Written by Julia Cheunkarndee
Palo Alto’s distance from the sand and waves means that surfers are hard to find at Gunn. However, sophomore Cameron Powell is a resident of Half Moon Bay. A beginner-intermediate surfer, Powell first began taking surfing lessons in fifth grade; to her excitement, she found lessons through the Nor Cal Surf Shop, a sports store located in Pacifica, and began surfing soon afterward.
Although Powell is passionate about the sport, a combination of colder winter months and a heavy load of school work means that she surfs less often. Powell can surf more frequently during the months of summer and fall. “I always look forward to October, because in Northern California at least, that’s when the water is just better,” she said. “It’s clearer and it’s warmer because the water’s been warming up all summer, and the waves are nicer. ”
During these months, she has experienced several distinguishing moments that still stand out in her memory. “I think my favorite memory for surfing is when a seal came up near me,” Powell said. “Another time there were some dolphins off in the distance, a little ways away, but it was cool because I was in the water.”
According to Powell, surfing’s focus on balance differentiates it from other sports. Since Powell doesn’t surf that often, she prefers to use longboards over shortboards. For her, longboards are easier to balance on since they are larger and more buoyant. As a result, they are more suitable for surfers whose skills range from beginner to intermediate level. However, learning to balance on longboards is still difficult, and Powell recommends to practice as often as possible. Her history with other sports, such as snowboarding and gymnastics, has helped her pick up the skills necessary to surf well and provided her with a good foundation for balance.
Most of all, Powell appreciates the sport’s individuality and its closeness to nature, in comparison to simply playing on a field. “With surfing, you really have to know the ocean well and understand how to work with your environment to do it,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun because you get to try new things.”
Powell would advise all beginner surfers to understand that there is a steep learning curve for the sport. “Don’t give up after trying once or twice,” she said. “Get real comfortable in the ocean.”