"It does motivate us to surf better, but it also gives us a good excuse to go on road trips and go surfing and have fun."

Charlie Kalish,
on being a member of the UCSB surf team

The UCSB surf team had a third-place national finish in last year's season-ending competition. The team is made up of 45 members.

The money isn't there, but the team's desire is
UCSB Surf Team pays its own way to compete

UCSB may be known for its beachside location where students can hit the waves before class, but the school's competitive surf team is something of a secret.

With a third-place national finish in last year's season-ending competition, the wave-riding Gauchos are considered among the top surf schools around, even though they still have to come up with their own funds to get to competitions and have worked to get sponsors for some of their equipment.

Nearly all of the 45 team members surfed on a high school team, said outgoing captain Isaac Little. And the group isn't just UCSB students - SBCC surfers can also participate.

Training is geared towards four seasonal contests, and the state and national championships at the end of the year. UCSB also took second in the state in 2004 and will look to build on that performance this season.

"We don't have the big sports programs, but the surf team is big here compared to other schools," said Little, who surfed on the team for two years.

Charlie Kalish, one of the incoming team captains, said that the benefits of the team extend beyond competition.

"It does motivate us to surf better, but it also gives us a good excuse to go on road trips and go surfing and have fun," said the senior English major. His identical twin brother Michael is also on the team.

A native of San Francisco, Kalish hadn't surfed competitively before coming to UCSB. He described the difference:

"In free surfing you can go out, have a blast, and express yourself. In competition it's much more rigid. You want to conform to standards of the judges, so the more radical powerful maneuvers you can do on a single wave, the better you're going to be scored."

The competitive surfers can be found on the same breaks as their UCSB classmates who will never face a panel of judges. Captains coordinate regular practices.

Most team members are men, but Laura Kinney, a third-year aquatic biology major, is among a small group of female shortboarders competing.

Though she plans to spend most of the year studying abroad in Australia - where she'll also get the chance to catch some waves - the San Diego native has found that competitive surfing tests her noncompetitive nature.

Her best meets have been at beaches she's familiar with from growing up in San Diego, where she surfed for Torrey Pines High School.

Kinney said that one of the things that makes the sport a joy for her is that practice isn't really work.

"With a lot of sports you have to make yourself train and practice all the time," said the former field hockey and lacrosse player. "But surfing, you always have the desire to be in the water."

She tries to surf at least once a day when she isn't in class.

"It's a little harder because there's not always waves. With other sports, there's always a field there."

e-mail: letling@newspress.com

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