and the Caribbean. After a brief trip back to New Jersey for one of those Nor’Eastern swells, the surfers finally move to Indonesia in the summer,” according to Kelly.

    Despite having the opportunity to visit surf spots around the world that most will never see, there’s nothing like home, and for that, he’s thankful.

    “I believe growing up surfing the drastic surfing conditions in New Jersey makes us more adaptable when we travel to other spots around the world. I also think it makes us appreciate the opportunity we have more and makes us work harder.”

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