The SBHS Surf Team is open to all abilities. | Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara is a surfer’s paradise, and that identity is embraced by the in-class and after-school curriculum offered at Santa Barbara High School. Walk down the main hall to find a Surf History Hall of Fame, featuring grads like renowned board shaper Jon Pyzel (my brother!) and such pros as Cole Robbins and Tom Curren. Down in woodshop, students are taught to cut foam into rideable shapes with computer programming, and then perfect the angles with hand planes and rulers. 

Credit: Courtesy

The SBHS Surf Team was started about 20 years ago by teacher Mike Fair and is now coached by JP Garcia and Isao “Tonma” Tomatsuri, with chemistry teacher Stephanie Rivera as advisor. All grades and abilities are welcome, and members can be spotted around campus rocking their student-designed hoodies. This year’s team featured 37 surfers, according to team mom Linn Zukor, which was enough to make three teams, meaning all abilities got a chance to shine. 

“It brings students together that love surfing,” said Zukor of the club. “They get to be out in nature, connecting with the ocean, and surfing with their friends. Surfing is typically an individual sport, but they get to compete as a team, support each other, and show pride in their school.”

These surfers compete monthly against schools from Carpinteria, Ventura, and as far south as Manhattan Beach in the Santa Barbara-Los Angeles division, culminating in the annual April showdown in Oceanside. This year, the club won the division in all categories — men’s shortboard/longboard, women’s shortboard/longboard, and bodyboard and one team is even headed to the state competition in Huntington Beach this weekend to compete for Golden State bragging rights. 

Credit: Courtesy

“The opportunity has allowed students whose primary sport was surfing to be part of a team, surf in competitions, and be taken seriously as competitive athletes,” said Marie Radis, another mom of club members. “It gives students an opportunity to surf different breaks throughout the state and have a lot of fun with their peers.”

Jade Blair, who is president of the club, joined to find a group of like-minded friends. “I had joined the junior high surf team and wanted to continue competing,” she said. “I am happy to say that through the SBHS Surf Team, I have been able to meet some of my best friends.”

The students have plenty of inspiration. 

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“I look up to Lakey Peterson because she grew up in Santa Barbara and she shreds,” said Jayna Malmsten. Meanwhile, Garrett Haller, the team’s secretary, first looked up to his dad but now is inspired by Conner and Parker Coffin, who grew up here and made careers in the surf world. The team’s vice president, Kai Zukor, looks to multifaceted waterman Devon Howard, explaining, “I like his style and his unique approach to shaping boards.”

No matter what, the club is putting these kids on the path to a life of ocean enjoyment. “I will continue to surf because it’s a fun sport that never gets old,” said Haller. Added Blair, “I will always surf. It’s my greatest passion in life! It may have to take a backseat to school, yet it will always be my first love! It’s also the greatest form of stress relief!”

The team’s end-of-year party is next month, when they will give out awards and invite the S.B. Junior High teams to meet everyone. “We’re hoping next year will be another great turnout,” said Linn Zukor.

Credit: Courtesy

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