Amy Nicholl took her first ride on a surfboard at the age of 9.
Her parents sent her to summer camp in New Smyrna Beach with her twin brother, Sean Nicholl, by her side. As the siblings got older, her brother moved on to play rugby at UCF and she, after dabbling in soccer, stuck to practicing her surfing skills and became a member of the UCF surf team when she was a freshman in 2008.
The 22-year-old UCF alumna won first place in the women’s division at the 2012 National Scholastic Surfing Association’s Interscholastic National Championships held at Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point, Calif., in June.
The two-time champion attributes her success to being disciplined and determined from a young age. When she was 13 years old, her family took her on a surfing trip to California and Puerto Rico, where she fell in love with the popular beach sport.
“The first wave I caught I rode all the way in until I stepped off on dry sand. I was very natural at it,” Nicholl said. “That is when I knew that surfing could take me more places than traditional sports could.”
Nicholl spent much of her time at the beach, as many other New Smyrna natives do, and got better at the sport. As a freshman, Nicholl joined the UCF Surf Club & Team and began competing with it. She won her first national title in 2009.
This year, along with Nicholl’s win, the surf team as a whole placed ninth out of 17 teams. The team has continually pushed for success after ranking 13th in 2011 and 14th in 2010, according to the NSSA website.
“Overall, this shows that we’ve improved,” UCF Surf Club & Team President Julie Catalano said.
Catalano, who has been on the team for two years, believes this type of national recognition will greatly affect the team’s ability to continue doing well because it provides more opportunity for sponsorships, which will bring more funding for practices, clothing and competition-related expenses.
“It helps us a lot because it gets our name out there. Our sponsors get to see that we are doing what we said we would do which was getting to nationals,” Catalano said.
Not only did the team make it to nationals, but it was one of only two teams from the East Coast to place in the top 10. The second team was from another Florida school — the Florida Institute of Technology. Its team placed sixth in the competition.
“It’s fantastic for our sports club program as well as the surf team,” said Scott Mauro, marketing coordinator for the Recreation & Wellness Center. “The recognition that it’s given not only her but the team itself has been incredible for the sports club council, the surf team and the RWC.”
The Surf Club & Team comprises 64 members who are split into two groups: the travel team and the recreational team. The travel team that went to the NSSA Championships this year consisted of nine competitors: six shortboarders in the men’s division, two shortboarders in the women’s division and one longboarder.
“We’ve only had two clubs [in the council] ever win nationals as a team. We don’t count her [Nicholl] winning as a ‘team win,’ but she was the first individual to win out of any sports club,” Sports Club Council President Courtney Laverdiere said.
The Recreation and Wellness Center will be hosting a ceremony on July 13 to honor Nicholl's accomplishments. At the ceremony, a banner showcasing Nicholl’s championship win will be hung, making her the first individual competitor ever to have a banner in the RWC, Mauro said.
“She really held her own out in the water. She put the competitive side out [of her head] and really succeeded in the end. It was exciting to see her surf,” Catalano said. “She has always been good, but I definitely saw an improvement this year, especially since she has been competing with other events as well.”
In addition to California, Nicholl has had the opportunity to travel across the United States and far beyond its borders to Australia, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, France, Portugal, Hawaii and Brazil to compete in surfing competitions.
“I have gone to some wonderful places and have only ever seen the beaches,” Nicholl said.
Her surfing trips are normally funded by her sponsors Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sanuk Footwear, Nixon watches and Erin Surfboards. The only opportunity she has had to travel on her own was a Eurotrip of sorts, as she actually had a chance to sightsee.
Although she plans to continue competing for many years to come, she hopes to make use of her bachelor’s degree in marketing to find a steady job in the near future.
“I will continue to surf for fun and make some money while doing it," Nicholl said. "My plan is just to compete on the weekends. My larger plan is to get a full-time job related to sports marketing.”
The NSSA Championships will air at 9 p.m. on July 13 and can be seen on Bright House Cable channels 106 and 1137.
Nicholl will compete next month in the CBS Sports Network Alt Games in California during the U.S. Open of Surfing.
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