Lady Bruins, Three California Surfers Head to UCLA. Featuring Taylor Pitz, Heather Jordan & Chandler Parr. (Page 2)
Jettygirl: Out of all the universities in California and beyond, you chose to attend UCLA. How did that come about? Have you always wanted to be a Bruin?
Taylor Pitz: The spring of junior year I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try to go for the full time QS after high school or go to a four year university. I started visiting schools in the spring, but nowhere felt right, and I began to think the QS was the route for me. Over spring break, my parents made me visit UCLA, even though I didn’t really want to. I completely fell in love with it. The campus was beautiful, but it just had this amazing energy, and I knew I wanted to be a Bruin. However, my senior year I was accepted to Stanford University. It was a huge opportunity, and I had to make a difficult choice. Stanford promised a big name and an amazing education, and I was honored to be accepted. However, when I visited the campus, I realized Stanford just wasn’t me. I would have had to give up too much of myself to be happy there. When I learned I was accepted to UCLA it felt right, and although many people didn’t understand my decision, I knew UCLA was the right choice for me.
Jettygirl: How old were you when the seeds of college were planted in your heart? Was a higher education something that was encouraged by your parents or was it more a situation where you always knew that you wanted to go to a university?
Taylor: I’ve always been really motivated to do well in school, and growing up I always expected myself to go to college. Even when I considered taking time off to surf the QS, I knew that eventually, I would without a doubt earn my bachelors degree. My parents also always placed an emphasis on education, they told me “school before surfing” every week for the past 6 years; they always thought I would attend a four year university. However, as I progressed in competitive surfing, they realized I might want to pursue a professional career. They were amazing, and they told me they supported me no matter what. However they encouraged me to keep up in school so I would have all the choices possible when it came down to graduation.
Jettygirl: While other competitive surfers are trying to hit the pro tour, you’ve decided to head to school instead. What played into your decision to hit the books instead of hitting the road?
Taylor: For a while I was really torn as to whether I should hit the road to qualify for the pro tour or go to school. But at some point I realized that I would have to give up more to pursue the QS then I would have to give up to go to college. For me to be successful on the QS or pro tour, I would need to give surfing 100% of my energy and time; I would need to put my education and life on hold. I realized I didn’t want to put everything on hold. I love surfing, and it is a huge part of my life, but it is just one piece of who I am. I wanted to explore other things I’m interested in, and see how far I can push myself in the other areas of my life as well. Going to college allows me to continue learning and meeting new people, as well as, surfing and competing.
Jettygirl: Have you decided on an area of study at school yet? A degree from UCLA will surely open some doors for you. Do you have any particular careers fields in mind that you’ll be working toward in college?
Taylor: As an incoming freshman, I applied undeclared. I wanted to keep my mind open to different studies that I might be interested in or excel in. However, right now I’m looking into environmental science and business. They’re two pretty different areas, but I want to kind of bridge that gap. I think both need to start working together in a more effective way, and I hope to somehow make a positive difference in the relationship between business and the environment. I still have a lot to figure out between majors, minors, and future careers, but I’m hoping freshman year will at least give me a feel for what I want to do.
Jettygirl: All three of you are tied intricately to your local surf spots. How difficult is it going to be to say goodbye? What will you miss the most about your home break and your hometown?
Taylor: As excited as I am for surfing new spots, I know I’m going to have a hard time leaving Laguna. I know one day this winter I’m going to be surfing some sandy, dirty LA beachy and I’m going to get crazy homesick for my beautiful, blue Laguna water haha. I’ve lived in Laguna almost my whole life, and the town is such a part of me. I’m going to miss surfing with all my friends, the clean water, the sunset sessions, and actually pretty much everything besides the long lulls!
Jettygirl: When offshore winds roar down Oceanside’s San Luis Rey, or the conditions at Laguna’s fickle reefs turn on, or Zuma’s barrels begin calling your name, how will you deal with the occasional bout of surf fever? Did you plan your class schedule to allow for some surf time?
