The Inlanders: Starting a Surf Club 100 Miles Away From The Ocean

I discovered an intense love for surfing over two years ago when I went to Panama. I was taught how to surf, curiously, by an English girl. Yes, you heard that right. The English lass taught the California gal how to surf.

After surfing for two weeks straight, I came home to Vacaville with an unrelenting desire to be in the ocean. Going to school at UC Davis was not going to be easy as it is two and a half hours away from the nearest surf. I had applied to some schools that were closer to the ocean, but did not know I had Surf Fever until after I was admitted to UC Davis. I thought about joining a surf club, but I doubted that there would be one on campus.

After doing a little digging on Facebook, I saw that UC Davis used to have a surf club, but it hadn’t been active since 2012 and even the posts during that time seemed to be few and far between.

But what if this club could be revamped? How could a college surf club over 100 miles away from the ocean be successful? I thought about it, what it would entail logistically, and how to go about doing it. A week later, I went back on the Facebook page to reach out to the previous president of the surf club and ask him a few questions. I never got in contact with him though, because when I logged back on, I noticed new activity on the page…  

“Hey all! My name is Alexandria, and I was recently given access to this page to try and revive the UC Davis Surf Club. I am trying to test for interest to see if there is a large enough group to get something started? If you’re interested, feel free to like/comment on this post so that we can get back in the water.”

Of course, I sent my message of interest immediately.

Two weeks later, on a cold, October morning, I met the other officers. All of them were people who had grown up collecting sand in their hair and missed every grain of it upon their move inland. I remember one of the officers jokingly said that they chose Davis so as not to be distracted by surf. We discussed our goals and ideas, both realistic and far-fetched, and by the end of the meeting, I truly believed that UC Davis could have a functioning surf club. It would serve as a community where ocean lovers who were trapped inland could come together and where friendships based upon surfing would be founded.

And it has done just that.

Two years have passed since Surf Club at UC Davis has been re-established and there are almost 200 members on our Facebook page. When people hear me talk about Surf Club at UC Davis, I usually get a laugh (understandably). “What! Surfing? In Davis?”

The nearest beach is in Sonoma County, almost two hours away. But to me, the drive is worth that one perfect wave, or an intimate conversation with a veteran surfer, or seeing a newbie catch the surf bug.

Within our two years as a club, we have gone on four camping trips, many day trips, taught people how to surf, raised awareness for ocean conservation, cultivated long lasting friendships through social events, and given people a way to get to the beach.

I am unsure how this club will evolve, or the direction it will take, or even if it will continue at all, but being a part of something as eccentric as Surf Club at UC Davis has been so spiritually rewarding. There is something beautiful about seeing people get passionate about the same things as you. There is an overwhelming joy that surges through me when I see someone catch their first wave and their eyes light up. Because at one point, that was me, standing up and getting wind of the satisfaction that surfing promised. And perhaps, the gravitational pull of the club isn’t even the surfing…

On our most recent surf trip, someone expressed their immediate appreciation of the club. “There are no cliques. You guys are like a family,” he said. It was his first day with us, and he had already picked up on our values. Surfing is an intimidating sport and one does not casually fall into it. It is an intentional and brave decision, and this is exactly how I would illustrate the members of our club. Perhaps they don’t think this about themselves, but I can assure you, having been at every trip, meeting, and event that we’ve had that every individual who crosses Surf Club’s threshold is brave and intentional. They are the kind of people who value the adventure of life, they are risk-takers who are open-minded and, most importantly, they are some of the kindest people I have ever met.

And I am incredibly grateful to everyone I have met on this weird, windy journey.

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