Jackson’s Kwiecinski twins making waves in pro surfing competitions


 Jackson Township twins Casey (l) and Jessica Kwiecinski share a love for surfing and have been competing in high-level professional events on the Jersey Shore.  LAURIE GLASSER PHOTOGRAPHY Jackson Township twins Casey (l) and Jessica Kwiecinski share a love for surfing and have been competing in high-level professional events on the Jersey Shore. LAURIE GLASSER PHOTOGRAPHY Jackson Township’s surfing twins — Casey and Jessica Kwiecinski — are not identical twins and go about things differently at times, but both 18-year-olds share a love of the big waves and were in high-level professional surfing competitions in recent months.

Both were in the Spring Lake and Sea Bright Open Division competition earlier this month.

Jessica finished third and Casey reached the semifinals on June 8. The following day, Jessica won an open pro-am event at Long Beach Island against men and women, and Casey was fourth.

Jessica is happy with her progress.

“I feel pretty good about it. It was good the past two years, and I’m competing in the nationals next year,” said Jessica, who reached the national semifinals last year and finished sixth in San Clemente, Calif., where she surfs regularly. “I’m excited to see how I’ll do.”

Casey has also raised her level of competition and finished ahead of her sister for the first time at a meet in Rincón, Puerto Rico, where Casey was fifth and Jessica was seventh despite challenging conditions. They were the only competitors from New Jersey and spent three months preparing there by surfing, road running on the hills, training and then competing.

“They were the biggest waves I ever saw,” Casey said, pointing out that surfers had to be taken out via jet skis because of the high waves. “I was really nervous. We both were. But once you take a few waves, you get more comfortable.”

Casey said it was her proudest day, as she overcame her fears for a fine finish in the largest field that they competed in. She was also pleased to finish ahead of Jessica, which she said boosted her confidence.

“We try to keep it friendly, but we keep it competitive,” Casey said.

“My sister is very supportive,” Jessica said. “We’re best friends until we get competitive.”

It’s not easy competing against each other, considering that they share living quarters, pay bills and cook meals together. While in Puerto Rico, they had no car, television or Internet, and barely had phone service. They had to travel a few miles to continue taking their online Ocean County College courses for the Keystone National High School program. They attended Jackson Liberty High School prior to their pro careers.

After Puerto Rico, Jessica competed in the National Scholastic Surfing Association East Coast Championships in Florida and made the finals in two events. After a twoweek stay, they headed out to California for more training and competition before returning to New Jersey for a break.

In late July, Jessica will travel with an East Coast All- Star Team to a competition in Nicaragua.

“It probably has some of the best waves there,” Jessica said. “I want to keep improving and get more competitive.”

After that, she’ll be off to Virginia Beach for the East Coast Surfing Championships in late August.

Both sisters will compete at the Eastern Surfer Association’s Central Jersey qualifier in the Long Beach Island area for spots in the Easterns in North Carolina in late September. Jessica has qualified in the past, winning it in 2011. Both are hopeful of qualifying together.

Jessica speaks proudly of a major championship early in her competitive career at the Belmar Pro in 2011 as an underdog, and she followed it with a victory in San Clemente and by excelling in an under-18 girls competition in Florida.

The sisters were not on the same path about four years ago, and it is Jessica’s interest in competitive surfing at age 14 that drew Casey to the sport months later.

“[Jessica] started, and I was running track and broke my ankle skateboarding,” Casey said. “I watched her and it made me want to start it.” Casey doesn’t skateboard much anymore, she said, primarily because she doesn’t have the time. Both spend a lot of time in the water. Close to home, they work out off Bradley Beach, where their parents have a summer home. FINS Tropicali Cuisine at Bradley Beach is one of their sponsors, along with Body Glove, which sells wet suits and swimwear; Creatures of Leisure, which sells surfing and beach accessories; and Key 2 Sports and Fitness in Wall, where the Kwiecinskis got some personal training.

“Most girls grow up doing it, especially in places like California, Florida and Hawaii. We got a late start, but we’re catching up,” Casey said.

“That’s the goal: to keep improving,” Jessica said. “There’s always something to work on, but it’s just consistency.”

It’s been a little harder to get in the workouts with the waves off the Jersey coast since superstorm Sandy struck in late October.

“It affected the Jersey Shore a lot,” Casey said. “There was debris in the water [and] not much beach access for a while. We couldn’t go to Seaside, and then we went to Bay Head. Now we have to find spots.”

While they are home, they work as lifeguards and teach young surfing prospects.

Through it all, they are happy for the sacrifices they have made, which includes many hours of practicing on the waves, physical training, being away from family and friends, and limiting their social life for something they will recall later in life with fond memories. See the video