Taylor: I worked pretty hard to make time to surf. I scheduled my classes all later in the day so I can hopefully surf in the mornings. That’s what’s so nice about UCLA, even though its in LA, its only a couple miles from the beach so its not too much of a mission to go surf. I know there’s still going to be weeks where I’m so busy I won’t have time to surf, so I’ll probably just run or go to the gym; even though its not the same exercising always helps with the surf fever a little bit!
Jettygirl: Kids are getting bombarded with promises of fame and fortune at an earlier and earlier age these days. In the quest for a future pro career, the importance of school and a true education has taken a back seat to photo shoots, sponsor obligations, time in the water and the dubious claims of some homeschool situations. If a grommet version of Taylor, Chandler or Heather came to you for advice on the balance of school and surfing, what would you say to her?
Taylor: As great as surfing and competitive surfing is, I think its important for kids to just step back and keep everything in perspective a little bit. So many of the kids coming up are ridiculously talented, and they will go on to have successful careers in the sport. However, I just want kids to realize that surfing doesn’t have to be their everything; there is more out there. If pro surfing is all they want to do, and nothing else interests them, go for it. Do what makes you happy. But for kids that aren’t sure if surfing is for them, or they don’t genuinely love competing, I think it’s important they know there’s other paths beyond the QS. You can keep surfing a big part of your life without making it your career; there is a world beyond pro surfing. Even though it was really challenging keeping up with my grades in high school while traveling and competing, I’m so happy I put in the work because it was amazing to have choices. When it came down to my senior year, I got to call the shots as to what direction I wanted to go, and that was a great feeling. For that reason alone I would encourage any grom growing up to surf as much as you can but hit the books as well.
Jettygirl: A quick viewing of the results of the 2011 NSSA College National Championships reveals that all of the top placings were being taken by traditional surf schools like UCSB, Point Loma, SDSU, Mira Costa and a variety of East Coast universities. With the three of you attending UCLA at the same time, the Lady Bruins look to be a formidable force in the 2011/2012 surf contest season. It looks like your cross-town rival, USC, finished in 11th place overall largely due to a fantastic performance by your friend Kaleigh Gilchrist. Care to make any predictions how the UCLA surf team will fare this year?
Taylor: I don’t really know much about the UCLA Surf Team, but I’d say from our girl’s team alone, this year we’re looking really strong. To have three girls that have competed in top level events is pretty impressive for a college team, and I know that the girls will hold up our side of the team. The great thing about having girls that rip on a team is that it motivates the boys. No guy likes being shown up by a couple girls in the water! I think it’s also going to be fun seeing how the rivalries play out with Kaleigh at USC and other friends at UCSB and UCSD, and I think it will make the college series pretty entertaining to follow.
Jettygirl: While your hard work and diligence brought you to the doorstep of the next stage of your lives, there is undoubtedly a trail of supporters, teachers, heroes and inspirational figures who played a part as well. If you’d like to give any of them a shout-out or to share a few thoughts about them, here’s your chance…
Taylor: I have had so much support over the years its unbelievable. I’m just so thankful for the whole Laguna community that has given me love and support through everything. My parents have been incredible, and I know I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without them. I’ve had inspiring teachers like Mrs. Maloney, Mrs. Dunlap, Mr. Brobeck, Mr. Sogo, and Mr. Alvarez who made me love school enough to want to continue my education. My school counselors, Kay Ostensen and Tristen Gire, Vice Principal Mr. Billinger, and Principal Dr. Austin all helped me juggle school and surfing the past four years. My main sponsor Billabong and my team manager Megan have been so encouraging about pursuing whatever path I want to take, be it surfing or college, and that has meant the world to me. My high school surf coaches, Mr. Finn and Alisa, were always there supporting me. Lastly, I want to thank my friends for making surfing fun and keeping me sane when life gets crazy.
All Photos © Chris Grant / Jettygirl.com