Yes, the Jersey Shore Has a Thriving Surf Scene

"When our waves get good, they are world-class."

Ben Gravy

Ben Graeff, better known as Ben Gravy, is one of New Jersey’s most famous surfers. Photo: Dave Moser

There’s a good chance that on a summer day you’ve seen someone trying to ride waves at the Shore, attempting to stand on small, poorly formed Atlantic chop. You might get the impression that real surfing only happens in Hawaii or California.

But chances are that you didn’t witness a crisp October day with a hurricane offshore, or the frosty barrels from a February blizzard, or even a warm August morning with perfect little peeling waves.

Very few Jerseyans ever see the surf at its best or know that our state has a thriving surf scene.

“I think that the average waves in New Jersey aren’t as good as the average waves in California or Florida. And a lot of the time our best conditions are in the off season or very early in the morning, so the general beach-going public doesn’t see it,” says surf industry veteran Kevin Morris, the buyer and manager of Heritage Surf in Margate and a surfer for 43 years. “But when our waves get good, they are world-class. And they can be very technical and powerful.”

Surfing took hold in New Jersey in the 1950s, and by the ’70s, surfers were braving winter’s frigid ocean in full wetsuits. The industry grew from Sandy Hook to Cape May in the 1980s, and by the 2000s, there were several dozen Jersey surfers getting paychecks from global brands, with a host of professional contests in state. Each September for the last 20 years, the Belmar Pro has attracted surfers from around the world to compete. On June 4, the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame inducted its sixth class of legends who have all made considerable contributions to the culture.

“From a surf industry standpoint, we have a lot of credibility,” says Morris, who has worked in the industry for 30 years. “Among the global surf brands, there are a few surf shops in new Jersey that are at a level with the top ten shops in the whole country. And between the four seasons, we stock more diverse gear and apparel than anywhere.”

There are over 40 core surf shops in the state, as well as dozens of surfboard factories and surf camps.

As for big names, they include Somers Point native Dean Randazzo, 53, and 34-year-old Ben Graeff, better known as Ben Gravy, one of the most popular surfers on YouTube and social media for his adventures around the world. He recently surfed completed a feat of surfing all 50 states, including, yes, his native New Jersey.

So you think you know Jersey? Check out our list of fascinating things you might not know about our state. 

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