Stewart Surfboards owner Bill Stewart despises the stereotype of lazy, uneducated surfers. He wants them to be surfing above C-level.
Toward that end, he offers board discounts to aficionados of the sport who demonstrate academic excellence. Students with a 4.0 grade-point average may purchase shortboards regularly selling for $410 for $250--a $160 discount. Those with a 3.0 GPA and above get a $50 discount.
"I would rather see a kid who works hard in school get a discount than the kid who just surfs well," Stewart said. "If they don't make it as a pro surfer and don't do well in school, they don't have anything to fall back on."
Stewart, 48, of San Clemente, kicked off the program about a year ago by hanging a sign on his store. Since then, nearly 30 students, from elementary school to college, have taken advantage of his offer on shortboards--those that are 7 feet and shorter.
At the shop, young surfers compare grades rather than surfing maneuvers like floaters and cutbacks.
"I commend [Stewart Surfboards]," said James A. Fleming, Capistrano Unified School District superintendent. "They set an example for other retail shops. Rewards motivate people."
The Stewart Surfboards sign on El Camino Real caught the eye of Vic Adams and his family during a surfboard shopping expedition to find used boards for his two sons, Kyle and Ryan.
"One of our sons had a 4.0 and one had a 3.5," said Adams, a junior high school teacher in Palm Springs. "We went home and got their report cards and bought new boards the following weekend. We're both teachers and we think it's a great incentive for kids to do well in school."
With his straight-A report card, Kyle saved his dad $160.
"I felt great," said Kyle, 12, who brought home a 6-foot, 6-inch fish-shaped board. "I'll keep my 4.0 because you never know if you'll find anything else like that."
The requirements at Stewart Surfboards are as follows: stellar report cards, picture identification and a standard class load.
Stewart recalls being unmotivated by grades when he was in school. He believes a tangible reward system can produce beneficial results for most students.
"If you gave me a trophy, not just a . . . letter on a paper, that was different," he said. "The reward should be something you believe in."
Stewart said many of his customers are doctors, lawyers and corporate executives.
"I don't think any negative image should be tied to the sport of surfing," he said. "The sport, in itself, has become more mainstream, less underground. I hope it's going in a better direction."
The National Scholastic Surfing Assn. also rewards surfers for good grades.
Last year the organization, which has about 2,000 members, gave out 200 award certificates to students across the nation who had GPAs of 3.5 and above.
"That's why the organization was founded, so surfers wouldn't have that [lazy] stereotype tagged on them," said Janice Aragon, the association's executive director.
Students need a minimum 2.0 GPA to compete in the Huntington Beach-based organization.
And for Stewart, the fun is in hearing parents in his shop tell their children, "See, if you did better in school, I would be buying you a surfboard right now."