Written by Jon Coen – Few people know this, but New Jersey surfers had a very unlikely tie into the legacy of snowboarding. I only know this because I have a lifetime of otherwise useless information in my head about New Jersey sideways riding. Occasionally, the surf will fire and the snow will dump. But we undertake both of these pursuits in water that we wish was bluer and mountains that we wish were whiter.
It’s no secret that surfing was the proud parent of snowboarding, even if in the 1970s both were steeped in the countercultural abyss. But if you dig into the history of snowboarding, you find that the founder of Winterstick Snowboards, Dimitrije Milovich, was actually inspired after meeting Bayonne surfboard shaper, Wayne Stoveken. It was Stoveken’s ideas that are credited with the first snowboards, as the pair moved out to Salt Lake City and got patents for “snow surfboards.” There’s snowboard pioneer Tom Sims, a surfer/skater from Haddonfield who moved to Santa Barbara in 1971 to forever change boardsports. Chuck Barfoot was the innovative Beach Haven surfer/shaper who also went west to tweak the modern snowboard design and twin tip. And let’s not forget Shayne Pospisil, the Manasquan ripper who has been among the top tier of domestic snowboarders for 15 years.
The thing is, you can both surf and snowboard in New Jersey — and if you try hard enough, you can do it in the same day. That was the premise behind Red Bull Switchboard, the ultimate day for the boardsports crew: surf in the morning, then snowboard, and maybe get in a skate, linking turns from the face to the slope and ramp, flowing style from one medium to another. The bowl was there. The snow was there. The waves… not so much. But that didn’t really dampen the spirit of the day.
The whole surf and ride crossover has been mostly a California thing. But it has been done in New Jersey, and would have been done on Saturday, February 4th had there been any kind of wave whatsoever. It was a comfortably numb 23º last Saturday, and following a wave-filled January, several consecutive days of northwest wind had blown the ocean flat. And not flat as in, “maybe you could stand up for two seconds on a longboard.” There wasn’t a hint of whitewater. A few good-natured surfers suited up and hopped in the water anyway. Technically they were on a surfboard in the ocean. Does that count? Doesn’t matter.
Most took a few runs in the bowl at Forth Union, the skate facility in Asbury Park’s Casino building, where Red Bull recently installed a nice little bowl. And then everyone loaded on busses and headed for Mountain Creek, New Jersey’s home mountain with 1,040 feet of vertical that has never stopped them from building unreal features and hosting Olympic qualifying events. Once on the hill, everyone started digging into little surf carves and slashing up a park that had been custom built for the occasion.
Among the saltwater crew was Ocean City pro, Rob Kelly, most recently spotted threading a historically critical left back on the nor’easter swell that hit on January 24th. Translating the same buttered-up style, Rob took to the mountain with smooth turns, his spray lit up by the afternoon sun. Many East Coast surfers forget that Rob is originally a PA boy. “Growing up in Pennsylvania, I would go up to The Poconos for a random weekend here and there, but I really didn’t get into riding until I moved to Ocean City and realized that a lot of my surf friends liked going to the mountains,” says Kelly, who has ridden in Utah (and, strangely enough, an indoor snowboard hill in Dubai). Whenever it was flat, my friends and I would hop on the parkway and ride Mountain Creek. It’s kind of funny that my surf friends wound up being the biggest snowboard influences on me.”
Among the other slayers were Asbury Park’s Pat Parenty, LBI marine bio teacher Dave Werner, and the Monmouth University Surf Club. While Switchboard was more of a collegiate focus in California, the riders in New Jersey ranged from about 10 to 50 years old. Whereas some families pride themselves on skills like hunting and fishing, there are Garden State families that put the same emphasis on surf, skate, and snow. The love for these pursuits is obvious with Manasquan stalwart TR Devaney and son Cole, Jeremiah Hulsart and son Jess, and others. Then you have Dean Iglay, who’s bringing up an entire squad of rippers in Seton: Audrey, Morgan, and Curren. They’ve all been in the surf this winter and are now getting after it on the slopes.
The day ended at the South Base of Mountain Creek with high-fives, Red Bulls and hot waffles. “I’ve always thought of snowboarding as just the back up form of surfing when the waves are flat,” Rob Kelly admits. “But after experiencing the whole vibe of Red Bull Switchboard, I’m actually pumped to score more snow and surf days in the future.”