Kids On The Move - Rumson’s AJ and Alexa Muss
Being able travel the world while doing what you love would be a dream come true for most of us – but for this young brother and sister from Rumson, their skill in and dedication to sport has earned them all that and more. AJ and Alexa Muss have broken records the last few years competing in snowboarding and surfing sports, respectively, and are already on a fast-track to living their dreams.
AJ, a 21- year-old snowboarder with a taste for feeling an adrenaline rush at high speeds, competed in the sport’s World Cup in Austria this year. That experience came on the heels of him having the most successful North American season any snowboarder has ever enjoyed, winning first place in eight of the 2015/16 competitions. He spent the better part of the last two years in Austria to train for the World Cup, and now has his sights set on earning a spot in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Meanwhile, Alexa, a 15-year-old surfer, competed in the Vans US Open of surfi ng in Huntington Beach, California this summer. She earned a spot in the competition, considered to be the biggest event in the sport, by qualifying at an earlier series in Cabo, Mexico.
That all seems like a heady experience for typical teenagers and young adults, but AJ and Alexa consider it to be normal for the life they chose. “When I hit the water, nothing else matters,” the two-time Under-16 Northeast Surfi ng champion says. “There’s so much ocean and so little of you. It’s peaceful. I love it.”
The brother and sister both began training in their respective sports at a young age. For AJ, he learned to ski at the age of two when he was enrolled in a ski camp in Colorado, where his mother spent half the year for work. And ever since he was put on a snowboard around the age of four, he’s spent the majority of his free time training for the races down and across snow-covered peaks.
He and Alexa, who began surfing when she was eight years old, both attended a distancelearning private school to allow them the time to devote to their sports. AJ graduated a year and a half early, and Alexa says she’s about sophomore level. And while they might have missed out on the normal social interactions most adolescents experience, they wouldn’t trade those for anything they’ve achieved athletically.
“Being able to say prom is awesome is one thing. But if I can say the opening ceremonies at the Olympics was awesome, that means so much more to me,” AJ says. “I didn’t give up my childhood. I replaced it with something else.”
His sister echoes similar sentiments. “We do other things that are just as grand in my mind,” she says.
Surfing isn’t slated to become an Olympic sport until 2020, and while Alexa is uncertain if she’ll pursue a spot on the team in four years, she has a goal she’d like to achieve well before then: to become the youngest surfer to ride Teahupo’o, the largest waves in the world off the coast of Tahiti.
“I’m training as hard as I possibly can for that. I’m going to surf it at some point. The youngest ever at the moment was 17-yearsold,” she says. “But I have to be ready. I have no control over the wave.”
While Alexa says she has not been injured while surfing, to say AJ has not been as lucky would be an understatement.
He estimates he’s broken 30 bones while snowboarding and cavalierly points to the multiple spots where he has screws and plates installed. He also fully recovered after spending almost a week in a coma after a complication involving a hole in his heart and one of his lungs filling with water after a surgical procedure to repair an injury. He could have opted to have surgery to close the hole in his heart, but his doctor eschewed that option because he never could have snowboarded again.
After recovering enough to have a record-breaking season in North America, he knows he made the right choice. While he has some lingering brain damage, including some short-term memory loss from the experience, AJ says he wouldn’t change a thing.
“I would rather lay on my deathbed and say ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ than say ‘I should have done that.’ I don’t want a single regret,” he says.