Rumson residents AJ and Alexa Muss are award-winning athletes in their respective sports. This brother and sister hold tight to family values, cherish life every day, and work hard to give their personal best. Twenty-one-year-old AJ is a professional Alpine Snowboarder, and the first and youngest snowboarder to claim eight First Place podiums in the 2015/2016 Nor-Am season. Fifteen-year-old Alexa is a competitive surfer who competed in Huntington Beach, California in the U.S. Open of Surfing, the largest surfing competition in the world in July and came in 15th overall. She has made it her mission to be one of the youngest girls to surf the biggest waves in the world!
AJ has been skiing and snowboarding since he was three. His attended snowboarding school in Breckenridge, Colorado and believes his first coaches Gregg Davis and Pablo Fechino were a tremendous help. “They taught me the fundamentals and techniques that enabled me to step into training at higher levels with my new coaches and make it to the World Cup stage.” AJ’s impressive awards include being the United States 2015 National Champion in both PGS and PSL, and securing a World Cup spot for Team USA for the 2015/2016 season. “I am psyched that I attained those results.” He is the 2015 Overall North American Champion and has won the most North American Race to the Cup events ever in one season. AJ also claimed the Silver and Bronze medals at his first two events in the 2015/2016 season. As of January 15, 2016, AJ’s standing is second in the United States; and his World standing is 34.
Two years ago AJ had routine shoulder surgery, and nearly lost his life due to complications. Yet, he was still determined to compete in the 2014/2015 season. Since his accident, he says he has lived by this quote, “More powerful than the fear of death, is the will to win!” He shared, “I refused to let that fear control me. Life is short and it can be taken from you in seconds. I really mean it when I say that I live life as if each day is my last and have no regrets on decisions I make.” Due to his rigorous schedule, AJ shared, “I have put off college until I retire from snowboarding and will get my degree when I’m done. My job right now is snowboarding. I train every day of the week and have sponsor obligations to fulfill. I am also working to get my spot at the 2018 Olympic Team!” The qualifying period for 2018 started July 1. “I am working hard so that no matter what happens, I can look back and know I’ve done everything possible to get there. Living away from family and being in Europe for long periods of time is not easy, but I strive to attain my goals every day.”
Aside from snowboarding, AJ enjoyed playing competitive paintball but stopped because car racing took up all of his off time. When not on the slopes, AJ is an avid race car driver who has future plans on becoming a Pro-Am drift car racer. “I grew up racing my whole life. It started with go-karts but I had to put it aside for a while during high school because school took up all my extra time. Now, in my off time, I get to decompress by escaping behind the wheel. It will be something I do forever because of my innate need for speed.”
Alexa has been surfing competitively for about three years. She has been fortunate to travel to Barbados, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and all around the United States. In August, she traveled to Tavarua in Fiji for the first time. Alexa is part of the 2016 ESA All-Stars and in April traveled to Hawaii, which is one of her favorite places to visit. Her other accomplishments include placing tenth in Open Girls NSSA Nationals; 16th at Volcom VSQ Worlds; 21st at U. S. Championships; defending her “Under 16 North East Champion” title twice; and she has been nominated for the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame. “It was such an honor to have been nominated. I only hope to keep up my work and make New Jersey proud,” said Alexa.
She noted that there is no off season for surfing. “There is always a contest somewhere in the world to be striving to get into and to be a part of. I believe that if you are dedicated to a sport you do it all the time. So, I’m always thinking about it – ALWAYS!” Alexa gets a sense of freedom from surfing. “I can be having the worst day of my life and the world could feel like it’s against me, but when I touch the water nothing else matters. It’s almost like life drifts away and for however long I’m out there I’m free. I’m living in the moment – and that living in the moment is what is priceless.”
Alexa said her brother AJ encouraged her to try surfing. “AJ was the one who actually brought me out surfing for the first time in Huntington Beach, California when I was two. I remember feeling weightless and free and I just loved it.” He has impacted her life in ways she cannot explain. “I just want to thank him for being such an amazing brother!” Alexa has been inspired to give back to others and does so by donating the surf boards she outgrows to children who cannot afford their own. “I want other to learn to love and respect the ocean as I do.”
As for her future, Alexa definitely wants to attend college. “I would love to go for videography or nutrition. But, even while in college I will still train and surf every day.”
This brother and sister’s strong family bond keeps them grounded no matter how many miles come between them. AJ and Alexa credit their positive outlook, determination to pursue their goals, and strength of character to their parents. Alex shared, “My mother has shown me how to be unstoppable and unbreakable; that I have power and the strength to do anything I put my mind to.” AJ shared, “I know deep down that my father is always in my corner and helps me however he can. My mother has shown me firsthand the definition of hard work and integrity. Both of my parents work tirelessly to help my sister and me in every way.”
Although AJ and Alexa Muss have traveled all over the world to compete, they love returning to their hometown of Rumson. AJ said, “Whenever I’m not snowboarding, I spend several months a year in Rumson.” Alexa shared, “Ever since I started traveling, home has become much more special. Rumson is where my heart will always be.”
*Story: Susan Murphy