Michael McVinney

UF team cheering for the judges.

Brent Langlois

2010 Collegiate Surfing Association National Championships

(This story originally published in the Gainesville Sun campus edition.)

A dazzling array of school colors brightened the beach at Sebastian Inlet State Park on March 8th, as surf teams from five different Florida universities went head to head in the Collegiate Surfing Association's East Coast Championships.

Surfers took advantage of decent wave conditions to display their talents, and a passionate school spirit showdown broke out on the beach as students cheered on their universities.

Teams screamed school fight songs at each other across the board racks that divided them, and, even through the rumble of the crashing waves and the music that blared from the judges' scaffolding, the UF surf team's chants of "It's great to be a Florida gator!" rang out loud and clear.

Supporters of the UF Surf Team did back flips and built human pyramids in the sand in an effort to win over the judges, and face-painted, hula-skirt-clad surfers from the Florida Institute of Technology yelled encouragement to their team through a bullhorn.

Surfers from the University of Central Florida showed up in black and gold wigs, and UF Surf Team members Matt Novak and Fernanda Ponce even rode inflatable alligator rafts in one of their heats in order to prove their school spirit.

Out in the water, surfers braved the cold and impressed the judges with cutbacks, floaters and 360s on the choppy, chest-high waves.

Each team had six surfers, usually five male and one female, and competed in 60-minute tag-team-style heats similar to a relay race. Surfers had about 10 minutes to rack up as many points as possible, by riding two carefully selected waves, before they had to run back to the beach and tag in their next team member.

The competition was steep, and contest heats ran from about 8:30 a.m. until well into the late afternoon before a winner was decided. However, after facing the Florida Institute of Technology in the finals, the surfers of the Flagler College A team were crowned as the 2010 Collegiate Surfing Association East Coast Champions and received a $500 prize.

The University of Central Florida and UF both did well in some of their initial heats, but were eliminated in the semi-finals and finished in third and fourth respectively.

"In our first heat we started off slow and kind of got into a bit of a time problem," said Brent Langlois, captain of the UF Surf Team. "But we came back and did a lot better in the second heat. Unfortunately, we had trouble with waves in the semi-finals, but overall I think we did pretty well."

UF Surf Club president Cody Smith said that, although UF didn't bring home the East Coast Championship title, the contest was still a win for him and his teammates.

"I think it was an overall success." he said "Obviously we would have liked to have made it to the final and won, but I think it went really well. Everyone had a good time and we definitely had some good school spirit."

In fact, the enormous amounts of school spirit shown by both the UF and Florida Institute of Technology teams won them each a $100 gift certificate and $100 donation to their clubs as part of a spirit award that the teams split.

Awards of $350 were also given to the best male and female surfers: Eric Taylor of Flagler College, and Amy Nicholl of UCF.

Mitch Varnes, co-founder of the Collegiate Surfing Association, said he was very pleased with the results of the contest. Although the crowd was a bit sparser than he had hoped, he said the energy and enthusiasm of the competitors and their supporters was very encouraging.

"As far as the school spirit and the competition, it's been everything I wanted and more," he said. "We've got school colors and war paint out here on the beach, so I think it's just taken surfing to a whole different area that it's never been to before."