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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Intro to Comps: Surf 101


When I went off to college, I was all jazzed because my school had a surf club and the breaks were reasonably close. I attended the first meeting, all excited to find rides to the beach, ready to raise funds for surf trips, and organize some enviro efforts. Maybe they'd even have some cool comps against other schools.

My freshman year, all the surf club could muster was a few pot brownies for a bake sale. They had tribal tattoos and parties. But none of them could surf. I moved to the beach soon after, and spent as little time as possible at school.

Therefore, there are probably a lot of college-bound surfers who will be happy to hear that the Collegiate Surfing Association is looking to take things to the next level. The most pressing news is that the CSA will host the first regional college surfing championships at Sebastian Inlet on Saturday, January 11th, in conjunction with the O'Neill Sebastian Inlet Pro.

According to the press release:

Surf clubs and teams from colleges in Texas and Florida have been invited to compete in the Southeastern Collegiate Championships, and it is expected that at least 10 schools will be fielding teams for the tournament. The University of Florida, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, Flagler College, Florida Atlantic University and Rollins Colleges are among the confirmed competitors. Each team will be comprised of eight members, with the champion team and highest scoring male and female surfers from the event being crowned on the beach immediately after the finals. The finals clash between the top two teams will be web cast live on Go211.com.

The CSA is also announcing a partnership with the Eastern Surfing Association, the sport's largest member organization, in which the CSA will host a Mid-Atlantic regional collegiate championship in late spring in conjunction with the ESA's Scholastic Championships. The Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Championships will be open to college surf teams from Maine to Georgia and will also include schools from the Gulf of Mexico region.

Imagine a U of Florida surf pennant hanging on a dorm room wall next to the Bob Marley poster and polished off cans of Crunk Energy Drink.

Patrick Gudauskas, winning the S.I. Pro in 2008. He didn't go to college, but he certainly had the grades for it.

This all comes at a very interesting time. It sounds like something that fans might really get into — rooting for their school or Alma matter. Just think if surfing could tap into 5% of the revenue generated from even Division II college football game. But then again, I would have thought that to be the case with the National Surf League, which can't seem to get its head back above water, no matter how cool the team concept seems.

What really gets my attention in all this is a point made by former pro surfer and S.I. Pro organizer, Mitch Varnes, who is the co-founder of the CSA.

"Over? Did you say 'over?' Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
"By and large, the surf industry has created a system that gives kids incentives to not go the college route, by paying salaries to teenagers and allowing them to believe they might be the next big thing. Look at pretty much any other sport and college competitions are the stepping-stone to the pros or not. Collegiate surfing just makes a lot of sense for most surfers in addition to the talent pool of educated surfers it would create for the industry."

That's an interesting thought. You just have to remember that many people who cut the checks in the surf industry got salaries as teenagers, and didn't have to go to college to make a living. But I also think they're building this in the right region — Florida and Texas are big on their school sports.

Somewhere around my Junior year, long after I'd left campus life to surf and commute, I went over to check out the SSU Surf Club's annual camping trip. The waves had been decent that day. No one had been in the water, but one kid had to have his stomach pumped. Cool.

Where was the CSA back then? —Jon Coen