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USA Today 10Best - New Jersey
"Today, there are more surf camps and surfing lessons available in New Jersey than ever before," explains Alfred Raciti, owner of Sunrise Surf and Skateboard Shop in Cherry Hill, N.J. He says, "Nearly every beach town along the shore has excellent opportunities for beginners."
Raciti surfs in a number of New Jersey beach towns and has been in business since 1993. For lessons and board rentals in Ocean City, he recommends FCA Surf (run by the Matera family) as well as Ocean City Surf School.
Nearby, the city of Margate is also known as a beginner-friendly spot. Stacey’s Surf and Paddle, founded by Stacey Marchel, is in its 12th year, offering lessons for children and adults on the beach at Pembroke Avenue. In 2019, her school is also offering coaching with pro surfer Cassidy McClain.
Marchel says, "It’s a really low-key break. The beach is beautiful, clean and residential so parents enjoy hanging out. Pembroke is a friendly, non-aggressive crowd and fun wave. Not only that, but the lifeguards are able to keep an eye on the surfers at all times and help out if ever needed."
STACEY’S SURF & PADDLE IS A SURF CAMP THAT’S TURNING THE TIDE
STACEY MARCHEL LAUCHED STACEY'S SURF & PADDLE IN MARGATE TO OFFER SURF COACHING TO CHILDREN AND ADULTS ALIKE.
BY MARLA CIMINI | | JUNE 12, 2018 | APPEARS IN THE JUNE 2018 ISSUE OF NJ MONTHLY
Much like a wave barreling toward the shore, Stacey Marchel’s surf camp has been picking up momentum every summer.
Although she grew up near the beach in Margate, Marchel is a late bloomer when it comes to surfing. It wasn’t until she had turned 36 that she first paddled out into the ocean with her sons, Cameron and Spencer (now 19 and 21). Smitten, she began honing her skills, but quickly found that surfing lessons were not easily available at the Shore. She decided to turn the proverbial tide and offer coaching to children and adults in her hometown.
She officially launched Stacey’s Surf & Paddle in 2008. Marchel, who had been a stay-at-home mom, was going through a divorce at the time. “I needed to reinvent myself and do something with my life that I was passionate about,” she says.
These days, Marchel and her team of about 40 professional instructors teach 500 to 600 adults and kids each season. Lessons include ocean safety, basic techniques and surfing etiquette. (Private lessons run $65; semi-private $50 per student. Marchel also offers three- and five-day kids’ camps and stand-up paddleboard lessons on Margate’s back bay.)
As one of the few female surf instructors on the Jersey Shore, Marchel encourages women to try the sport by providing a judgment-free zone. “I find that women often think that everyone is watching them on the beach,” says Marchel. “Many are self-conscious about how they look in a bathing suit. Often it’s intimidating to walk into a surf shop for the first time. So we provide a welcoming environment where we tell you to let go of all that stuff.”
From surfing, Marchel has learned that life is about going with the flow. “Surfing has positively impacted my life in so many ways,” she says. “It’s made me more independent and taught me to experience an inner peace and a deep joy. It’s a feeling of pure happiness that tells you that everything’s going to be okay.”
HOW DIVORCE LED A WOMAN TO DISCOVER HER TRUE SELF THROUGH SURFING
STACEY MARCHEL'S SURF BUSINESS AND CAMP TURNS 10 YEARS OLD AT THE JERSEY SHORE
BY BRIAN HICKEY | PHILLYVOICE STAFF
In 1999, a pregnant Stacey Marchel felt like the time was right for her and her family to move back home to the Jersey Shore from New York City, so pack up and return is what they did.
Her then-husband – also a shore local who was working on Wall Street – was going to set up a business in Margate, where they would raise a family as well.
The area was nothing new for them.
Marchel, born and raised in the shore town, went to Atlantic City High School and, later, Philadelphia Textile (now known as Jefferson University by way of Philadelphia University).
With a mother well-known in the shore real-estate community, it would be a homecoming of sorts. Things don’t always go as people expect – or want them – to, though.
After giving birth to the second of her two sons (now 18 and 20 years old), she moved from a career designing men’s clothing to opening a business with her best friend delivering flowers.
That business, and her marriage, would soon end.
Suffice it to say, Marchel sought, and found, solace in the water as those life-changing experiences sparked a transformation from surfing novice to owner of a surf-inspired shop, a camp for kids and lessons for adults in 2008.
