How sick would it be to surf for a school that ’ s right on top of Black ’ s ?
ANY COLLEGE-BOUND SURFER worth their salt asked themselves that , and aspiring pros like Allen Johnson ’ 90 , Kent ’ 97 and Bryan Doonan ’ 96 , and Sean Hayes ’ 97 eventually joined the likes of uber-rippers [ 8 ] like Isabelle Tihyani ’ 89 , Jack Beresford ’ 88 , Mark Weber ’ 94 , Jason Burns ’ 95 , and Amber Puha ’ 93 . And perhaps no individual embodied this pilgrimage more than Evan Slater ’ 94 — a high school senior in Ventura , Calif ., who was not only Men ’ s National Surfing Champion but held a 4.17 GPA . Recalling his potential college choices , Slater reflects , “ UCSD was my first and only choice from the beginning . I would have turned down Harvard to spend my formative years at the best surf college on the planet .”
Such allegiance made the Triton surf team a national powerhouse in the late ’ 80s , ’ 90s , and early 2000 ’ s . By 2004 , the university had won six national championships . Over the course of these years , however , things had started to change : the kneeboarding division was supplanted by bodyboarding , liability and red tape issues multiplied like rabbits [ 9 ], and other schools like Point Loma Nazarene , USC , UCLA , MiraCosta , CSU San Marcos , and Cal Poly joined the circuit . The most significant difference , however , was how other universities began to see the light and take their surf programs seriously . Recognizing the surf aura as a powerful recruiting device , beach-adjacent universities with successful and supported surf programs could potentially attract — and keep — students who wouldn ’ t have otherwise considered them .
Conversely , this is right about the time UC San Diego ’ s surf program began to stagnate . Stratospheric academic requirements , administrative ambivalence , and a growing reputation as a social desert took its toll . The university started to fall lower on prospective surf-scholar lists , while other , more proactive universities began dominating contest seasons and siphoned away talent . The Tritons suddenly found themselves in the rearview mirror , and although they fielded extremely talented surfers over subsequent years , like Garth Engelhorn ’ 03 , Shaun Burrell ’ 13 , Mike Ciaramella ’ 15 , Holly Beck ’ 01 , Kokoro Tomatsuri ’ 13 , Max Hoshino , MD ’ 07 , and Lauren Sweeney ’ 08 , they haven ’ t won a national title in the last 16 years .
“ Championships are won by having a depth of talent in the roster , and recruiting that talent takes support — from the university , as well as from former team members staying engaged and involved ,” says Tyler Callaway , the current surf coach who ’ s officially led the team since 2003 . The bigger picture Callaway alludes to is a multi-point case for strengthening and expanding the UC San Diego surf program : For starters , there is the inherent social framework in surf culture which , if allowed to thrive and spread , could greatly elevate the student experience . Secondly , surfing today is a multi-billion-dollar industry in need of intelligent , surf-experienced college graduates . Third , and perhaps most befittingly , are the many scientific and research tie-ins to be had within the burgeoning field of surf science , which includes topics such as wave-generated renewable energy and climate-crisis wave forecasting . Bringing this potential link to the university ’ s attention is something of a personal mission for Callaway , who sees it as a route to attracting top talent and restoring the surf team to its former dominance . “ Surfing has been a part of San Diego ’ s culture for over 100 years and part of UC San Diego ’ s for 50 ,” he says . “ Many surfing alumni have expressed support for the development of more surf science curriculum . I ’ m embracing that cause because I believe it has many potential benefits for the school and the San Diego community . It speaks to a San Diego ethos of success : Do what you love , work hard , play hard .”
And on the topic of success , it ’ s worth noting that those six national championships make the surf team one of the most successful sports organizations in UC San Diego history . Better yet is the record of success that has followed surf team alumni — the roster of the ’ 79- ’ 80 team alone produced two surgeons , four engineers , an attorney , an environmental scientist , a linguistics professor , a biotech CEO , and an award-winning photojournalist . In the years since , the team has produced museum curators , marketing directors , apparel magnates , doctors , surgeons , teachers , investors , software engineers , biochemists , and business owners large and small .
It is with no shortage of irony that a lifestyle once considered the sole province of bums could be brought so far from a stereotype . But that ’ s UC San Diego , where the Pacific washes all things anew . And truly , there ’ s no better poster child for this sea change than Jared Lang ’ 08 , an astrophysics major who rode for the team from 2005 to 2008 , and went on to become , you guessed it … a rocket scientist .
8 . A “ ripper ” is a particularly adept surfer , capable of executing multiple advanced maneuvers on a wave . Other synonyms include “ shredder ” and the more obscure — but verbally satisfying —“ shralper .”
9 . Much like the rest of modern life , the surf contest scene was affected by a progressively litigious society , to the point where parties , casual transportation , insurance , and a host of tangential issues required previously casual things to become either burdensome , impossible , illegal , and / or signed in triplicate .
Celebrate Surfing at UC San Diego !
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