Right about the time global reggae stars SOJA take the “Surf Stage” right on the beach at Sea.Hear.Now Festival in Asbury Park this upcoming weekend, two of New Jersey’s top surfers will be taking to the water right out front. The festival is the first on the East Coast to combine huge headlining acts, to the tune of Jack Johnson, Incubus, Social Distortion and Blondie, with pro surfing expression heats.

Cassidy McClain of Ventnor, NJ will be surfing in front of the largest crowd of her life at the Sea. Hear.Now Festival. Photo: Helen Lazar

The fest, on September 29-30, is intended to celebrate the intersections of surfing, music and art. In addition to live surfboard shaping going on, rippers like Sam Hammer, Balaram Stack, Quincy Davis, Nathan Strom, Andrew Gesler, Brett Barley, CJ Mangino, and Maddie Ryan will be surfing Expression Heats for the crowd. And considering the fest is expected to draw some 20-25,000 people, it could dwarf any contest crowd these regional pros have ever surfed in front of.

“I’m really excited to surf in front of a big crowd. I’m really hoping the waves are pumping and we can showcase New Jersey surfing in a solid way to people that wouldn’t otherwise see it,” Rob Kelly of Ocean City (who surfs and handles some marketing duties for Billabong) tells ASN. Kelly was crowned the ‘Surfer of the Year’ by the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame earlier this summer for not only his domination of every swell in the state but his presence in the surf media and contest results around the globe.

SeaHearNow is expecting 20-25,000 attendees. VIPs are already sold out. Photo: Courtesy of Sea.Hear.Now

“In the surf world the old ‘there are waves in New Jersey?’ question doesn’t really come up any more but I’m sure non-surfers in the area might still be surprised that we do get good waves here. It would be awesome if we could show off our waves and athletes to that crowd and even the musicians,” Kelly adds.

It just so happens that Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, and guys from Incubus and Social D are all surfers, part of the focus of this festival.

“I think it might be the biggest crowd I’ve ever surfed in front of. No pressure right?” 23-year-old Cassidy McClain of Ventnor, New Jersey tells ASN. McClain surfs select events on the Women’s QS and recently won the Belmar Women’s Pro for the fourth time.

Rob Kelly is most stoked for the fact that SeaHearNow is putting the spotlight on New Jersey’s best surfers. Photo: Courtesy of Rick Adams

“I really like how they are highlighting New Jersey surfers,” McClain adds. “The top pros from our state will be surfing while huge international bands are jamming out right behind them on the beach. The energy level is going to be insane and everyone will definitely be surfing their best, throwing huge airs and going for crazy maneuvers. How cool is it if you’re surfing a heat and your favorite band is playing behind you on the beach? It’s such an amazing opportunity.”

McClain admits that she is a bit nervous, but certainly looking forward to it.

International headliners with legit surfing on the beach in Asbury Park. Cassidy McClain is happy to get out there and rep. Photo: Courtesy of McClain

“I'm pretty excited to see how the whole surf contest set up goes,” McClain tells ASN. “It’s cool too how they are having some other girls from around the country come in and surf. I think this is going to be a really awesome event that will fully bring surf and music together. Asbury Park is the perfect location for it and will really benefit to this end-of-summer fest.”

Asbury Park’s famed waterfront has gone from a ghost town with two music venues to a bustling boardwalk city with breweries, restaurants and even more music venues in the last 15 years. Surfing has played a big part in the transformation, even if the rise in real estate value is pushing out those who first took a gamble on the “City by the Sea.”

Incubus headlines Sea.Hear.Now on Saturday night. Photo Courtesy of Ovation Productions/Released

“There’re lot of really good waves in and around Asbury Park so naturally it’s always had a pretty decent surf culture around it. As more surf events keep happening there and with the skate bowl that Red Bull had at the Casino building, you can see even more people embracing the culture there,” agrees Kelly. “I’m definitely looking forward to seeing some of the surfing musicians play like Jack Johnson and G love, and hopefully catch a couple waves with those guys.

“There’s always a pretty good chance of getting waves that time of year so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we get a good swell and those guys score while they’re in town for the festival.”

McClain is most excited to see Incubus who will headline on Saturday night. “I’ve never seen them in person before but I just love when I randomly hear a song on the radio from them. I just really like their sound and it’s fun to jam out to,” she says.

McClain is most excited to see Incubus… and get barreled. Photo: Courtesy of Helen Lazar

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