Caleb Crozier hates school. At ten years old, he’s already been deeply afflicted with the surf-bug, a potentially irreversible illness that destroys tolerance for time spent on fifth-grade fractions or capital cities. As far as Crozier’s concerned, the only activity worth pursuing when not surfing is skateboarding, and that holds a distant second place.
Although he would rather pursue “tasty waves” (as described by Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) than go to school, Crozier’s no dummy. His head is full of surf-knowledge, which he shares with me on a hot Wednesday morning in early August.
History: “Back in the day, it was all like this,” he says, gesturing at a group of 10 to 12 longboards propped up against a guesthouse behind the Encinitas home he shares with his parents and older brother, Micah. “Like, in the ’60s, there were no shortboards.”
Geography/Spelling: “My three top surf spots that I want to go to around the world are Cloudbreak, which is in Fiji, Teahupoo in Tahiti — that’s spelled T-E-A-H-U-P-O-O — and Ovahimba. That’s in Namibia, in south[ern] Africa, on the Atlantic side.”
Math/Physics: “Every square foot in a wave is 60 pounds of pressure. So a ten-foot wave is 600 pounds of pressure pushing you down, and I’ve had that happen. It’s not fun.”
Dawn Patrol: “You get up at, like, 5:00 [a.m.], pack up, check the surf, drive down, and get in the water before the sun rises. Afterward, a lot of surfers go get a donut at — well, we call it Tom’s Donuts [officially Leucadia Donut Shoppe].”
It’s clear that this ebullient kid whose lopsided mouth bears only one large front tooth (the other hasn’t grown in yet), eats, sleeps, and dreams surf. His big dream is to “become a pro surfer and travel around the world and to buy my parents a house — like Kelly Slater [11-time world champion surfer].”
Crozier can hardly be blamed for caring more about waves than sitting in a classroom all day. He was born to avid surfers who have made the sport a family affair. But as much as his father, Tim Crozier, surfboard-shaper and owner of Blackbird Surfboards, understands the need to surf, he also believes in the importance of education. Dad often uses surfing as leverage for chores and homework.
Image by Howie Rosen
The lesson for Little Crozier is the age-old You don’t always get to do what you want. But all he has to do is take a peek at the surf community around him to see a number of people striving to prove the opposite.
Feeding the beast
A recent entry on The Mermaid Chronicles, a blog created by local surfer Devon DeMint (née Holloway), shows the surfer’s obsession in pictures. At the tail end of a cross-country road trip with her husband, DeMint posted a series of photos of herself standing in waveless locations (a lakeshore, a city street, a forest, a cornfield) holding her surfboard and looking lost. The final photo shows her riding a wave in green ocean water. The caption reads: “The beauty of this country has blown me away, but I’m always my true self at sea.”
As lovely and poetic as that sounds, DeMint admits there may be something less pretty (and perhaps more savage?) behind her need to surf.
Over the phone, she tells me, “The root of it is potentially my introverted, individualistic personality, where I like to go out and fend for myself and figure things out, and train, and try to understand.”
Further exploration of her blog belies that fighting spirit. In many of the photos, the five-foot-two-inch blonde smiles and looks serene, and in many of the posts, she muses on the sweet side of life. But I imagine it’s her inner challenge-tackler that will prove most helpful in the realization of her dream of becoming a professional surfer.
In June 2011, DeMint quit her job as a preschool teacher. She now works two days a week as a nanny, manages the property where she lives, and takes the occasional babysitting or surf-lesson gig. She also has sponsors that pay for ads on her blog or give her free gear. Otherwise, she lives on money she’s saved by living frugally.
She admits that her need to surf borders on obsession.
“There are times when it’s pouring down rain, [with] really windy and terrible conditions, and I’m, like, ‘I don’t care. I’m going surfing.’ One time, I had pneumonia, and I was home sick from work, and I was, like, ‘Yes, I have the day off! I’m going surfing.’”
This, she says, is less obsessive than she’s been in the past. One year, her family wanted to go to Greece on vacation. DeMint put up a stink because there would be no waves.
“I’ve tried to mellow out. My husband’s family really likes to go to the lake [Lake Nacimiento in Monterey]. I’ve brought my surfboard, even though it’s hours from the ocean. I paddle around [on the lake] and just try to surf behind the boat.”
As exhausting and inconsistent as professional surfing may be, DeMint says she’s up for the challenge. She declared it for the first time at 16. Today, at 27, she declares it still.
“I’ve always felt best in the water. I’m trying to get the most surf time possible. [Surfing] is something I need to do.”
“It’s bits and pieces”
One thing every serious surfer has in common with Caleb Crozier and Devon DeMint is the burning desire to, well, surf. Some must contend with the burden of school; the rest, with the burden of paying bills. For Crozier and DeMint, the dream of a professional surfing career looms as the one surefire way to create a life around the sport.
Google “how to become a pro surfer” and you’ll get approximately 624,000 hits in under a second. The eHow site offers the easiest set of instructions. The first line reads: “Buying surfing clothes and at least one surfboard will get you started…” (Well, sheesh, even I can do that.) WikiHow gives only two steps: “Write to potential sponsors…” and “Compare the offers that you receive.” They do, however, also offer five tips, such as “networking” and “marketing yourself,” and two warnings. The warnings can be paraphrased as, “It’s unlikely that it will happen for you.”