Waiting for the next swell to break — with their feet in the water and bodies on boards — members of the UCF Surf Club find a home away from home in the salty ocean waters.
From June 13 through June 15, members of the team rode the waves to sixth place in the country at the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Interscholastic Championships in Dana Point, California, falling to four Golden State-based schools and the University of North Florida.
"We held it down for UCF, and I was very pleased with the results," said Christina Coffee, a senior radio/television major. "I wasn't too surprised [that] we did really well, because our team is full of really talented surfers."
Aside from talent, the team credits this year's national success to good waves and water conditions, allowing for more high-performance moves, such as roundhouse cutbacks, which are figure eight-shaped moves to get back onto the face of the wave at full speed, and floaters, which are moves that allows surfers to ride on top of the lip of the wave.
"The competition out there is really tough, so we all went into it thinking, 'We're going to give it our best shot and see what happens,'" said Tyler Lawrence, a UCF spring graduate with a degree in business management.
This is not the first time the club has gone to, or placed at, the National Championships. It has competed in the last 15 recorded National Championships, earning a team-best finish this year.
"I know that our surf club has had good success over the years, and it is pretty gratifying to know the club has done so well and is still thriving," said Mitch Varnes, the first club president and a 1985 double major in journalism and business.
Since the club's creation in 1983, the goal has remained the same: showcasing passion for surfing and forming friendships.
"To me, surfing is one of the purest forms of expression. You can see someone's personality and emotions come through as they are riding a wave," former captain Lawrence said. "It's the most fun thing you could ever imagine. And you get to be a part of such a unique culture and lifestyle that most people don't ever experience."
While some members grew up surfing, students without experience are always welcome, and current members are willing to help anybody learn.
"The biggest thing is just to get people interested in surfing and create a water community around campus for people who have that same interest," said Tommy Carr, a senior environmental engineering major and former club president.
Passion for being in the water has also encouraged students to protect the environment through partnered beach clean-ups with Ron Jon Surf Shop.
"Being an environmental engineer, I try to bring awareness into the club and do a little bit of conservation," Carr said. "It gives me perspective and has made me appreciate and respect the ocean a lot more, and the environment in general."
Members note littered items they pick up most often and report back to the surf shop to bring awareness to the public.
"As surfers, it should definitely be important to us to take care of the place we love to be at the most: the water," Lawrence said. "I think everyone should be concerned about our planet, but surfers especially because our playground is the ocean. Nobody likes a beach or ocean filled with trash."
Bridgette Norris is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @blogginbridge or email her at BridgetteN@CentralFloridaFuture.com.