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Their Common Bond Is Devotion to Bodysurfing

May 10, 1990|JIM LINDGREN

Keith Kulberg, Jeffrey (Q) Davies and Isabelle De Loys have backgrounds and cultures as different as shells on the beach, but they are drawn together by an affinity for bodysurfing.

Kulberg, 27, who lives in Encinitas, is Southern California-born, raised and stereotyped. He went to San Diego State on a swimming scholarship but stayed for the parties. In between, he earned a degree in industrial engineering and now owns has his own contractor business.

Davies, 33, who lives in La Costa, is from the Midwest. His family lived on farms before moving to El Cajon when he was a boy. At Grossmont High School and Grossmont Community College, he swam and played water polo and earned a swimming scholarship to the University of Denver. He now works as a special-sections coordinator for the San Diego Union.

De Loys, 22, who lives in Oceanside, is new to the area--new to the country, for that matter. She was born in Switzerland, raised in Brazil. She is studying art, English and U.S. culture at MiraCosta College. After her education, she wants to return to Brazil and get into advertising or graphic arts.

These three do not know one another well; just by first names and faces. But, in bodysurfing, they share a common affection and fraternal spirit.

Nick Menas, organizer of the Pacific Beach Pro-Am held March 17-18, said, "We get together at these contests a few times a year, and it's mostly the same people every year. You don't really know too many people or what they do for a living, but you know they bodysurf. And that's all that seems to matter.

"There is no other feeling in the world like being out in the water on a glassy morning. Totally smooth, totally free energy."

For Keith Kulberg, playing in the water was always the attraction. It didn't matter whether it was sailing, diving, swimming, skiing or surfing--so long as he got wet.

His parents enjoyed sailing and water sports, so he became interested as well. He did just about everything recreationally there was to do in the water. And he began swimming competitively in American Athletic Union meets when he was 5.

He took an unplanned five-year hiatus from swimming when his family moved east to Temecula, but he picked it up again during his senior at Elsinore High. From there, Kulberg swam for two years at Fullerton Community College, and did well enough to earn a scholarship to San Diego State.

He swam at SDSU for a year--he remembers shaving his head for the Western Athletic Conference Championships at Brigham Young University--but the program was cut after that because of athletic department budget problems.

"The whole thing was kind of a joke," Kulberg said. "I felt like leaving. But I loved the school, so I decided to stay."

It turned out to be a good decision, he added. In 1985, he earned his degree, and, three years later, started Kulberg Homes. His first major project--a 57-unit housing development--is nearing completion, and Kulberg has planned a bodysurfing vacation in Hawaii in May.

Kulberg says bodysurfing "is more of a side thing." But his fourth-place finish in March's contest indicates otherwise.

"I've been hitting these competitions here and there, and trying all these new maneuvers that I picked up from some of the other guys. I decided to go back to the basics. And it seemed to work."

Those basics were first taught by his father and nurtured when he worked as a lifeguard through college at beaches in Ventura, Goleta and Malibu.

Kulberg said he's had some wild times out in the surf, but none compare to a trip he and a friend took to Catalina Island on a Hobie Cat in February, 1985.

"We had a rule," Kulberg said. "Whoever wasn't steering, the other guy was in charge of beer and whiskey and photography."

Under the circumstances, the trip from Long Beach to Catalina was relatively uneventful, taking about three hours, 45 minutes. But on the way back, conditions called for gale force winds and waves of 5 to 8 feet.

It took just two hours, 10 minutes.

Those were the crazy days, Kulberg added. But now it is time to settle down. He plans to marry Michelle Ruyle in August (the honeymoon will be on a boat, of course), continue building homes and competing in bodysurfing contests.

Q Davies also got his introduction to bodysurfing through competitive swimming and lifeguarding. But his start was much later in life and a little less predictable than Kulberg's.

Few kids from Moberly, Mo., grow up to be world-class bodysurfers. But that is what he has become after moving to El Cajon, via Illinois and then Kansas.

"I was an 'inland goon' until I got out of high school," Davies said. "My first exposure to the ocean was when I started lifeguarding."

Davies, who moved to Leucadia after high school, worked as a lifeguard in college. He didn't begin competing in bodysurfing until four years ago but has become one of the area's best. This spring in the Pacific Beach Pro-Am, he finished second, behind five-time world champion Mike Cunningham.

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