Senior Jeff Proodian rides the wave in the Huntington Beach Pier Competition in July. Proodian said he’s been with the surf team since his first year. Photo Courtesy of Jeff Proodian
Club sports athletes differ greatly from NCAA Division I.
Though these are a lot of similarities, like watching film, having multiple practices a day and grueling work of balancing hectic schedules, club sports athletes are committed to the love of the game. Club sports athletes don’t receive scholarships or any benefits, either, said Coordinator of Recreational Sports Julian Baker.
Club sports athletes are committing to the team and the sport because of their passion, sophomore Natalie Alderton said.
“[Surfing’s] one of my biggest passions, and it brings me joy,” Alderton said. “I surfed most mornings before class. So, regardless of whether or not we have surfing practice, I’m pretty much going every day just because it’s one of my favorite things in the world.”
Recruiting for Players
The surfing team is among six club sports teams on campus. Baker said recruitment for players has to start early in the school year when the energy is high.
“Some of their past success helps with our recruiting efforts,” Baker said. “I think our location helps with that surfer community. It’s maybe not as much of a struggle to kind of find surfers out there and I think now having a really committed and like-minded coach, it’s really solid leadership.”
Senior Jeff Proodian said then-team manager Tajuki Masuda recruited him to the surf team as a first-year. Proodian joined a Pepperdine surf team practice when he was a senior in high school and knew Masuda through mutual friends, Proodian said.
Proodian said it was tough to decide whether or not he could surf collegiately, but decided he would focus on education and pursue surfing as a passion.
“I would still be surfing competitively, just not Division l,” Proodian said. “We compete with a bunch of different schools. I mean, it’s not on paper Division 1, but it’s pretty close.”
Both Proodian and Alderton said they started surfing at a young ages. Proodian started when he was 10-years-old and Alderton has surfed as long as she can remember.
Proodian said although he disliked surfing at first, he gave it another try and realized and it was something he loved. Surfing is a pretty frustrating sport, Proodian said. Though he couldn’t really get up on his board for the first couple of times, Proodian kept on trying, he said.
“I finally did [get on my board], but even when I did, I was like, ‘Oh my God, like this is just crazy how long it took,'” Proodian said. “As I got older, I was like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ I started getting a lot better and progressing and doing well. Now I’m here.”
Introducing the Team
Head Coach Joseph Rickabaugh is going into his second year as head coach. Rickabaugh and Baker connected in the summer of 2021 and Baker saw his vision, energy and passion for the sport of surfing, Baker said.
“I think, really, what stood out to us was his ability to connect with students,” Baker said. “It’s different with club sports. The way that [athletes] need to be guided and coached, it’s not the same as the NCAA.”
The team recently completed tryouts, and Baker said the surfers have optimism for this season.
Baker said the team was missing two of their best surfers last year when they were abroad, and half the team are returners and a lot of them are first-years. However, the team still has strong leadership, Baker said.
“I’m really excited to see what they can do in the water this year,” Baker said. “We’ve got a couple competitions coming up and we’re excited.”
One of the biggest challenges he faced throughout his time with the surf team has been with the coaching turnover, Proodian said.
“That was definitely something that was challenging,” Proodian said. “Not because of their coaching abilities, just more so getting used to how they coach and being able to tie that into how we surf competitively, but it worked. It worked out really well. We were able to adapt and we really like our coach now.”
Like the rest of the athletics world, COVID-19 provided another challenge to collegiate teams. Because of the changing schedules and competitions, it was harder to schedule practices to prepare, Alderton said.
Favorite Memories with the Team
Both Proodian and Alderton said their favorite memories on the surf team come from bonding during road trips. Though the team doesn’t tend to travel out of state, they do venture as south as San Diego, Calif., and as north as Santa Cruz, Calif., Proodian said.
“Even those just little little car journeys are pretty fun just being with the team and then staying all together,” Proodian said. “Living with each other for the weekend, and just being able to root for each other while competitions are going on. It’s just a different experience each competition and it’s always been really fun.”
Alderton said another good memory originated from the NSA Ventura Competition in fall 2021.
The team actually had a lot of members make it pretty far into the competition against all of the other California colleges that were competing, Alderton said.
“I really enjoyed that and getting to hang out with people on the beach and read up for everybody,” Alderton said.
Looking Forward at The Season
Baker said the club’s biggest goal is to continue building cohesiveness within the team.
“I think last year some of our players had the feeling that they were robbed of some of their feats,” Baker said. “That’s sports, that’s sometimes it’s just how it happens. But, I think this year, we’re looking for a few better finishes out of some of our surfers.”
Baker said in the 2021-22 academic year, the new surfers had a lot of really raw talent. Rickabaugh’s main goals are to get better competition surfers and also seeing them grow, Baker said.
The surfing team starts their season Oct. 29.
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