Rob Kelly has been an integral part of the local Ocean City, NJ surfing community for 15 years.
You cannot have a conversation about surfing in this town without the name Rob Kelly popping up. Kelly has been an integral part of the local surfing community over the last 15 years. Throughout this eventful year Rob’s been hard at work making sure the surfing culture stays strong amidst a pandemic, and preparing for the future of the sport.
How did you start surfing?
I learned in Hawaii when I was ten. My mom grew up there. From ten to 15 [my brother and I] would surf there and in the summer also in Ocean City. I grew up in Bucks County, Pa; We came down on weekends. The summer before high school we came down and never went back.
What has your competition career been like?
I started when I was 14 in a local amateur contest. They have them in Ocean City pretty frequently. From there I did the Pro Junior events my last two years in high school. When I graduated from high school I started doing the World Qualifying Series. I did that for five or six years and then transferred to more of a marketing role with Billabong.
Where are big places you surfed? Are there places you still want to go?
I have surfed all over Asia, Europe, Central America, South America, Hawaii, Tahiti. I have been to a lot of the main surf spots around the world, but I would like to try to go to “off the grid” type spots now.
What do you do besides surfing?
I go to the gym five days a week. I try to stay in shape when there are not waves. It has to be pretty flat for me not to go surfing.
What is your brand Numb Skulls?
It’s a YouTube channel where we showcase our surfing and cold water adventures. The best waves in New Jersey are in the winter. We showcase adventures here or traveling in Ireland or Canada. Due to the popularity we created merchandise – tee shirts, hoodies and hats – that’s helped fund going overseas.
Why is surfing such a growing sport?
The learning curve is a lot quicker than other sports. Almost anyone can go get a lesson at 7th Street Surf Shop and by the end of an hour and a half, can be standing up and riding waves.
What does surfing and living along the coast mean to you?
I feel fortunate every single day that I can wake up in OC, walk to the beach and surf, and realize that it is my job. I have been blessed to be able to do that.
What do you think about when driving to the next set of waves?
Just the anticipation of not knowing what I am going to find when I get to the spot. Hoping I made the right call when rolling up and seeing what the waves are doing.
What do you hope for the future of surfing?
Wave pools are the next big thing in surfing. That, mixed in with surfing being included in the Olympics for the very first time. I hope that during the Olympics, Mother Nature delivers and it ends up being entertaining for the general public.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being able to wake up every day and do something I love. To be able to have surfing and family at the center of my life. Some competition achievements stand out, but the biggest achievement is being able to make a career out of surfing and be able to surf every day for as long as I have.