By Christina Lee
City on a Hill Press Reporter

Seagulls scream out in the sky above. The salty sea breeze tosses sand into the air. Surfers are spotted riding rolling waves in the distance.

Such prime conditions are expected in world-renowned surf towns like Santa Cruz. And naturally, one might expect the local university to have a surf team, but at UC Santa Cruz, this is not the case.

Three years ago, UCSC’s own UC Surf Team disappeared from the school’s club roster, becoming one of many unfunded UCSC clubs. Now, the UC Surf team, all but unheard-of, struggles to regain the funding they once had, but still to no avail.

“The team has been around for a while, but it lost club status a few years ago due to a captain who didn’t notify the school that he was taking over the team, so the school thought we just disappeared,” current team captain Pat Ryan said. “But that’s not the case. We’ve still been going for the past three years, independently from the school, and the school won’t take us back as a club sport.”

To not be a school-sponsored club means that these surfers have to pay for everything out of their own pockets. For clubs like the UC Surf Team, many tournaments are not held in Northern California and therefore expenses for food, gas, hotels and admission fees come from their own savings and can get costly.

“The years prior to us coming [to UCSC], the school gave the surf team a bunch of money to fund the contests and so we would have enough money for gas to get to the contests,” junior and surfer Nathan Zoller said. “Now we have to support ourselves.”

But for those in the club, surfing is a driving element of their lives. To train, they surf nearly every day, and many of them have been competing in National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA), the highest profile amateur competitive surfing association in the United States, for most of their lives. Because surfing is so central to their lives, the fact that UCSC does not award funding to its surfing team while other schools do has really started to rankle team members in recent years.

“I don’t mind, because I like doing it,” surf team member Daniel Shea said. “But when other schools, even community colleges, get it paid for and we’re a UC and we don’t, [it’s unfair].”

Despite the team competing and taking third place in state and fourth nationally two seasons ago, there is still no acknowledgment in the way of funding for the club. This is due to a general lack of funds within OPERS, which ultimately stems from the much larger state budget crisis.

“The chances that the team will get their funding back is probably close to zero until we get out of this statewide budgetary mess,” said Kevin “Skippy” Givens, the director of intramural and club sports, and the sole person in charge of running all 24 club and intramural sports teams. “We’re going through the first round of a 10 percent budget cut reduction, and I hear there’s another 7 percent coming on top of that. Even if none of that was happening, it would be difficult, but with these budget cuts, [it’s nearly impossible]. … If it was under better circumstances, then they would at least have a chance.”

With the budget cuts playing such a strong role in funding, the surf team, as well as other potential club teams, are unlikely to get admitted into the UC club system at this time.

“It’s unfortunate, really. They’re a classic case of a club that I would love to have back in the sports club family,” Givens said. “I mean, they meet my criteria, they’re organized, and they understand what’s required to be a sports club.”

So even though Santa Cruz is a place known for its beaches and surfing, the UC Surf Team will continue to function as an unfunded and understated hidden gem that has the potential to compete at a national level and win.

“It just feels like [UC] Santa Cruz should definitely be a place with a sponsored or supported surf team,” Ryan said, “especially since places like UC Riverside have them, and this is what, like, Surf City?”

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