50-year surfing veteran & close friend Vince Troniec talks to us about becoming a surfer in the late 1960’s at the Jersey shore, his mindsets on surfing and what it was like being friends with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in the “Glory Days”.
This interview is special to us, as Vince is one of our closest family friends and a total surfing local legend on the Jersey Shore. We have found every late night or oceanside chat with Vince to be one of the best talks we have ever had and felt it was about time we share him.
Vince started competing in surf competitions at an early age, and by age 17, he was invited to participate in the World Trials in Puerto Rico.
In 1968 the Vietnam war was being fought, and Vince had just lost his father. Going out on a limb, he relocated his mother and sister to Newport Beach, California, hoping that it would improve his mother’s health issues. Thus ensued a wildly fun time spent in pre-Woodstock and hippy centric, 1960’s California.
Vince paints a vivid picture for us of a time when surfing culture was in its infancy, and the likes of Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin were making musical history — and he even has the concert ticket stubs to prove it.
From watching Asbury Park grow into the hipster enclave it is today, to being one of the first people to stock Quiksilver in his surf store, Vince has a colorful and storied past, but is also an extraordinarily down-to-earth and impressively humble human.
He shared with us his early venture of owning a lucrative surf shop and how he has been fortunate enough to make a career out of his favorite thing to do — ride the waves.
So sit back, get comfortable, and prepare to visualize the history of surfing in all of its glory, told through the eyes of the incredibly passionate and insanely talented surf legend, Vince Troniec.
Illicit Surfing Escapades
It’s hard to believe that there was a time in New Jersey when surfing was illegal, but Vince paints a picture for us of a 1960’s east coast that was much different from the surfing mecca we know today.
Vince explains to us that a run in that he and his friend had with the law culminated in the first surfing beach being designated in New Jersey.
“They didn’t want you surfing; there was no surfing on the beaches. The police were constantly chasing us… One time they wanted to arrest Andrew Fratton and me, and Mr. Fratton (Andrew’s father) was down there, and he said, “What are you guys chasing them for? Arrest me instead.”
From there, Mr. Fratton was placed in front of the desk sergeant who questioned why he was there. When the officers explained that he had been arrested for surfing, the desk sergeant demanded his release. Much to the joy of Vince and his friends, at the next council meeting it was decided that a beach was needed to cater to surfers, and Matilda Terrace became the first surfing beach in New Jersey.
Surfing As A Savior
Vince discussed with us his success in staying sober and how his wife and surfing helped him to overcome his reliance on alcohol.
“I fell back on numbing myself a bit, trying not to worry about it, trying to realize that my dream is being broken up and nothing was going to be the same. And somewhere along the line, I crossed this line, where alcohol became a part of my life. You start thinking about it and thinking about it… and you realize what happened to yourself? I’m so glad I had surfing in my life, I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t have that, because that kept me so grounded. In the middle of being in a dark place, surfing was still part of my life, every day.”
It’s this type of candid self-awareness and pragmatic attitude that has served Vince so well over the years. A respected member of the New Jersey surf community, he is a pioneer of the sport, and an inspiration to anyone who feels an affinity with the waves.
For the full inspiring conversation with Vince, click the player above where you can enjoy his description of surfs infancy on the east coast, and the amazing journey that always lead him back to the water.
Listen to the Full Interview with Vince Troniec
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Links & Resources
- Bruce Springsteen
- Right Past The Light Surf Poster By Jay Alders
- Pot Of Gold Surf Poster By Jay Alders
- Solitube 3 T-Shirt
- Sea Quell – Original Painting By Jay Alders
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