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Paddle Like There is a Shark Behind You

My dad is 60 and he rips harder than I do

20-year-old Colin MacLeod has been surfing for seven years. - Image by Siobhan Braun
20-year-old Colin MacLeod has been surfing for seven years.

How long have you been surfing?

“7 years now. The first time I ever surfed I hated it. My dad got me out on a surfboard for the fist time at Doheny State Beach. It was like a ten-to-twelve-foot longboard. I fell on my first wave. I ended up hitting my head on the board, and I was like, “I am not doing this anymore!”

How long did it take for you to get back out there?

“It was a couple of years later before I went back out. My dad bought me a Wavestorm. He would push me into waves for the longest time. Finally, I figured out how to stand up and how to read the waves.”

What’s your favorite surf spot?

“In San Diego, Sunset Cliffs is my favorite spot by far, but I really like to surf Blacks, Ocean Beach, and Mission beach is pretty fun.”

Have you ever seen naked surfers at Blacks?

“Yes, actually, I have!” Colin says with a laugh. “I caught a glimpse of one naked guy heading up the trail.”

Have you had any frightening surfing experiences?

“I’ve had a few instances where I thought I was going to die. A couple of years back I was at Bluff Cove [in Palos Verde] surfing a really big swell in the winter. I was riding this wave and I fell at the worst possible spot. I was tumbling, I had no idea what was up or down. When I started getting my bearings and coming up to the surface, another wave landed right on top of me and I did the whole spin cycle again. At this point I’m trying not to panic, trying to get back up to the top. Just before the surface I took the biggest gulp of salt water that went straight to my lungs. I made it up to the top, got on my board and I’m coughing out all this salt water. I still can’t surf waves that big, it freaks me out. I went surfing the next day though. I mean there was swell, I had to!”

Do you compete?

“I used to do a lot of contests. Right now I am trying to join the SDSU surf team. There is a south bay league I was in and the WSA [Western Surfing Association], which competes anywhere from Moro Bay all the way down here. My dad and I would do that a lot. My dad is 60 and he rips harder than I do. I stopped [competing] because I am too busy with college.”

Did you go to SDSU so you could surf?

“Yes, honestly that was my number one priority looking for colleges. I was like, ‘First of all, where can I surf? And secondly, is this a good college?’”

What is your advice for newbies?

“Start with a longer board—maybe a Wavestorm or a longboard, anything that will really float and get you into waves. One of the hardest parts of surfing is learning how to pop up to your feet instead of taking a bunch of time getting on one knee. My dad told me to lay a yoga mat on the floor and do pop ups over and over again. Also, when paddling into waves you really just want to paddle like there is a shark behind you. Paddle your heart out so you can get in early and not have to worry about that vertical drop in.”

What has been your favorite surfing experience?

“I surfed in Costa Rica around Tamarindo. Those were some of the best waves I have ever surfed! I really recommend Costa Rica if you want to go on a surf trip.”

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20-year-old Colin MacLeod has been surfing for seven years. - Image by Siobhan Braun
20-year-old Colin MacLeod has been surfing for seven years.

How long have you been surfing?

“7 years now. The first time I ever surfed I hated it. My dad got me out on a surfboard for the fist time at Doheny State Beach. It was like a ten-to-twelve-foot longboard. I fell on my first wave. I ended up hitting my head on the board, and I was like, “I am not doing this anymore!”

How long did it take for you to get back out there?

“It was a couple of years later before I went back out. My dad bought me a Wavestorm. He would push me into waves for the longest time. Finally, I figured out how to stand up and how to read the waves.”

What’s your favorite surf spot?

“In San Diego, Sunset Cliffs is my favorite spot by far, but I really like to surf Blacks, Ocean Beach, and Mission beach is pretty fun.”

Have you ever seen naked surfers at Blacks?

“Yes, actually, I have!” Colin says with a laugh. “I caught a glimpse of one naked guy heading up the trail.”

Have you had any frightening surfing experiences?

“I’ve had a few instances where I thought I was going to die. A couple of years back I was at Bluff Cove [in Palos Verde] surfing a really big swell in the winter. I was riding this wave and I fell at the worst possible spot. I was tumbling, I had no idea what was up or down. When I started getting my bearings and coming up to the surface, another wave landed right on top of me and I did the whole spin cycle again. At this point I’m trying not to panic, trying to get back up to the top. Just before the surface I took the biggest gulp of salt water that went straight to my lungs. I made it up to the top, got on my board and I’m coughing out all this salt water. I still can’t surf waves that big, it freaks me out. I went surfing the next day though. I mean there was swell, I had to!”

Do you compete?

“I used to do a lot of contests. Right now I am trying to join the SDSU surf team. There is a south bay league I was in and the WSA [Western Surfing Association], which competes anywhere from Moro Bay all the way down here. My dad and I would do that a lot. My dad is 60 and he rips harder than I do. I stopped [competing] because I am too busy with college.”

Did you go to SDSU so you could surf?

“Yes, honestly that was my number one priority looking for colleges. I was like, ‘First of all, where can I surf? And secondly, is this a good college?’”

What is your advice for newbies?

“Start with a longer board—maybe a Wavestorm or a longboard, anything that will really float and get you into waves. One of the hardest parts of surfing is learning how to pop up to your feet instead of taking a bunch of time getting on one knee. My dad told me to lay a yoga mat on the floor and do pop ups over and over again. Also, when paddling into waves you really just want to paddle like there is a shark behind you. Paddle your heart out so you can get in early and not have to worry about that vertical drop in.”

What has been your favorite surfing experience?

“I surfed in Costa Rica around Tamarindo. Those were some of the best waves I have ever surfed! I really recommend Costa Rica if you want to go on a surf trip.”

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