Erin Bala, La Jolla Shores. I got a second-hand longboard. It is eight feet, six inches long.

The first time I tried to surf was almost three years ago — during the summer after freshman year in high school. I was 14 years old and had no idea what I was doing. I went with three friends; I knew Garrett from school and he had introduced me to his friend Anthony about a month before and we had been talking on the phone ever since. Garrett brought his girlfriend, Meg, who was becoming a good friend of mine. Anthony was the only one of us who had surfed before, and he brought his two longboards for us to use. We almost cracked one of them while strapping them to the top of my mom’s van; none of us had our license yet, and so we were at the mercy of our parents for transportation to the beach.

Gabrielle Clifford at Swami's: "Even if you don’t know anyone out in the water, it’s easy to have a casual conversation with someone."

My mom dropped us off in La Jolla, and we hauled our gear to the sand. I was adamant about carrying one of the boards and teetered all the way down to the surf. I am not the tallest person, so my little arms had an awkward grip.

Anthony began our surf lesson by making us lie down either on the boards or on the wet sand to practice standing up. He demonstrated a push-up motion with his legs assuming a skateboard stance on the board. After 50 of these exercises, he deemed us ready to try the waves.

Jennifer Smith. Jen’s dad noticed something in her foot. She broke open the wound and found coral growing.

Because we had two boards, we alternated time in the water. After about an hour or two of falling off, I thought that I would never get the hang of it. I’m not sure if it was my stubbornness or desire to show off for Anthony that made me keep trying. The sun was approaching the horizon when I saw a set of waves coming. I paddled as hard as I could, did the push-up movement for what seemed like the millionth time, and all of a sudden I was standing up and sailing toward the shore. I could see all the people on the beach and the water below me, and I could feel the board carving through the wave. I looked next to me and saw that Anthony had caught the wave. My dismount from the board was less than graceful, but the feeling of standing up put a smile on my face.

As soon as I saved the money, I got a second-hand longboard. It is eight feet, six inches long. My dad bought another board, slightly longer, but I don’t use it as often. Those are the only boards I’ve ever had, but they’re perfect for me. I usually don’t go surfing in the winter because I don’t have a full wetsuit and because I work and can’t get to the beach before dark on most days. During the summer, though, I’m at the beach three or four times a week. I prefer to go to the beach for most of the day. I like to go in the morning and beat the traffic. I drive an F-150 truck and bungee-cord my board in the bed, so I like to get a big parking space. I usually stay until three or four in the afternoon; later, if my friends want to have a bonfire.

I surf at La Jolla most often, probably because it was the first place I surfed. My favorite place, though, is Hawaii. I went with Meg last summer. Each place we went on Oahu was the best of everything — beautiful white sand, clear water, warm and decent waves. In Southern California, my favorite spot is Carlsbad. I love the waves there, and the atmosphere makes it easier to lose yourself completely to surfing. I try to stay away from reefs and cliffs.

One of the things I like best about being at the beach so much in the summer is that my arms get toned from paddling out. I usually have a great tan on my back, too. The summer I started surfing, I had bruises on my hips. Last summer I took a nasty fall and hit my head on the board. Also, I got an ear infection.

When I am done surfing in La Jolla, I like to go to a nearby restaurant and get a gyro. The first day I surfed we stopped there to eat. Surfing, like running or other exercise, has never made me any more hungry than I normally am, but I usually don’t eat lunch while I’m out there, so I can polish off a whole gyro and fries at the end of the day. Smoothies are also great if I’m in a hurry to get home and need grab-and-go replenishment.

I’ve noticed that since I’ve started surfing, I have a lot more to talk about with guys. I met a guy named Justin the other day, and he was receptive about my love of the sport. He told me that he thought it was great that I wasn’t afraid to give surfing a try — he said that girls who are afraid to get their hair wet aren’t as much fun to be around. I’ve never had a guy be rude to me in the water or say anything offensive about me being a surfer.

Once in a while a guy will compliment my body or whistle at me when I’m surfing. The most risqué thing anyone has ever said went along the lines of “Can I get some of that action?”

— Erin Bala, Helix H.S.

I’ve surfed on and off for the past three or four years, beginning in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I went to surf camp and practiced on war-torn longboards and brightly colored foamers. That was my surfing background before I moved to Encinitas three years ago.

I met one of my best friends in summer school the first year, and we longboarded Beacon’s every day. I started working at Encinitas Surfboards after my 15th birthday, and my life became filled with surfing and nine-to-five workdays among the North County surf community. I discovered the locals I loved and looked forward to seeing, those I respected and the ones I didn’t, and those of whom I am still not too fond.

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