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Interview with Chris Kelly on the Oakley Surf Shop Challenge

Photos provided by Grind Media

August 24, 2013 – Since the ‘80’s, the Surf Shop Challenge has been the ultimate contest for shops to grab bragging rights.  Cloaked in a fun, team-oriented format, the Challenge has evolved over the years to become one of the most prestigious US contests with the victors getting a spread in Surfer Magazine and a cool $10,000.  As if that weren’t enough, the top 7 finalists in 2013 fought for the title at Keramas in Bali during the same period as the WCT Oakley Pro, so team members got to rub elbows with Slater, Parko, Kerrzy, Fanning, Smith, Florence and the whole rest of the World Tour.    

With support in spades and a long history of kickin’ butt, Ocean City’s 7th Street Surf Shop took 2nd place.  Brothers Chris & Rob Kelly, Brian Liess and Sean Santiago battled it out to within just a breath of the title and gave NJ yet another reason to be proud. 

We got a few minutes with Chris Kelly to hear his thoughts on the contest, hangin’ with Parko and a few dreamy days at the fabled Desert Point.  Read on…


TSV:  The OC crew has long been a force in northeast surfing. So, what did it mean to all of you to get the international recognition you got by placing so high in the Surf Shop Challenge?

Chris Kelly:  Our team was stoked to have the opportunity to take the trip to Bali and compete on a platform that close to the spotlight. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of opportunity in the small town of OC and this was just such cool experience. I don’t think it ever really set in on how lucky we were to have gone to Bali.  I’m pretty sure it’s still settling in. The recognition was amazing. We live on a small barrier island in the northeast, so to have the world see us make it as far as we did was rad. 

TSV:  How’d you prepare for the Bali trip as a team and as an individual?

Chris:  As a team we surfed as much as we could. We ran a couple heats and just kept psyching each other up, building each other’s confidence. We naturally began critiquing and coaching each other’s surfing. We wanted to surf our best and sort of laid out our strengths and weaknesses to each other. It really helped us and gave us great insight on what we needed to do. 

Individually I trained a lot. I wanted to be in the best mental and physical shape I could be in–beach runs, workouts and surfing. I watched a lot of videos of Taj and Jordy surfing Kerama’s, tried to study the wave, and basically realized the wave’s a lot more intricate than it looks. 

TSV:  Did you feel all of NJ behind you guys?

Chris:  NJ always has been a collective group of huge supporters. Us New Jerseyians have always loved to see our people compete or make it on a national level. I definitely was surprised on how many people supported us through this event though. Guys I’ve looked up to my whole life were frothing, stoked and proud. It felt really good to represent such a core state. 

TSV:  What was it like to rub elbows w/ the whole WCT?  Were you a total groupie or did you try to play it all cool like, “Yeah, Slater & Kerrzy just asked if I wanted a water and I was all like, ‘Don’t ask me stupid questions, kooks!’?

Chris:  Hahaha, yea we were all acting un-phased, eating breakfast next to Parko with butterflies inside, ease dropping on his conversation, faking like we were on the phone and snagging Instagram shots.

TSV:  Pick up any insights from the ‘CT guys, like how they surfed, approached a heat, prepared for their heats…?

Chris:  It’s always nuts to see a tour guy surf. They are on a level so far from the average pro it can be humbling. Probably the biggest thing I noticed was how relaxed they were while hanging around the contest. They play it cool, then just blast off in heats. Really crazy dynamic to see. 

TSV:  Looking to make the WCT?

Chris:  In life, some dreams need to be reevaluated.

TSV:  How was Desert Point and what other waves did you guys get?

Chris:  Trip of a life time for us. We got lucky. Didn’t know much about the wave and swell it needed.  We just booked our flight,  got there and scored. Longest barrels of our lives. We were there for 4 days and it felt like a dream.  I still feel like it was just a fantasy. Besides that we hung around Bali for a month and surfed a ton of waves on the island. Everyday we went somewhere different and just tried to enjoy cheap food and barrels. 

TSV:  What’s next for you?

Chris:  Taking life day by day, looking forward to hurricane season and the east coast summer to end. School is on the agenda and the beat goes on. 

TSV:  Well, we’re super-stoked for all you guys.  Thanks again for truly representin’ NJ.  You killed it!  Cheers! 

Oakley surf Shop Challenge

The 7 finalists:

  • Hawaiian Island Creations (HI) 
  • Channel Islands Surfboards Shop (CA)
  • 7th Street Surf Shop (NJ)
  • Sweetwater Surf Shop (NC)
  • Sunrise Surf Shop (FL)
  • Surf Ride Shop (CA)
  • Revolution (CA)