This summer, she celebrates her 10th year of operating Stacey’s Surf & Paddle business and camp. The headquarters is on Amherst Avenue, not too far from Jerry Blavat’s Memories nightclub; the kids camp and adult lessons take place on Pembroke Avenue beach, about eight blocks away from Lucy the Elephant.
'I JUST GOT HOOKED'
On Monday – the day before she’d take her youngest son south to attend the University of Miami – she talked about the path she’s taken to this point in life, the joy brought to many people by the camp and the physical and mental health benefits of the sport and life in general.
Surfing wouldn’t really arrive on Marchel’s scene for a few years after returning to Margate. When her young son Spencer said he wanted to learn, she would just watch from the beach or head out to catch a few waves with him.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m better off now. I needed all this to happen." – Stacey Marchel, owner of Stacey’s Surf & Paddle shop and camp in Margate
“I was always friends with surfers growing up, but didn’t do it myself. I was the type who didn’t want to get my hair wet,” she said. “When he started surfing, I figured, ‘why not?’ I was out of the fashion world. My attitude changed. I just got hooked.”
When she walked into a local surf shop, she told them that she thought she could get enough people together for lessons. She recalled them somewhat laughing her off.
The initial intention was to get women into the water so she'd have some friends out there on the waves, Marchel said. That July, she did just that and about 30 people showed up.
It’s just kept growing from there, with Marchel estimating some 600 “moms and groms,” the latter is a term for young novice surfer, taking lessons from some 40 camp instructors.
As fate would dictate, her marriage would also end that year.
“Surfing got me through my divorce,” she said Monday. “The strength that it takes, the serious life lessons it teaches. Surfing is a lot like life itself.”
Over the years, she’s built a business that requires her to work seven days a week through the summer. She also sells real estate in the winter.
“My mom always says I can sell just one property and not have to work all summer doing this,” Marchel laughed. “But, this is magical. Even if you get beaten up out there by the waves, the salt water cures everything. You always feel better out there and when you come back in.”
She goes out of her way to hire as many female instructors as she can so young girls see that it’s not just a sport for boys. They can see that up close in one of the camp’s senior instructors, Cassidy McClain, a professional surfer from neighboring Ventnor. (And McClain says this is a great job that lets you see the joy on children’s faces.)
“It’s important that they see women out there,” Marchel said.
SIGN UP. SHOW UP. STAND UP.
To accentuate the health benefits of surfing, the camp integrates yoga into its pre-surf regimen since flexibility is key. Surfing, she said, brings about a healthy lifestyle and is mentally cleansing as you leave the worries of the world back on the sands of the beach.
“When I was in New York, clothes, shoes, those kind of things mattered. Different things were important to me,” she said. “Now, this makes me happy. I don’t need ‘retail therapy.’ It’s a slower pace and nature is a gift.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m better off now. I needed (the divorce and discovery of surfing) to happen. Life is more meaningful when you can help people, have staff that feels like family, see the happiness that it brings these kids. A lot of the kids in the advanced camp now started with me when they were four years old. It’s amazing to watch.”
Standing out on Pembroke Avenue Beach – as I did when my son enrolled in the camp last week – you can see Marchel’s words play out in action. Some kids take to the waves instantly. Others face down their fears as the young instructors guide them at their own pace.
For Marchel, it’s those images that leave her in a happy place, despite the realization that her mom has a point about how a single real-estate sale could cover the income derived from spending all that time on the beach.
It’s just that she found her proper path and isn’t about to leave it.
“You need to be willing to try new things,” she said. "I didn’t know that that first lesson would change my life. It happened because I was willing to put myself out there.
"This year’s slogan is ‘Sign up. Show up. Stand up.’ That’s not just about surfing. You have to do that in life to find happiness, too."
And find that Marchel clearly has.
BEST OF PHILLY - BEST SHORE ACTIVITY
STACEY’S SURF & PADDLE
When the open water calls, you have to answer. Stacey Marchel and her team will get you SUPing—that’s stand-up paddleboarding—like a pro in one lesson. Once you master the basics, you can try her on-the-water yoga, boot camp and Pilates classes.
9401 Amherst Avenue, Margate, NJ 08402; 609-335-9891; staceysurfcamp.com/main/