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Leagues of Their Own: UCLA Club Sports


By Wendy Soderburg '82, Photos by Elena Zhukova

Published Jan 1, 2013 8:00 AM


Totally Tubular


Club members Chandler Parr (left) and Taylor Pitz have both taken time off from school to surf professionally.

UCLA's Surf Club has a problem most of the other club teams don't have: They can't schedule group practices. It's not for lack of trying. Mark Harrington, president of the club, has made efforts in the past to organize practices for upcoming contests. But it's tricky.

"It's pretty difficult to get everyone together in the same place at the same time," says Harrington, a fifth year senior majoring in chemical engineering. "Also, it's hard to predict more than a couple of days in advance —really, more than a day in advance — where the best waves will be. So if you tell everybody to go to Manhattan and it's a lot better in Malibu, no one's going to show up at Manhattan."

Instead, club members practice on their own time, but they'll often link up with other members. Being on a team is an opportunity for serious surfers to network with each other and get down to the beach together, Harrington explains. The strategy has worked well for UCLA's team, which was consistently one of the top-seeded teams last season and placed fourth out of approximately 20 teams at the National College Championships in Huntington Beach, Calif.

As a member of the National Scholastic Surfing Association, UCLA's team regularly competes against other schools on the California coast, including UC Santa Cruz, USC and UC San Diego. During a contest, surfers are entered into "heats," where they are given 15 minutes to score their two best waves. Adding maneuvers (turns, spins and airs) helps to increase the score.


UCLA Surf Club member Jason Schechter scans the waves. "Being in the Surf Club allows me to compete against talented surfers at other universities," he says. "In addition, I have met a number of friends on the surf team who I can practice with."

Prospective members must try out for the UCLA team by going down to the beach and showing Harrington and a few other senior members what they can do. If admitted, they'll choose whether to compete on shortboards (under seven feet long) or longboards. Most members surf recreationally, although a few have had sponsors in the past (surf companies such as Billabong or Quiksilver provide money or free clothing in exchange for the surfer putting their sticker on his/her board).

The talent on UCLA's team has increased significantly over the last few seasons, Harrington says, and a few of its women members have even taken time off school to surf professionally. Chandler Parr, a third year student, is still considered a sophomore due to her part-time status the last few quarters.

"Juggling school with the competitive tour has been challenging, but I have been lucky enough to have, for the most part, supportive teachers who have been nice enough to let me send my assignments in from wherever I may be and let me make up test exams," says Parr, who joined the UCLA Surf Club as a way to meet other surfers on campus.

For Jason Schechter, a second-year political science major with a minor in philosophy, joining the club team was a priority. "Before I applied to colleges, I researched to find out what schools had a surf team in California," he says. "Having a surf team was one of my criteria for a university. After discovering that UCLA had a surf team, I knew that I wanted to come to this school."