Boulder may not have an ocean, but it has a surf club.
Strike you as odd? Wondering how a city that shares its name with a rock and is located in a square Western state so dry that you need a permit to collect rainwater, ended up with a club that celebrates the life aquatic? It started with a now-graduated University of Colorado student (aptly) named Andrew Fish.
Fish, who graduated from CU with a finance degree in May, grew up surfing in his native New England. He also grew up skiing, and he came to CU to elevate his ski-racing game.
Learn more about the Boulder Surf Club at surfisswell.com .
Students interested in joining can e-mail the club at firstname.lastname@example.org
The club also has a group on Facebook called “Boulder Surf Club”
But Fish, 23, didn’t stop surfing. After his freshman year, he traveled to Costa Rica, where he surfed for the first time without a wetsuit. Two years later, he studied abroad on the Gold Coast of Australia, known for its amazing beaches. There, he and a group of buddies secured a 1982 Volkswagen bus — or, as he called it, “an orange hippie van” — and used it to drive to Australian surfing hotspots on the weekends. When they got back to Boulder, it was all they could talk about.
“I felt like a surfer, I wanted to be a surfer, but I just wasn’t surfing,” Fish said.
So he started the Boulder Surf Club. It was meant to be an oasis in the desert, so to speak; an opportunity for surf-loving students to turn their lament at being landlocked into a chance to get together, watch surf movies, talk about big waves and plan surf trips. In the year since the club was born, members have gone on self-funded trips to Montanita, Ecuador, and Jalama Beach, Calif.
The trips aren’t entirely about surfing. Central to the club’s mission is something Fish calls “surf and service.” Everywhere the club travels, its members give back to the community by volunteering or donating supplies.
“I call it leaving a positive vibration on the communities we surf near,” said Fish, who now works for a California surf school called Surfclass that partially sponsored the club’s most recent trip earlier this month.
The itinerary for that trip included some physical labor. Two weekends ago, 20 CU students paid $550 each to fly to California, surf waves at Jalama Beach and camp at the nearby Return to Freedom ranch, a nonprofit wild horse sanctuary. Between runs to the beach, the students built fences, cut wood and scooped poop at the ranch.
“We’re interested in giving back to the places we go so we’re not just tourists,” said CU senior and club member Paul Ackerman. “We want to leave something behind.”
Ackerman and fellow senior Joanna Lanz are preparing to take the reins of the Boulder Surf Club now that Fish has graduated. Both are from the East Coast — Ackerman from New Jersey, Lanz from Rhode Island — and were homesick for good breaks — or at least a good conversation about good breaks, surfer slang for surfing spots — when they heard about the fledgling club last fall.
“Surfing comes with, almost, a way of life,” said Lanz, a 21-year-old English major. “We enjoy not just surfing but getting together and relaxing.” Surfers, she said, “can talk for hours about surfboards or a break — stuff that other people can’t relate to. .. We stoke each other up.”
That’s not to say the club is exclusive. Its members welcome newcomers, including students who have never even stood on a board. “Sharing the love of the sport is almost as good as going out for a great session yourself,” said Ackerman, who’s 21 and majoring in engineering physics.
The club is starting to plan its next trip, tentatively scheduled for this year’s spring break. Members haven’t decided on a location yet, but Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Panama are possible contenders.
Sound good? The club is also looking for new members.
“We’re all different levels,” Lanz said. “You don’t need to be a good surfer.
“The best surfers out there are the ones having a good time.”