Brian Dapelo

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Pepperdine Team Captain

Pepperdine University Newspaper Article May 2006

Pepperdine once boasted the nickname, “Surfer U,” and if Brian Dapelo has his way, Pepperdine will once again be able to boast that claim.

But, Dapelo, the former captain of Pepperdine’s surf team, faced a tough road. Despite Pepperdine’s prime surf location in Malibu, many students are unaware that a surf team even exists. As a result, the surf team is barely able to stay afloat, drowning amid Pepperdine’s more high-profile, Division I sport teams.

However, it wasn’t always this way. In the 1980s and 1990s Pepperdine students were exceedingly interested and took great pride in their surf team. The team had a coach, matching orange and blue wetsuits, and official tryouts — with more than 50 aspiring surfers trekking down to beaches, hoping for a spot on the team. The team was a strong force in the Southwest Division of the National Scholastic Surfing Association — the foremost, amateur-competitive, surfing organization in the United States. It was no surprise that many wanted to join a surf team in the legendary city of Malibu. Also known as ‘The ‘Bu,’ this coastline was where Southern California surf culture originated.

But the team gradually began seeing its numbers whittle away. By the mid-90s, students were slowly losing interest in a surf team, and with too few people trying out, Pepperdine’s surf team disintegrated into a recreational club-sport.

Then, in 2004, Jacob Boone and Dapelo breathed life into the defunct club. They managed to scrape together just enough members for a team, which composed of six short boarders, one woman, one long boarder, and one body boarder.

In only a short time, they managed to place in the top 20 of 30 teams at the NSSA intercollegiate championships in 2005. But rank and competition are only afterthoughts for these surfers. The team is more excited at the opportunity to surf with others who share their passion.

“As gratifying as [surfing] is as an individual sport,” Dapelo said, “to have everyone come together and build camaraderie—it’s almost better.” He added: “it’s definitely a rewarding experience—coming out of the water, and winning or losing, having everyone cheering for you É well I could get used to that.”

Despite location and the team’s recent success, Dapelo said Pepperdine students still don’t seem interested in supporting the team.

“No one really cares,” Dapelo said, adjusting his official “Pepperdine Surf Team” sweater. “We got all this made for us [the sweaters], we tried putting up posters— trying to get our name out there, but it’s hard.”

While the team has been overlooked by much of its school, it has caught the eye of several surf companies. They have picked up sponsorships with Lost Clothing, Ocean Minded Sandals, Maurice G. Surfboards, and Poorboy USA Accessories. These sponsorships provide equipment, as surfing can be an expensive sport, as well as motivation for the team.

Junior Jay Cain will be taking over team next year as Dapelo graduated. The sponsors will continue to support the team as well.

Sponsorships or not, each member of the team is committed. While other students are snuggled sound asleep, deep in dreamland, these dedicated surfers drag themselves out of bed at the crack of dawn to brave the chilly water at Zuma Beach for practices before Wednesday’s Convo.

With sleep in their eyes they tug on full-body wetsuits, steam escaping their mouths with every breath. Surfboards in hand, they tip-toe across the scorchingly cold sand and jump headfirst into the icy blue water. The cold water shoots jolts up their spine — an instant “ice-cream headache.”

The spirit of early Malibu surf culture lives on in Dapelo and his squad. Before surf went pop in the 1960s, before beach movies like “Gidget” stormed onto the surf scene, there were legendary surfers like Joe Quigg, Matt Kivlin, and Terry “Tubesteak” Tracey tearing the Malibu coastline apart. They were the fathers of Malibu surf, charging Malibu’s glassy, blue rights whenever they could. They lived it. They breathed it. They didn’t do it for the beach babes or because it was the trend, it was a part of who they were.

This is the spirit of Dapelo and the team. Just as Gidget did in the past, shows today have, again, sent surfing reeling into the elaborate world of pop culture. While many see surfing as the gateway to tanned girls in bikinis and toned guys in surf-shorts, for the surf team, it’s about being in nature, in something bigger than the self. It’s about the rush of coming down the face of the wave. It’s about being healthy. It’s about letting all the worries of school and work melt away into the frothy, white foam.

“Surfing is out of this world,” said Gidget from the movie Gidget, describing the allure of surfing. “You can't imagine the thrill of the shooting the curl. It positively surpasses every living emotion I've ever had.”

While winning competitions and getting sponsorships and achieving fame on campus would be an awesome achievement for the team, “we just want to surf,” said member Russell Grether. For them it is not so much about being the number one team in the state as it is about sharing waves with friends, experiencing something new, and of course, epic surf.

Submitted 05-18-2006



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