It’s pretty much impossible to go anywhere in Malibu and not be met with images of surfing. Whether it is a surfer crossing Pacific Coast Highway, a sign shaped like a surfboard or one of the many surf shops in the area, Malibu has an unavoidable oceanic atmosphere.
Pepperdine’s easy access to the Pacific Ocean is a huge attraction to many of the students who come here, but not every student gets as much ocean time as they were expecting. Peppperdine students’ proclivity for over commitment on campus can often restrict them from getting out and experiencing the big blue playground right next door.
True, it is important to be a responsible student and focus on all the things that will bring you success in your career. However, it is also very important to stimulate yourself with adventure and excitement. One of the best ways to incorporate that here at Pepperdine is through surfing.
“We’re all drawn to the water,” said Zuma Jay’s Surf Shop owner, Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner. “That’s why most of the world’s populations live close to the water. So, if we’re drawn to the water and surfing is a part of the water, then certainly the romance of being next to the water, in the water, submerged in the water and using the energy of the water — the wave — for fun has got to be alluring to a lot of people.”
The presence of that allure is apparent in Malibu with the Pacific Ocean as its main attraction. The word “Malibu” itself is derived from the Chumash Native American name for the area, Humaliwo, which loosely means “the surf sounds loudly.”
With its 27 miles of coastal terrain, consisting of several point breaks and shore breaks boasting world renowned surf, it is no wonder that Malibu is referred to as the mecca of surfing on the West Coast. This small section of the California coastline has attracted the attention of Chumash Native Americans, politicians, environmentalists, academics, celebrities, professionals of every field and surfers from around the world.
A lot of people harbor an infatuation with the ocean but for others it invokes fascinated trepidation. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, surfing can accommodate the level of interaction with the ocean you prefer.
Options include body surfing (just you and the wave), body boarding (the use of a short, rectangular foam board), shortboarding and longboarding (elongated boards made of various materials to support stand-up wave riders), stand up paddle surfing (longer and thicker boards which the surfer navigates with the use of an elongated paddle). Any of these wave-riding options can be used in a variety of wave sizes, from flat to triple overhead with maximum capacity for enjoyment. If you think your level of skill (or lack thereof) is a barrier for you, just remember surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku’s famous words: “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.”
Pepperdine is heavily influenced by the surf culture. From the Willie the Wave mascot to a surfing club Convocation to an elective physical education course, Pepperdine incorporates the ocean lifestyle into its everyday campus life. “I think where [Pepperdine] sits and the way it looks inspires an ocean-based lifestyle,” said former pro-surfer and manager of Malibu’s Becker Surf & Sport, Mitch Taylor.
Admissions Counselor and leader of the surf club Convocation Walking on Water, Grant Waggoner, said that as a recruiter for Pepperdine he has found that Pepperdine’s proximity to the ocean “attracts everybody and anybody.”
For decades surfing has allured people of all sizes, ages and backgrounds. From lingo to school mascots, and architecture to commercialism, surfing is a primary contributor to the Malibu experience and for many is a significant highlight to any student’s experience.
“From the start I was always interested in going to a school near the ocean,” said recent transfer student and junior Nicholas Vanderpoel. “It was between Pepperdine and UC Santa Cruz. I decided I wanted to be right next to the birthplace of surfing. I love the vibe here. When I came to visit the campus I went to Third Point beach. I remember thinking, ‘I could do this every single day if I want to.’”
Even if coming to Pepperdine is your first time seeing an ocean or you’re a little nervous to get anything more than your feet wet, college is a great time to adventure and discover. The most unexplored part of our planet, not to mention the birthplace of surfing on the West Coast, is right in our front yard. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it now and then. We’re the Pepperdine Waves, so let’s get in the waves.
SURF CLUB CONVO: Get involved in Surf Club Convocation, Walking on Water, at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays at Zuma Beach, lifeguard tower No. 12.
SURFING CLASS: Check out Introduction to Surfing PE 157. It’s not a bad way to fulfill a Pepperdine elective. Look for specifics in the Pepperdine course catalogue.