A conversation with Rob Kelly of the Raw Jersey Crew

They live on the Jersey Shore. Their motto: “Our life is your vacation.” And they get more shacks than the poor side of town (just check their blog for proof). So while MTV made Jersey look like hell on steroids — pretty much the last place a surfer would want to wake up — it’s home sweet home to Rob Kelly, Chris Kelly and Sean Santiago (members of the Raw Jersey Crew). They were early entrants in Nike’s Chosen contest, and now that summer’s here, their fun is just getting started. We talked to crew leader Rob Kelly to learn more about the boys from the Shore.

Who are the guys in your crew, how old, and where are you from?

Rob Kelly
: It’s myself, my brother Chris, and our friend Sean Santiago — 21, 20 and 19. We’re from Ocean City, New Jersey,

All grew up there?


How’d your crew first come together?

We’ve known each other since high school pretty much, so about six years. We pretty much met on the high school surf team. Then we traveled together to the other events we competed in — we’d carpool, our parents would switch off who was taking the kids each weekend — and that’s just kinda how the crew formed.

And [pro surfer] Matt Keenan was your surf coach, right?

Yep, he grew up and still lives in our town now, so through him coaching the team and also just surfing with him every day in Ocean City, that’s how we all met. We’ve known Matt pretty much as long as we’ve known each other. He was definitely influential on all of us growing up, and especially when we started getting into the ASP, the Pro Junior events and some of the ‘QSes, he’d take us because he’d be competing in them too. So we’d go to California with him and he’d kind of take us under his wing.

What’s each guy’s strength in the crew?

Chris, I’d definitely say he charges the hardest out of all of us. When we’d go to travel places like Hawaii, Chris was always the one trying to push harder than any of us. So I’d say Chris’s strength is his ability in big surf.

Sean always had a good little aerial repertoire, always had that skatey kind of style. He can do all the airs and tricks.

And then I guess just ’cause I was older and had a little more success in competition when we did our team events and other contests, I was always giving them competitive strategy and advice like that.

Who pulls the most girls?

I guess we’re all pretty good, but maybe Chris. This is prime time in the summer. Memorial Day weekend is pretty much the official start to all that.

What’d you guys do for the weekend?

We just pretty much partied the whole weekend. Our town’s actually a resort town. It’s an island in southern New Jersey, and like nine months out of the year it’s almost deserted. Then for three months in the tourist season it’s just packed.

Is that a nuisance or is it fun for you guys?

It’s great because for three months we have a ton of fun here in the summer. Then, right when you start to get over the tourists, you have fall, winter and spring when you don’t have to deal with anyone and the waves get uncrowded and the waves get really good. It’s a good change of pace.

What do you do to stay busy when there’s nobody around?

We probably surf more in the off-season because the waves are better, but we also tend to go on trips and stuff. Chris and Sean did six months in California this winter. I was actually hurt this winter, so I was at home, but typically I’d be in Cali or Indo or Hawaii with those guys.

What did you do while you were injured?

Doing a lot of rehabbing, but also I take classes online. We all take classes online so we can have the freedom to travel and go on trips. All three of us are doing the same thing, same major — business.

Who films your crew?

We have a filmer, but a lot of times we’ll trade off and film ourselves. A lot of times if no one’s down to film, we’ll go out and trade off surfing behind each other and filming with the GoPro camera. Then we make videos a lot and just put ’em on our blog.

Who edits?

I do most of the editing. I just use Final Cut.

How’d you learn?

A lot of traveling and going on trips, working with filmers. You always want to look at footage while they’re editing it, so watching guys that I work with edit all their stuff, I just started to piece it together. I’m not good by any means, but every time I go on a trip and hang out with a filmer I learn more. Since we travel so much there’s a lot of opportunity to learn from those guys.

What camera do you use?

We have a DSLR camera that shoots video — it’s a Sony A55. It’s kind of the Sony version of the [Canon] 7D.

What’s your crew’s plan for the next two months?

I’m going to California on the 18th for [NSSA] Nationals, and then I have an East Coast tour with Billabong the whole month of July. Chris and Sean are probably going to hang at home because they teach lessons at our surf shop, 7th Street Surf Shop, all summer long. I’ve done it sometimes too. We just work super hard in the summer teaching surf lessons, and that can pretty much pay for the rest of our winter traveling.

What do you mean “our surf shop?”

We’re all sponsored by 7th Street. That was probably all of our first sponsors. Pretty much our entire crew rides for 7th Street Surf Shop.

Is it the kind of place you can go to hang out together?

Yeah, totally, it’s right on the boardwalk, right on the surfing beach in Ocean City.

How have the waves been out there recently?

It’s been a really good spring. We had a horrible winter, which I didn’t mind ’cause I was hurt the whole time, but yeah, the spring’s been really fun.

See photos and videos from Rob, Chris and Sean of the Raw Jersey Crew here on their Chosen page to get a dose of life on the Shore.