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UNF men’s surf team beats UF

Written by Ellie Strube, Reporter

The UNF Surf Team celebrates victory over UF. Photo by Randy Rataj
The UNF Surf Team celebrates victory over UF.
Photo by Randy Rataj

Marineland, Fla. — As the sky began to fade from blue to pink, the UNF surf team celebrated its win over the University of Florida’s surf team.

UF’s Matt Novak ended the contest with a score of 12.5, the highest score of the day, but that wasn’t enough to beat UNF Friday. The final score was UNF – 48.7, UF – 40.7.

The judges included Tucker Norton, a UNF senior, surf team member and event collaborator, Bobby Sowalsky, UF surf team member and event collaborator, John Mulleavey from Red Bull, and John Precseno from Spy Optics.

“With surfing, we never really get to do one-on-one competitions with other colleges,” Tucker Norton said, a UNF surf team member and collaborator for the event.

It was the first ever tow-at competition between UF and UNF.

A tow-at is a surfing technique that uses a jet-ski to allow the surfer to gain momentum into a wave in hopes to achieve airs. “Airs” are turns several feet high off the head of a wave, maneuvered by footing and body movement.

The seas were rough, cold, and inconsistent — and so was the jet-ski brought in to tow the surfers.

By low tide, the waves began to pick up. However, the jet-ski had some technical difficulties. Both UNF and UF team captains had to decide whether to forfeit or go into free surf. The vote was unanimous — the remaining surfers competed without a tow-at.

The amount of wind in the Atlantic waters between Palm Coast and St. Augustine added further complications.

“When it’s glassy, you have room for the jet-skis to maneuver, so glassy conditions are better,” Keaton Phillips, UNF senior, said on the seas’ choppy conditions.

Despite the conditions, Max Mertens, UNF sophomore, managed to pull decent air from the face of his wave before the jet-ski decided to quit.

“It’s all about your shoulders and your feet,” Mertens said after scoring a high 11.8. “It’s a collective body motion, basically.”

Phillips finished his heat with a score of 8.3. He felt that he could have done better, but the ocean’s conditions weren’t agreeing.

“Oh, I got some air,” Phillips said. “I just forgot to bring my board with me.”

Over 50 people came — a big turn out for a relatively remote event.

Adam Bartoshesky, UNF surf team member and collaborator for the event, was happy with the way it turned out.

“You can’t really ask for a better day in November,” Bartoshesky said.

Fishing boats sat on the horizon, their lights like low-hanging stars against the greying sky as the contest came to a close.

After the contest, both teams met up at Mellow Mushroom in St. Augustine for free beer and pizza, then headed down to the Surf Station to watch a surfing documentary, enjoy music and party.

“We had a lot of hiccups here and there, and didn’t know how it was going to go starting out, but we had a great turnout,” Norton said. “Overall, it was a great success.”

The UNF surf team has high hopes for the future. The team has eight regular season competitions through the National Scholastic Surfing Association, and it is currently number one in Florida.

In April, the team has the East Coast Championships. If they do well enough, they can compete in California in June at the National Championships against big surfing schools like the University of Southern California.

Bartoshesky said the National Championships have never been won by an East Coast school. “That’s the ultimate goal,” he said.

Unfortunately, it could be too expensive for the team to get out to California for Nationals.
Bartoshesky hopes to get sponsors from local brands in Jacksonville to meet the fee requirements for traveling to surf competitions.

“We would be able to go to California and represent the Jacksonville community,” Bartoshesky said. He thinks combining community and sports is imperative to reach their goals.

For now, the UNF surf team celebrates its recent win and hopes to make more in the future.

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