Watch: "Am I Actually Gonna Ride A 7'0...In New Jersey?" - Stab Mag

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"It was the first time I was under-gunned in New Jersey," said Rob Kelly. Photo: Benjamin Currie

Watch: “Am I Actually Gonna Ride A 7’0…In New Jersey?”

East coast’s best tackle NJ’s biggest swell of the 21st century.

cinema // Dec 20, 2023
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Film/edit by Ryan Simalchik

Rob Kelly, who before this swell held the title for the biggest tube in New Jersey history and loves east coast surf enough to don boardshorts in a blizzard, said Monday delivered the best waves he’s ever seen in his home state. 

That’s not to say it was easy. With obnoxiously offshore gusts, a retreating tide and shifty 15 to 20-foot faces, New Jersey’s most regular barrel hunter unironically compared his local beach break to Puerto Escondido. According to Surfline, the swell peaked at 20 feet @ 18 seconds on the Delaware Bay buoy early Monday morning, the biggest readings it has recorded since 1992.

Robbie Goodwin, not in a casino but still rolling dice. Photo: Benjamin Currie

“It was your normal New Jersey swell day, with rips sucking up and looking good from the beach but hard to get into — except it was 15-20 feet,” Rob said. “I want to say I saw a 25-foot face.”

Another contingent of east coasters headed to a mythical break further north. Balaram Stack, Sam Hammer and Mike Gleason were in attendance (Bal even wrangled Tosh Tudor into the cold again). Word is they’re holding onto footage for an edit.

Just dust off the step-ups already. Photo: Benjamin Currie

Surprisingly, this once-in-three-decade swell was underhyped, according to Rob. No weather warnings on the local news. No tropical cyclone nor howling nor’easters. Just a solid low-pressure slamming into Garden State sandbars. Because it was so big and wild, there were more wipeouts than spit-takes, though Owen Moss (riding a 6’10), Robbie Goodwin, and Ryan Huckabee made a few gems (see above).

Mr. Kelly rode a 6’2 after his 6’4 “exploded into pieces” on a lefthand close-out. Despite the size, he couldn’t bring himself to ride the 7’0 in his car (“Am I really gonna ride a 7’0 in New Jersey?”). So when Rob’s wave of the day came through, he had to find the chipshot.

“I knew it wasn’t gonna let me out. But at my age, there’s a good chance that’s the biggest wave I’ll ever catch in my life in New Jersey,” Rob said. “So I had to go.” 

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