by Laine Bernstein
How many times when you first got to Chapman did you hear the line “here you can ski and surf in the same day?”
Probably a lot, and though it is true, the latter is definitely the more popular activity of the two.
The surfer stereotype is rampant in Southern California with ideal weather and some of the best beaches, and students are keen to take advantage of that.
“I started surfing really young but it became a huge part of my life my freshman year of high school,” senior film production major Mike Spagnoli said. “I spent all my summers at a friend’s house in Malibu surfing every day.”
With nearly 2.5 million surfers in the U.S., the sport is such a cult phenomenon among students that a University of Surfing is set to open in La Jolla, Calif. this September, according to an article published in Surfer Today.
For students interested in keeping up surfing as a hobby rather than a full-time lifestyle, the University of Surfing is bit excessive, Spagnoli said.
“It’s cool for people looking to make a living in the surf industry, but most people I know just use it as a way to escape and distress,” he said.
Senior creative producing major Paul Lee, a Los Angeles native, said surfing for him is primarily a recreational sport.
“The first time I surfed was when I was 15 years old the first time in Hawaii on Oahu. I was at Waikiki Beach and without any instruction, I rented a long board, paddled out to the beach and figured this was the best place to learn how to surf,” Lee said. “The best feeling in the entire world was catching that first wave. With that first wave, you catch the surfing bug and you’re hooked instantly, forever. It’s pretty electric.”
Managing their passion for surfing with a heavy course load and the college environment was difficult for both Spagnoli and Lee when they came to Chapman.
“Despite how close we are to so many beaches, the frequency with which I surf has definitely declined the past few years,” Spagnoli said. “I kept up a pretty good routine as a freshman but then life just got in the way.”
Lee shared a similar experience, but tried to remain involved with surfing at Chapman by starting the Surf Club on campus.
“My first year of college, I was going three or four times a week, either early in the morning or at sunset,” Lee said. “Sophomore year I wanted to create more of a community for surfers so I went to start the club. Together with a graduate student here, I created the club, but after a few months with minimal student participation, it kind of disbanded. People don’t have time to contribute to a club with so many different schedules and it was hard to coordinate trips.”
Lee said that after the club disbanded and he joined a fraternity, he lost touch with how much he loved surfing.
“What they say is true – if you don’t use it, you lose it. I used to be a decent surfer and now I’m kind of rusty because now I only get out about once or twice a month.”
Some of the best nearby surf spots, Spagnoli and Lee said, are Trestles in San Clemente and Salt Creek in Dana Point, but the most accessible are Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
Even though busy schedules and academic priorities often get in the way, Lee said the thrill of surfing will never wear off.
“My favorite thing about surfing is there’s not competition to it. Just sitting out in the water and feeling the motion of the ocean and the refreshing nature of water, it clears your mind because you’re on your own and get time to think to yourself,” Lee said. “You get to meditate and reflect. You kind of realize that life isn’t all about working. You have to have some kind of recreation every day in your life to unwind and destress.”
Spagnoli said that for him, surfing is the best way to get out of Chapman and in touch with nature and restore his state of mind.
“When you’re paddling and paddling and you finally catch that wave and you feel its energy, it’s so dynamic in the sense that it’s always changing and never the same,” Spagnoli said. “You get to maneuver and ride through these waves. Each wave you ride is never the same and you feel like you’re free.”