How the Monmouth Surf Club Went from Underdogs to On Top
When you think of Monmouth University, their surf club may not immediately come to mind. What began as a small group of friends who wanted to go surfing together, the unit grew until becoming an officially recognized club. The program blossomed into something way bigger than any of them expected because they made it clear from the start that ‘it doesn't matter how good or bad you are. All that matters is the passion you have for surfing.’
Paul Kelly was one of the founding members of the surf club his freshman year. Kelly was always into surfing and when he went to Monmouth, he quickly found friends who loved it as well, including Max Goldberg, a transfer from Syracuse who also worked for Red Bull. It was through this connection that the Monmouth Surf Club was invited into an exclusive Red Bull surf competition, an honor that only eight schools from across the country receive. Schools from California and Hawaii were frequent competitors, but this time, Monmouth was also invited.
Monmouth was just happy to be included because it would help them get their name out there and give them more publicity. The rules were simple: submit a video of the club surfing and if the video got enough votes, move on to the next round.
Not only did Monmouth win the first round of the tournament, but they won the second round as well. For the third and final round, they were up against UNC Wilmington, which has had a well-established surf team and has almost triple the amount of students that Monmouth has. Goldberg decided they had nothing to lose and contacted Red Bull headquarters about the possibility of using one of their helicopters to shoot their final video. Red Bull approved.
Kelly has actually always been scared of heights, but for that helicopter ride he said he didn't feel scared. In fact Paul though ‘It just felt surreal. Starting from nothing to now being in the finals of the Red Bull competition was all that I was thinking about.’ The footage from the helicopter ride and the following surf session became their third and final video. They were proud of it, but they also new that Wilmington had a huge advantage in the form of several pro surfers on their team.
The boys put in a Herculean effort, creating a social media campaign that reached thousands. In the end though, Wilmington came in first and won a trip to Hawaii for their team. The outcome was heartbreaking for Monmouth, but they gave it their all and put themselves on the map.
Following the competition, the Monmouth Surf Club has blown up in popularity. The club started receiving multiple sponsorship offers from clothing and board companies and the University itself reached out about the possibility of turning the club into an actual team, so that they could travel and compete in competitions. A lot has happened really fast and Kelly says it’s sometimes overwhelming. They haven't even figured out how they’re going to pay to travel to some of these tournaments yet, but they’ve already got their eyes on the regional competition in Florida this spring.
So what’s next? Kelly says he just wants to leave behind something permanent. He wants the surf club at Monmouth to stick around and he’s got faith in the younger guys to keep it going. Now that the rest of the country has seen that New Jersey actually has waves and are no pushovers, Kelly’s goal is simple: host a surf competition. ‘Then we would take all the money that we made from that and donate it to an organization like Surf Rider, some place that looks out for the cleanliness of the ocean because that’s what we love.’ Whatever the future holds, the Monmouth University Surf Club will continue to take it in stride, one wave at a time.