YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Student-Surfers: Making the Grades to Ride the Waves

August 29, 1985|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

Jeff Booth will be carrying a heavy academic load when school resumes in September. As a junior at Laguna Beach High School, he will be taking English, U.S. history, architecture, chemistry and a math class called introductory analysis.

And if the past three years are any indication, he will no doubt maintain a 4.0 grade-point average. But don't think studying will prevent the straight-A student from doing what he loves doing best--surfing.

"In the morning, I'll go out about 6 o'clock--as soon as it gets light--and in the afternoon, I'll surf after school until it gets dark," Booth said, as he sat on the sand not far from the Huntington Beach pier early one foggy morning last week.

As a member of the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. (NSSA) national surf team, Booth performs as well in the water as he does in school.

The No. 2-rated surfer in the association's junior division has his bedroom filled with about 60 surfing trophies, including those for first place in the association's 1984 and 1985 National Championships, second place in the 1984 World Amateur Championships for juniors and first place in the 1985 U.S. Amateur Surfing Championships for juniors.

Although he normally surfs at Oceanside and Salt Creek in Laguna Niguel, Booth was getting a feel for the waves at Huntington Beach last week in preparation for the Op Pro Surfing Championships, which runs through Sunday. Booth is one of eight top scholastic-surfing association members competing--for experience only--in the Op Pro, the largest and one of the most prestigious surfing events in the United States.

Blond, Tanned, Trim

"It's helpful if you get used to the waves before a contest," explained the blond-haired, tanned and trim 16-year-old, sporting gray and baby blue sweats, courtesy of one of his surfing sponsors.

Soft-spoken, clean-cut and personable, Booth defies the stereotypical, negative image of the surfer: Think of Spicoli, the long-haired, dope-dazed, "Hey, bud, want to party?" surfer in the teen comedy, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"--the kind of guy who makes it to class only when the surf isn't up.

Booth grins at the image.

"I think Spicoli fits it (the stereotype) to a T: a guy who doesn't really care about anything, just a beach bum, a guy who hangs out at the beach all day and just surfs."

Improving both the image of surfing and the quality of surfing nationwide were the goals of the scholastic-surfing association when it was formed in Orange County in 1977.

"The one goal we had was to clean up the image of surfing," explained Chuck Allen, one of the co-founders of the association and the newly named head coach of the national team.

Allen, executive vice president at Mercury Savings in Huntington Beach, is the volunteer coach of the 25-member championship Huntington Beach High School surf team. He also serves as coach-adviser for the school's 200-member surf club and the school's accredited physical education surfing class. The class is open to 85 students, and, as Allen jokes, "all 200 try to get in it."

The Oklahoma-born Allen, who took up surfing 10 years ago when he was 38, became involved in coaching surfing about nine years ago after he and his family moved from San Juan Capistrano to Trabuco Canyon. "All my kids were surfers, and, of course, they were upset because it (their new home) was inland," he said.

To pacify them, Allen agreed to help start and coach a surf team at El Toro High School. "We got a little surf team going, about 25 kids. It was totally off-campus. They (school officials) tolerated us--that was about it."

To help give surfing more credibility, particularly among educators and business people, Allen and a group of five high school teachers, including Tom Gibbons of Marina High School and John Rothrock of Edison High School--formed the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. and held their first organizational meeting in late 1977.

In 1980, the volunteer-run, rather loosely organized association, which has sponsors from within and outside the surfing industry, hired Australians Ian Cairns and Peter Townend as executive directors.

Came Out Against Drugs

Cairns and Townend, who left the association last year, were ideal choices to run the group. Not only were they the two top 1976 world champion surfers but, as Allen said, "these two guys were also really the first professional athletes in any sport to come out publicly against the use of drugs."

Cairns, now 33, says he has always resented the negative image of surfers. In Australia, he noted, whenever he would see a cartoon about welfare, it would always depict a surfer. But rather than rebel against the negative image and be twice as bad, Cairns said, "I've tried to do something positive about it."

The association, which is open to junior high, high school and college students, offers a number of programs, including:

- Scholastic surfing competitions, which are a series of contests open to student surfers who maintain academic standards set by the association.

Los Angeles Times Articles