There is an idyllic image of surfing passed down from when the Beach Boys topped the charts. Now students can grab their boards and hit the beach with the Surf Club at USF.
“Surfing’s kind of a selfish sport,” said Justin Campbell, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and president of the Surf Club. “Everybody likes the feeling of actually catching a wave. It’s not really like anything else and that’s what hooks people.”
Campbell has been surfing since high school.
“It was me and my best friend at the time; we’d take beach trips every other weekend and one day he got a surfboard …,” Campbell said. “He offered to let me try out his board. I tried it, stood up on my first wave and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Shane Spiers, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, has been surfing since his father introduced him to the sport.
“It is hard, it’s insanely hard,” Spiers said. “But it doesn’t feel like it when you’re participating because you’re just having so much fun. It’s an extreme sport.”
Interested students do not need to know how to surf to join the club; in fact, Campbell said the club encourages novice surfers to join.
“Everybody wants to learn how to surf … ,” Campbell said. “It’s really fulfilling to see all the new beginners catch their first waves.”
Campbell said he is often asked where members surf because the club is based in Tampa.
“We have to travel,” Campbell said. “We don’t get many Gulf waves unless there’s a storm, cold front or hurricane.”
The club travels to the east coast to practice and compete, frequenting Flagler Beach, Sebastian Beach and New Smyrna. The club began taking part in competitions last year and it now competes about once a month. Their first competition of the semester is scheduled for Sunday.
“The hardest thing with surfing is actually planning for the waves, a report can look so good for like two weeks and then, on the last day, the report could change … ,” Campbell said. “Every now and then we get lucky.”
When the club is stuck on land, they do everything from slacklining to dodgeball. Spiers said fitness is important among club members and meetings usually consist of some sort of physical activity.
“We do fun things at our meeting; we don’t really like to talk much,” Campbell said. “We like to play.”
Campbell said sometimes they will simply spend meetings hanging around in hammocks.
“Me and six of my friends, for spring break, went to Puerto Rico this year and we had the trip of a lifetime. We went there strictly for a surf trip … we all wanted two things: to surf every day and we wanted it to be cheap…,” Campbell said. “We scored amazing waves, the best waves I’ve ever surfed. We camped out the entire time in hammocks, just hanging out on the beach in front of these amazing waves. It was pretty perfect.”
Aside from competing, the USF Surf Club also participates in volunteer work. During the semester they will do beach cleanups. This Saturday the club will participate in Hang Ten for Autism at Siesta Key Beach. During the event students will help children with autism learn to surf.
“We want to share this experience that we enjoy with these children who may not have such an easy time learning to surf,” Spiers said. “We’re going to get those kids standing up and give them the best possible day we can. I’m excited to see their faces when they stand up.”
Throughout the semester, the club will host surf schools where non-club members can come out and learn to surf with the club.
“We’re going to accept anyone who’s willing to learn to surf,” Spiers said. “The fraternity within the club is so tight, it’s incomparable to anything else.”
Interested students can sign up through the Center for Student Involvement and join the club’s Facebook group for updates on club meetings and surf trips.
“As you can imagine, a bunch of surfers, we just go with the flow,” Spiers said.