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Swell Start for the Surf Team

The Surf Team

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One year, they're just a bunch of surf buddies. The next, they're East Coast Champions.

Dean Jackson, captain of the College of Charleston surf team, has the surfer dude drawl of a Santa Cruz native, even though he was born and raised 3,000 miles away in Ocean City, Maryland. If surfer culture transcends geography, then Jackson and his surf club teammates prove that your ZIP code also has nothing to do with how well you shred.

In its very first year of existence, the College of Charleston surf team won the 2007 National Scholastic Surfing Association East Coast Championships in Florida and took seventh in the national competition in Salt Creek, California. Not bad for a bunch of boys from Maryland, Florida and South Carolina (OK, one guy was actually from Santa Cruz, but he was an alternate).

For generations, surfing-minded students have arrived at the College of Charleston with one eye on their grades and the other on The Washout, the legendary surf break about 20 minutes from campus on Folly Beach. They also become instant members of the tight-knit, low-key Charleston surfer community.

When Jackson and some of his college surf friends decided to form an official surf club, they were amazed at the supportive response from the Charleston community. Two local surf companies ran fundraisers to cover travel costs – the closest competitions are six hours away in northern Florida – and the team quickly became a point of surfing pride for locals.

"The daughter of one of the most respected guys in the community goes here and is really excited to be on the team," says Jackson, who adds that the current College of Charleston team consists of two girls, six guys and one longboarder (surfers' equivalent of a different species, apparently).

Surfing will probably never be a varsity sport, not even at the top surfing colleges in California. "It's not like basketball where the court's always there," says Jackson. "You always have to wait for the waves."

In the meantime, the College of Charleston surf team's success has inspired the University of North Carolina Wilmington to form a team, as well as Cape Fear Community College. The Carolina teams hope to generate enough buzz to organize their own local competitions and save the road trips to Florida for the East Coast Championships.