Hang ten or just hang out, Claremont Surf Club is making waves at the 5Cs

Claremont Surf Club poses on lifeguard tower during a trip to Huntington Beach. Courtesy of Claremont Surf Club

During the trying times of the pandemic, Nick Morgenstein PO ’23 found hope and enjoyment in surfing. The boredom, loneliness and instability he faced each day during quarantine led him to search for an outdoor activity he could do with his friends. His dedication overpowered the harsh cold waters of the San Francisco Pacific Ocean, allowing him to reconnect with the outdoors and nature.

After returning to campus, Morgenstein was excited to join Claremont Surf Club, the surfing team at the 5Cs, but much to his dismay it had been disbanded during students’ time away from campus. With his newfound passion and commitment, Morgenstein rebuilt the club and was ultimately elected president.

“The mission of the club is to mainly get people to surf and to connect with the ocean and with each other,” Morgenstein said. “It’s so fun because the club meetings basically consist of a group of friends surfing and being psyched that we’re catching waves. We are such an incredibly open, welcoming, and enthusiastic group.”

Since the club’s reinstatement, it has amassed over 400 students on their mailing list. Creative director Sylvia Bergerud SC ’23 credits this to the club’s active effort in catering to beginners.

“A lot of people on our mailing list haven’t surfed very much and are interested in trying it,” Bergerud said. “Our beginner days are meant to get as many people in the water as possible.” 

The club hosts several beginner days a semester. The more experienced surfers often act as mentors for the large number of beginners. Mark Tankersly CM ’24, who has been surfing since elementary school, helps coordinate and lead the beginner days. 

“We get a bunch of boards from the lockers at Pomona and Pitzer, and we just split up into groups of 5-15 people on a couple boards,” Tankersly said. “We go out in the water, we push people into waves, give them instruction and just be there as a general guide. We try to let people have the freedom to have fun and do whatever they want while still being careful and instructive.”

Aside from the planned beginner days, the club doesn’t have any specific meeting times. The leadership often communicates weekly with more consistent members of the club and coordinates when they are available and what beach they want to go to. About 20-40 students make it to each session, and the club has traveled to a variety of beaches, including Huntington, Trestles, River Jetties, San Onofre and even Malibu. 

In addition to hosting beginner days and regular beach days, the club houses a contest team for more experienced surfers. Tankersly said it has been difficult to find other experienced surfers on campus because of the size and location of the schools and the independent character of surfers in general. As the coordinator of the competitive team, he is in charge of general outreach for advanced members. 

“We did [a contest] last year and we’re trying to get a few more on the calendar for this year,” said Tankersly. “Most of them are pretty expensive, so they’re kind of hard to get funding for — especially because there are not that many [competitive] surfers here. We’re mainly trying to create a bigger group of surfers who have been surfing for longer and can go to spots that are a little more dangerous and require a little more skill.”

While the club is hoping to further build their contest team, anyone who has interest in learning is still highly encouraged to join. Bergerud says she enjoys surfing because she meets a new challenge every time she goes.

“It takes a bit of toughness to decide to put on my wetsuit and paddle through waves each time,” Bergerud said. “The water can be cold and it may be unpleasant at first, but afterwards, I always feel like the experience was worth it and I feel accomplished. Even if I didn’t catch a lot of waves, I always feel like I did something important with my day.”

Tankersly reiterated that having a group of people to surf with every week, making new friends and being a member of the greater surfing community at the 5Cs is the club’s main goal. 

[The club is] just a really great community of people, both on campus and at the beach,” Tankersly said. “It has no expectations and no requirements … and it’s just a great opportunity to hang out with such genuine people.”

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