Take a few minutes and check out Jessica’s videos online. This girl’s got a forehand hack that’d kill a horse and chucks enough spray to flood a small village. She aspires to be a power surfer (when’s the last time you heard those two words together? Bless her soul) and it shows. She throws everything she’s got into her turns, but does so with the style and grace that wins contests. Oh…and she’s only been surfing for 5 years. Were you doing turns like that after 5 years? Be honest. No, you weren’t.
But the truth is that while she may not have been in the water, she was essentially surfing since she was two. She studied dance (ballet, lyrical, jazz, modern & tap) for the better part of 14 years with her training even culminating to a few years at the Ocean County Performing Arts Academy. I don’t think anything can prepare a person better for surfing than an intense focus on dance. Nothing else will fill you with the mental strength, physicality and body awareness needed for what we all aspire to do on waves. Couple that with an inherent love of competition and you’ve got a 17 year old girl who’s been tearing apart the ESA, kicked some west coast butt and has her sights set on a career in surfing.
Jessica’s got an infectious spirit, some heavyweights that she calls friends (Dean Randazzo) and a serious competitive momentum that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Her rise will be fun to watch. Read below for a bit more insight on one of NJ’s best.
TSV: How old are you and when did you start surfing?
Jessica: I’m 17 and I started surfing about 5 years ago or so.
TSV: And you got hooked in a surf camp, right?
Jessica: Yeah. I wanted to just try it and my mom thought putting me in a camp would get me to shut up about it (Laughs). But I haven’t stopped since, so…
TSV: Her plan kinda backfired, huh?
Jessica: Yeah. (Laughs)
TSV: What was it about surfing that you loved immediately?
Jessica: I think it was just the fact that every single time you paddle out, it’s different. I played sports my whole entire life and I’d get bored of them. It always felt like the same thing. But with surfing, every time I go out [in the line-up] it’s different.
TSV: To accomplish what you have in 5 years is incredible. How have you reached the level you have in such a short period of time?
Jessica: I don’t know…I just surf every day and I like it a lot. But whatever I do, I always want to be the best at it. If I do something, I don’t want to do it 50%, I want to give it 100%. I really stopped all my other sports and focused on surfing.
TSV: Did you always like competing?
Jessica: Yes. I always liked it growing up. Especially surfing with my twin sister, Casey, which makes it even more so, because there’s always someone there that I wanted to do better than...Then I started competing with it and that’s what I was looking for.
TSV: Was your relationship with your sister a kind of rivalry like Andy & Bruce Irons or Cory & Shea Lopez?
Jessica: Well, she doesn’t like competing as much. She started a year after me, so it was kind of already my thing when she got into it. We’re more competitive when we freesurf. She does a few contests, but she doesn’t like the idea of only having 15-20 minutes, you know…But freesurfing, we’re extremely competitive with each other.
TSV: Do you think that was a big element of what pushed you?
Jessica: Oh definitely. Whenever we go out together and she does something, I’m always like ‘I’ve gotta do something better!’.
TSV: What’s your favorite move? I saw on all your videos that you have this incredible hack down.
Jessica: Yeah, I like to just try to throw as much spray as I can and do power turns.
TSV: Where does the power emphasis come from?
Jessica: Well, I always liked watching Conner Coffin a lot. He’s really into the power surfing.
TSV: So, you’ve won 3 straight ESA Regional Titles and the Women’s Division of the Belmar Pro. Is that last one your biggest win so far?
Jessica: Yeah, the Belmar Pro was the biggest win…so far.
TSV: Anything else?
Jessica: Well, this year I qualified at the ESA Regionals again. I finished 5th in Open Shortboard in the ESA for the season and that’s for all ages. Plus, it’s all guys—I’m the only girl who does it. That’s coming up in the spring. I also just won a WSA contest in San Clemente, CA. That was cool, because it was a whole different group of girls that I hadn’t competed against, so that was cool to win.
TSV: The WSA people must’ve been thrilled that an ESA girl took the contest.
Jessica: Yeah, it was funy, because no one knew who I was and I ended up winning.
TSV: What’s your goal in say a year or 5 years?
Jessica: In the next 5 years, I definitely want to make it out to California and do some more contests. I want to start doing bigger contests and see how I do in them. Really just see how far I can take my surfing.
TSV: What about the WQS?
Jessica: Um…I haven’t put much thought into that because it just seems so far off. I’m focusing on doing more contests on the West Coast with other girls, other waves, other conditions…
TSV: Yeah, there’s not a lot of girls from NJ who are really making a push.
Jessica: Yeah, there’s a few girls from Fl now who are pretty good, but there isn’t anyone that pursues it after high school or college.
TSV: Why is that?
Jessica: In my opinion, it’s because a lot of girls are too intimidated. They think, ‘well, I’m not from the West Coast, Hawaii or somewhere that’s known for great waves’, so they give up before they try.
TSV: And you do not give up before you try…
Jessica: (Laughs) No. Definitely not.
TSV: There’s a lot of pro guys in NJ alone. Do you work with any of them?
Jessica: Actually Dean Randazzo’s been helping me a lot with my surfing, competing and heat strategies. And then just watching guys like Sam Hammer surf, it’s so motivating because you want to do what they’re doing. But Dean has really helped me a lot.
TSV: Wow, you’re not messing around. You’re getting advice from the godfather of the whole NJ scene.
Jessica: Yeah (Laughs Hysterically)
TSV: What are you riding?
Jessica: I’ve been riding AJW’s a lot. Plus, Dean’s shot me a few boards. So, I’ve been riding his and AJW’s.
Jessica: 5’8” x 17 5/8” x 2 1/16”
TSV: Do you get involved in the board shaping and specs a lot?
Jessica: I try to…I wish I understood it better, but I’m trying. There’s just so much to know. It’s definitely interesting and important to know and I do want to learn more about it all.
TSV: What surfers do you watch and look up to?
Jessica: I like to watch Tyler and Owen Wright (from Australia). I watch all their videos.
TSV: Do you surf in the winter?
Jessica: Yes, all year.
TSV: Good! Glad to hear it! Where do you surf in NJ?
Jessica: I go to Seaside Heights a lot…at the pier.
TSV: Have you travelled a lot?
Jessica: Well, I’ve been to Puerto Rico twice and California a few times. That’s all so far.
TSV: What are your favorite conditions?
Jessica: I really like when it’s choppy. Like 8ft and choppy. Even more than when it’s 4ft. and clean.
TSV: Why is that?
Jessica: I don’t know. I just have more fun with it.
TSV: What does it mean for you to be a NJ surfer? This isn’t the easiest place in the world to make a career of it.
Jessica: Yeah, it’s not easy. I think that’s another reason why you don’t hear about a lot of girl surfers, because not a lot of people surf through the winter. I like the waves we get in the winter though. I don’t like the cold, but I can deal with it.
Be sure to check out Jessica's YouTube Channel