Point Loma Nazarene University’s two-time defending champion surf team is off to another strong start this year. So far this semester, the team has competed in two contests. The first one was at Black’s Beach in La Jolla. A total of 28 schools participated in this event, and the PLNU surf team finished in first place.
The PLNU surf team just competed in their second event this last weekend, Saturday November 12th and Sunday November 13th, at Seaside Reef in Cardiff. Overall, the team finished in second place, falling behind rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. However, two surfers from PLNU got first place individually: Darsha Pigford won the shortboard women’s division while Andrew Niemann won the men’s shortboard division.
“The team is looking great this year,” said surf team captain Jordan Kudla. “I think we will take the win for the third year in a row.”
All college surf teams compete in the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA), which is the highest amateur competitive surfing association in the United States. The regular college team season is a four-event schedule, leading up to the State Championships.After the State Championships, the top eight teams with the most points go on to the National Interscholastic College Championships at Salt Creek in June. PLNU’s surf team has been the national champions for the past two years.
At every competition, there are three judges who sit up in a tower to watch the surfers. There are six surfers in each heat, and each heat is 15 minutes long. As soon as the horn sounds, the surfers paddle out and get as many waves as they want. The judges score every single one, but they only count each surfer’s top two waves. The highest score a surfer can get on a wave is a ten, so for each heat, a perfect score would be a 20. They judge it based on degree of difficulty, variety of maneuvers, speed, power and flow. Once the 15 minutes are up, the judges announce who finished in first, second, and third place. The top three of the heat move on to the next round. There are usually three rounds, followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. First place gets six points, second place gets five points, and third place gets four points, and those points go towards the surfers’ college teams.
The PLNU surf team does not have a coach, but there are two team captains: Jordan Kudla and Timmy Metcaf. The team also does not have official organized practices; the team captains know that everyone on the team surfs on his or her own time, but since the surfers on the team are all good friends, they usually end up surfing together anyway.
“The week before a competition, I will surf a bunch. I prepare by running mental heats, where I time out 15 minutes on my watch and try to get at least two good waves during that time. I score them based off of my own judgment,” said PLNU surfer Andrew Niemann. “I try to surf every day, usually for an hour or two. I usually practice out in front of the school, but sometimes I will go to Ocean Beach or up to North County in Encinitas.”
PLNU has enough good surfers to have two teams: an A team with surfers of the longboard style, and a B team with surfers of the shortboard style styles. Last year, not only did the A team win the national title, but the B team made it to the National Interscholastic College Championships as well and finished in the top eight out of the top 16 teams in the nation.
“A lot of good surfers choose to apply to Point Loma. If you look at PLNU’s location and how good the waves are just right there in front of the school, it draws the attention of good surfers because it allows them to be able to practice every day,” said sophomore PLNU surfer Matt Mindell. “Luckily, the past few classes have brought in a lot of good surfers, so we have so much talent on the team.”
Quite a few of the surfers on the team had previous experience competing before joining the PLNU surf team, like Andrew Niemann. Niemann competed growing up since age 11 and has won both professional and amateur events.
“It’s fun to be in this team environment where we get to share advice, talk to each other before heats and cheer each other on at competitions. Our team has a really uplifting atmosphere. We always want each other to do well and are stoked when our teammates win,” said Niemann. “I think we keep getting better and more connected as a team, so I think we will do better and be able to be national champions a third time.”
The PLNU surf team’s next event is January 28-29 at 9th Street in Huntington Beach, so if you want to see some great surfing, go support your Sea Lions as they make their way to a potential third National Championship!