UNF Surf Team places among best collegiate surfers in America

Lauren Fox, General Assignment Reporter

The University of North Florida (UNF) Surf Team is now eight-time consecutive East Coast champions in the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) league, preparing to compete in California for the National Interscholastic Championship this June. 

After their April 3 win at New Smyrna Beach, the team is training and fundraising in preparation to face some of the best collegiate surfers in the country. UNF will have six men and two women shortboarders and one male longboarder competing on the national level.

“I’ve never seen any UNF club as successful as these guys consistently,” remarked UNF Club Sports Coordinator Ray Bunch.  

The UNF Surf Team is considered a club sport and therefore not technically part of the university athletics department. Regardless, the NSSA ranks the team No. 1 in the state, attracting surf-loving applicants to the school.

Surf Team Vice President CJ Rogers making a turn
Surf Team Vice President CJ Rogers making a turn. Photo courtesy of the UNF Surf Team.

“Even in middle and high school, I knew the UNF Surf Team was good,” said the team’s Vice President CJ Rogers.

Rogers participated in surf competitions growing up and explained that UNF’s coastal location and the surf team’s reputation were factors leading to his decision to transfer to the school. Bunch believes that the Surf Team has even brought in applicants from out of state to UNF.

The surf club has 27 competing members, with its top nine surfers placed into an “A-team,” and the next nine ranked surfers in the “B-team.” In their most recent competition, the A-team placed first and the B-team placed third overall, with their B-team just two points behind the second-ranking team, said Rogers. 

“If you grew up surfing here [on the East Coast], you learn to really work for it,” Rogers said. 

The team is planning to travel and surf in California, where the waves are often bigger and more powerful than the ones in Florida. East Coast surfers have to learn to ride lower-quality waves than their West Coast counterparts.

Both Bunch and Rogers believe that this does not put the team at a disadvantage, however. Since the Surf Team learned to make do with Florida’s subpar surf conditions, riding the “better” waves in California can be easier because the team won’t have to work as hard to find a rideable wave, Rogers explained.

The team will still have to adjust to the new surfing environment in California before they compete. A challenge they’ll face upon arrival is getting used to surfing the larger waves in more aggressive competition. 

“It takes a bit of nerves, when you’re used to getting on 4-foot waves and then all of a sudden getting on a 10 or 12-foot wave, and they have to overcome that anxiety,” Bunch explained. “If they can’t overcome that fear, then it doesn’t matter with all the technique in the world.”

The team needs to arrive in California a few days before the competition so they can practice and adjust to the new ocean environment, Bunch elaborated. 

Surf Team President Avery Aydelotte
Surf Team President Avery Aydelotte. Photo courtesy of the UNF Surf Team.

Getting on-site early adds expenses to the team’s cross-country journey. To pay for hotels, food, rental cars and other expenses, the team is fundraising with a GoFundMe page and selling their merchandise. They also have help from their sponsors Sunrise Surf Shop, Smoothie King and Salt Life Food Shack. The team’s president, Avery Aydelotte, and Rogers appealed to Student Government for a financial award that will assist with travel expenses. 

The team aims to send nine competitors and two alternates to California in June. They need to have as many members in the contest as possible to increase their chances of winning. 

While each surfer competes individually, the points they earn in each heat go toward their team. The more points each surfer earns, the more likely they are to move on to the next round of the competition where they can earn more points for their team. The more athletes on each team also mean the potential for more points. 

Leading up to their contest, the whole team can be found practicing whenever the waves are rideable, said Rogers. 

The contest is scheduled to run from June 17-19 in Salt Creek Beach, California. 


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