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History of the UNCW Surf Club:
by Peter Fritzler (created: March 2004; updated: May 14, 2010)

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) Surf Club is a young and rising club since its recent renewal in 2001. The roots of the original Surf Club had been started in 1977 by Rik Beitel and several of his friends. In what was one of their finest accomplishments, Beitel and company competed in the first All-American National Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach, CA in December 1977. By September 1980, the Surf Club held its first official meeting, and was competing soon thereafter. Late that fall, Surf Club members Andy Wigmore and Mark Venters were both honored at the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) annual banquet. Wigmore was selected to the NSSA's National Surfing Team (Wigmore was first surfer from North Carolina to receive this honor) while Venters was awarded the Mercury Savings and Loan Scholarship and Bronzed Aussie Scholarship.

Photograph of UNCW Surf Club alum, Brian Tracy. Circa early 1980s.
UNCW Surf Club alum, Brian Tracy. Circa early 1980s.

In March 1982, the Surf Club announced its official charter. Boasting 24 members, the Club was officially recognized by the University and further supported by its first advisor, Dr. Antonio Puente. In 1983, the Club had grown to 40 members and was primarily focused on competition. At the 1985 Record Bar Pro-Am, held in Wrightsville Beach, Club alum Bryan Tracy took 3rd place in the Men's Amateur Division. In early November, the Surf Club also hosted the Fall Surf Challenge at Crystal Pier in Wrightsville Beach. The Surf Club took a 1st place team finish over East Carolina University and UNC-Chapel Hill, while taking the first three spots in the Individual Division as well. Enjoying a few more years of competitive success, the Surf Club capped off a beautiful decade with a sixth place team finish at the NSSA National Scholastic Championships in 1989.

Entering the nineties, the Surf Club pushed members to become better surfers and jumped on juicy surf that hit the area. Surf Club alum Mick Cotton (91-93) recalls, "Before going to UNCW I had only been in a lineup with a few good surfers.  Whenever or wherever the surf club showed up it was like 20-30 guys who could surf great pushing each other to surf their best." In April 1994, Jennifer Wasson, captured first place in the Women's Open division at the NSSA Eastern Scholastic Open Championships at Sebastian Inlet, FL. She was also the recipient of the "Surfer's Scholar Award" for her outstanding GPA at UNCW. Relecting on the quality surf of the early nineties, Steve Cox ('91-'94) adds, "Some of the best waves that we surfed in Wrightsville were Halloween '91. The "Perfect Storm." Three storms merged in the mid to north Atlantic into one super storm. We surfed all day at the north end of Shell Island.  Those sandbars lined up perfect lefts all day long, about 3 feet overhead and they broke for about 100 yards down the beach. Like a machine. Perfect." Echoing Cox, Jay Burrell ('88-'92) recalls, " ... the Halloween swell was right on. That swell at Shell Island was one of the best waves I have ever surfed on the East Coast. Also we caught the south jetty during Hugo which was very memorable."

Yet as the 1990s unfolded, so did the Club, and by the end of the decade it was all but extinct. Following in the footsteps of alum Jason Carlisi, and other Surf Club alumni, Pete Erickson and Jeff Weisler revitalized the energy of the Surf Club taking the membership from around five to over 40 people in their last two years of college. Establishing a fine sponsorship with Sweetwater Surf Shop, Erickson and Weisler also took the Club Team (Carl Wallin and Bradley Sutton) to the East Coast Scholastic Surfing Championships for two consecutive years (2002 and 2003) while also increasing the Club's participation in various community projects such as the Adopt-a-Thanksgiving and Tree Fest programs.

It is the Surf Club's goal in the coming years to continue its growth and activity. Open to students, faculty, and staff interested in surfing, the Surf Club strives to provide a surf oriented, recreational, instructional, and competitively-minded organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches. Recent activities include a March 2004 trip to Costa Rica (PGNFA), a October 2004 trip to Hatteras, participation in the March 2005 ESA Scholastic Championships and October 2005 Clean Water Classic, and trips to Puerto Rico at the conclusion of both the 2005 and 2007 fall semesters. In April 2007, under the steadfast leadership of Will McEachern, the Club held the Cape Fear Surf Fest. Bolstered by the success of the event, Thomas Mangiacapre (President, 2008 - present) and McEachern engineered another successful Surf Fest in spring 2008. And to cap things all off, the UNCW Surf Team, under the direction of Captain Cody Leutgens, surfed to victory in the School Tag Team event at the ESA East Coast Scholastics Championships in New Smyrna Beach, FL. The win was a first for UNCW at the annual Scholastics event. In the fall 2008, Dr. Dylan McNamara joined the club as the Team Coach and immediately began work on developing a team and preparing it for NSSA competition. Additionally, under John Luff's direction, several members of the Surf Club traveled to Costa Rica in December.

UNCW Surf Club in Costa Rica, March 2004.

The Surf Club hopes to continue planning more surf trips, continue developing a competitive travel team, and further strengthening its participation in community-oriented programs and activities.

So whether you’re just learning to surf or a crusty old sailor, we would love to have you come check us out and hopefully become a part of our prestigious organization. We also hope that our former members will see the Surf Club Alumni page and share their club memories with the current crew.

Mahalo yall!

About the UNCW Surf Club:
With its earliest foundations dating back to 1977, the UNCW Surf Club is a young and rising organization since its recent renewal in 2001. The purpose of the UNCW Surf Club is to provide a a surf-oriented, recreational, instructional, competitive, and conservation-minded organization for current UNCW students, faculty, and staff. For more information on the history of the Surf Club, please see the Club's history page.

UNCW Surf Club  |  University of North Carolina Wilmington
601 South College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403
http://www.uncw.edu/surf  |