Catchin' a wave

By Marni Barta

Hannah Levitt ’09 wakes up on a week day at 5 a.m. and reaches for her wetsuit rather than her school clothes. Though it is an early start, Levitt doesn’t mind, because it guarantees that she will have a perfect day. Levitt looks forward to mornings she can escape from her monotonous school routine, and instead start the day off surfing.

“School is already so stressful, so why not go in the ocean and be with nature?” Levitt asked.

Though Levitt mostly surfs on the weekends, there is something about being in the ocean in the early morning that appeals to her. It just gives off a different vibe, she said. Being alone in the cold ocean is initially intimidating, but to her it is the most relaxing time. The waves are smoother, the water looks cleaner and there are no distractions.

She also feels a sense of belonging among the morning surfing crowd. She refers to the group as the “old school surfers.” The gang is made up of an array of different types of people who are all connected through the common hobby of surfing. Just as Levitt enjoys the surf before a day at school, her surfing peers start their days surfing and then return to their lives as lawyers, doctors or other professions. Levitt has even met a zookeeper while surfing in the morning.

“Everyone comes together from different worlds to join in this one activity,” she said.

After an hour and half in the ocean, Levitt retires to the parking lot where she performs the “towel trick,” changing into the school day outfit, pulls at her tangled hair, and rinses off with the extra water bottles she, as a surfer, always carries in her car. Though a morning of surfing takes its toll on her energy throughout the rest of the day, Levitt doesn’t mind and enjoys the laid-back feeling that results from a morning in the ocean.

Levitt has taught three of her friends how to surf.

“It’s a hobby of mine because Hannah brought it to me,” Olivia Kestin ’09 said.

Levitt began surfing in elementary school when a teacher at Laurence taught her. This teacher then started a small summer camp at which Levitt was the first camper, and the summer going into ninth grade, Levitt began working as an instructor at the camp. She has worked there every day for two months each summer since, and she has taught at least 20 beginners how to surf.

During the summer Levitt goes surfing with friends three to four times a week, and during the school year she goes as often as she can.

“Surfing is one of those things I never want to be too serious about,” said Levitt. “I do it for myself and share it, bringing a good fun day to friends.”

Unlike Levitt, Henry McNamara ’13 is a competitive surfer with sponsors. McNamara, who has been surfing since he was nine, will sign this month with Rusty Surfboards and ZJBoarding House, which have surf shops in Malibu and Venice. The sponsors will pay his fees when he enters competitions, and he will display their stickers on his board. He was previously sponsored by Monster Energy.

McNamara currently competes with the Western Surfing Association. This summer he placed fourth in the final of The Freedom Artist Surf series, a major surf competition in Southern California.

McNamara, who has been competitively surfing for a year, trains once or twice a week at Malibu and Ventura county beaches. McNamara has also surfed in many tropical places, including Costa Rica, Hawaii, Fiji and Mexico.

“I just love the freedom of being out on the water with the pure energy of waves and nothing else,” he said.

Jason Maccabee ’10 and Peter Schwartz ’10 are also regular surfers who go about twice a week. For Maccabee and Schwartz, surfing is a group activity. They are often accompanied by brothers Ernest ’10 and Russell ’12 Wolfe.

“For me, surfing is a release from all the work I have to deal with the rest of the week,” Schwartz said. “It’s my favorite thing to do in my free time, and it’s just a way to enjoy myself.”

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