rguably the greatest surfer to ever ride the nose, Mark “CJ” Nelson has lived an exceptionally full life in his first four decades. His talents have been well documented in Thomas Campbell’s films Sprout and The Present and on the pages of every surf publication around the globe.
Spending his formative years inland, CJ grew up on a skateboard and on BMX bikes sprinkled with trips to the beach with his longboard-surfing dad, Capitola legend Mark “Pops” Nelson. CJ took that approach of “try something a hundred times until you get it” that comes with skateboarding and applied it to nose riding.
Soon enough, he was the best in the world at it. Traveling constantly, winning contests, getting sponsored.
For years CJ lived a life without consequence. The success that came with his surfing and the freedoms his lifestyle afforded him got paired with an inflated ego and access to substances that would remain a part of his life for several years. Eventually he was spending more time at the bar than he was in the ocean. The passing of his father would eventually serve as his wake-up call and lead him to a second lease on life.
Today CJ is living a sober and mindful life on Santa Cruz’s Pleasure Point where he meditates, rides his bike every day, checks the surf and gets in the water. He’s shooting photos and capturing footage more than he has in years. He’s inspired and he’s inspiring others. Chrome was fortunate enough to be invited to Santa Cruz to see what a day in CJ’s life is like today.