We finally met up with Chelsea Slayter after reading so many of her interviews with legendary surfers we had lost count. As one of the chief architects of content for Pilgrim Surf + Supply, she has unrivaled access to some of the most storied surf characters around the world. Chelsea has an amazing instinct for surf history, asks her subjects informed questions and somehow pieces together the puzzles of their pasts seemingly without effort. She has a reporter's fearlessness about picking up the phone and chasing down a lead. She was last seen trying to find Bruce Springsteen's phone number so she could pin him down for a conversation about his time surfing with underground New Jersey shaper and artist, Carl Tinker West.
Her Brooklyn studio is blessed with a small garage, offering space for occasional movie screenings and a modest collection of surfboards, some shaped by local friends and others by famous shapers like Marc Andreini. The garage is also home to a vespa, Chelsea's preferred means of New York City transit and which her boyfriend once famously attempted to ride the three hours from Brooklyn to Montauk, presumably in pursuit of waves. Attempted, we are told, is the operative word...
We asked about growing up surfing in NJ and her move to NYC.
“I grew up in a small town called Bay Head, NJ. It's barely a square mile with around five hundred registered voters! It's a heavy beach break, but there’s no boardwalk so it's a little more low key than a lot of the Jersey Shore.”
“I started surfing when I was about eight years old. My neighbor was a good surfer and had a daughter the same age, so he took us both out. She was naturally way better than me and I think that's what made me want to try harder and get better at it!”
"And so I guess I just started pursuing it on my own. I would go before school, after school. I had a little group of girls who would leave their boards at my house and we'd spend the day at the beach and surf. There was a spot right by our house, just a block away."
"Eventually I started to compete. It was mostly just a way to go hang out together on Saturday mornings and surf together. The girls were always surfing the shittiest waves. We had to go in at high tide and our heats were never taken seriously. There were only six of us, so we were all in the top six! But it was fun because we’d jump in a bus and go down to Ocean City and surf, or Asbury. I did ESA and NSSA when I got to High School level with my high school surf team, which I was the captain of. We were bad compared to the other towns because we were so small; we always got our asses kicked."