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The Surf Shop

When I came to Caltech, I had never surfed before. It was always something that I wanted to do one day, but the beaches in Maryland are crowded and the waves aren’t very good. So, I had no experience surfing and no idea how to start. Luckily, Caltech has a Surfing and Windsurfing Club.

The Surfing and Windsurfing Club at Caltech is one of the most active clubs here. As part of the club, they have a Surf Shop just to the east of Brown Gym. There, they store all their surfboards and wetsuits (a necessity in the chilly Pacific, especially during the school year). Members of the club get a key to the shop and can rent boards for dirt-cheap rates.

In addition to the Surf Shop, the club also hosts a few big surf trips through the year. I first went on one of these my sophomore year. Everybody picked out their wetsuit (or one that might fit, if given the chance), then strapped boards onto all the available cars. Then, everybody piled into the cars and headed up to Mondo’s Beach, which is a nice beginner beach.

There, Gaylord was waiting for us. He’s a surfing instructor who’s worked with Caltech for a long, long time. He may be old enough to have surfed with guys who remember Bob Simmons (the inventor of the modern surfboard, a Caltech alum)! He’s a tiny man, with very tan skin from being at the beach all day, but he’s an expert surfer. Even when nobody else could catch a wave because they were too small, he was still zooming back and forth across the surf. He’s also very chatty about politics, but that’s a story for another day.

Gaylord showed us how to control the board, how to deal with waves that are too big, how to catch a wave, how to turn around, all the important things. Then, we got right into the water! I didn’t catch any waves my first time out, but I still had a great time!
It’s really nice that clubs like the Surfing and Windsurfing Club can offer services like this to Caltech students. Renting surfboards at the beach is pretty expensive, and buying your own even more so. This way, you get to try out different kinds of boards, and you can rent as many as you need if you’re going with a group of friends. Plus, with the Honor Code, renting is very easy. A single sheet of paper and an envelope for money is all that it takes!

The surf shop, with all of its surfboards:

Dan Obenshain