It’s another chilly Friday morning when the Long Beach State Surf Club arrives at the Ninth Street stretch of Huntington Beach.
The beach is calm. Members wax their boards, zip up their wetsuits and push off into the 57-degree water. There’s a winter swell rolling through. It’s time to surf.
“Being a kid from Northern California, I wanted to surf every day,” said Dylan Milne, a fourth-year cellular and molecular biology major and club president. “I wanted to have a friend group that surfed. That’s kinda what the Long Beach Surf Team is all about.”
The club is made up of about 30 members, with 18 available to compete in a contest, along with alternates when fill-ins are needed. The club competes in matches against other universities along the California coast such as Cal Poly SLO, San Diego State and UC San Diego.
Members welcome skill levels that range from beginner to expert but require a tryout to join. Some surfers are learning how to consistently stand up and ride, while others are perfecting new tricks while slicing through the barrel.
The 18 surfers entered into competitions are separated into two rosters, an “A team” and a “B team.” Each roster has six male short-boarders, two female short-boarders, and one long-boarder of the teams’ choosing. Both rosters compete in matches that take place statewide, ranging from San Diego to Santa Cruz.
“Definitely just traveling and being with the team … that’s the best part,” Milne said. “They’re all a super good group of guys and girls. We’re always having fun at the contests.”
The matches are overseen and judged by the National Scholastic Surfing Association, a nonprofit organization whose objective is to provide high-quality competitions and events, according to its mission statement.
Each heat consists of six surfers pulled randomly from rosters of the competing schools, meaning two Long Beach surfers may end up shredding next to each other while showing out. The surfers are allowed 10 to 15 minutes to catch waves alongside one another while performing their best moves.
The two best waves of the heat are scored for each individual surfer on a scale from one to 10. Three judges from the NSSA judge the surfers based on categories such as speed, power, flow and progressive maneuvers.
“Surfing is actually a lot of technique,” said Ayden Auer, a fourth-year communications major and club coordinator. “You have to be conscious of it, it’s not just cruising.”
CSULB provides grants for many club sports on campus, including the surf club. Much of the grant goes towards membership dues for the NSSA, as well as travel expenses for the matches. No scholarships given to the club are awarded to any of its club members. Whatever additional funding the club needs, it has to fundraise.
Over the past few semesters, the club has offered lessons to beginning surfers as its main source of revenue. For a fee of $10, a participant is loaned a wetsuit and a soft-top foam board for the lesson and receives instruction from the club members.
“Everyone wants to learn how to surf,” Auer said, “and even if they come out one day, that’s solid. They might get hooked on it.”
The lessons are held at Bolsa Chica State Beach on select Saturday mornings of the semester, but only when the waves are breaking in beginner-friendly conditions of one to two feet high. Each “beach day,” as the club calls them, has a turn out of between 20 to 30 excited learners.
The beach day lessons are advertised through the club’s Instagram account, @lbsurfteam and have become not only a fundraiser, but a way for the club to reach out to potential new club members.
“I think our biggest success this year was the club [teaching lessons],” Milne said. “I feel like we reached a lot of people who really wanted to surf. I just feel like that was huge this year, to get those people out there and make that connection.”
Since the club doesn’t have a coach, the roster for tournaments is decided by the club board that consists of the president, vice president, club coordinator and treasurer, along with other long-time members of the team.
The club overall has placed in the middle of the pack so far this semester. Two club members have shined individually this season, with Dorian Blanchard ranked 29th and Grayson Amthor ranked 33rd among 248 male surfers in the NSSA’s Southwest Conference.
Regardless of where the club places, its goal is to ensure that it continues to remain competitive while enjoying the sport of surfing.
“It’s only as good as you make it,” Auer said. “If you’re like the engine [to motivate] the workers for [the club], then it’ll be successful.”
The Long Beach State Surf Club meets every Friday at Ninth Street in Huntington Beach. Its next competition will be Feb. 22-23 at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point.
Students can get involved by contacting their Instagram page, @lbsurfteam, and post info regarding the beach day lessons.
UPDATE Feb. 25 at 1:37 p.m.: The CSULB surf team will no longer be competing in NSSA tournaments this season, due to a failure to submit athletic physical forms to the NSSA prior to competition deadlines. However, the club will still practice and is accepting new members.