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road trip from the south bay to san diego. holly beck and friends meet up with lauren sweeney Road trip from the South Bay to San Diego. Holly Beck and friends meet up with Lauren Sweeney.



Road Trip from the South Bay to San Diego - Holly Beck and Friends Meet Up With Lauren Sweeney - Story & Photos by Chris Grant/

5:53am, incoming text message from Holly Beck... "Driving down south with some high school girls from around here, let's surf."

8:01am, after rolling out of bed... "Hey Holly, when are you getting down here?"

8:02am..."We're already here!"

After the usual deciding-where-to-surf routine, we ended up meeting up with Encinitas ripper Lauren Sweeney at a temperamental little beachbreak in North San Diego County.

The South Bay struggles during the summer months with the local beaches largely blocked from receiving south swells, so the girls were amped to get out there for a surf. Although we were greeted with gray skies and onshore winds, there were a few peaks rolling in so I decided to break out the camera gear anyway.

Emily Wratschko caught the first good wave of the session, a nice little right that she rode with her trademark smooth style. Emily has really good body positioning when she surfs, shoulders parallel with her board at all times and she punctuated this wave with a solid lip bash at the wave's conclusion.

Next up was Lauren Sweeney on a lined up left, throwing buckets and ending with a sliding hook off the closeout. Lauren is an amazing surfer and even if she hasn't had big results on the world stage yet, it's definitely not for lack of talent. I'd place Lauren in the same category as Shea Hodges, Silvana Lima, Melanie Bartels and Claire Bevilacqua as far as pure surfing progression is concerned. I would not be surprised at all to see Lauren pulling a mind-bended air that lands her in the mainstream surf magazines within the next few years.

Literally seconds after Lauren's left, Holly Beck scored an unusually long left with over a half-dozen clean turns. I've often mentioned to my wife that if my life absolutely depended on getting a shot of someone and I only had one hour to do it, Holly's the one I'd call. She's always on time (most of the time even early), loves the dawn patrol, surfs for hours at a time, rides colorful boards, throws tons of spray, and keeps her sponsors in the spotlight with an ultra-dependable approach to her job as a professional athlete.

Next up was Natalie Anzivino, surfing a right with a crisp, powerful style ending the section with a frontside alley-oop attempt. I hope I'm there the day she pulls her first one off. Natalie is a really strong surfer and is a fixture in the NSSA contest scene each season.

The final member of the South Bay crew was a young South Bay goofyfoot named Jessica Rodgers. Jessica rode more waves than anyone that day and it is clear that she's progressing really quickly. She approaches each wave with a quick down-the-line style and has a fantastic frontside snap in her possession. Although I didn't get to see it on this day, word on the street is that she's a really good skater too.

After a bit, the tide started to fill in and killed the break the girls were surfing. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lauren sneak over to the inside shore dump just south of us. It didn't look like much of a wave until she stood up, raced down the line (narrowly missing a tourist in a Speedo®) and launched a solid backside air. It didn't take long before the whole crew was down there exchanging waves and having a blast. From my vantage point on the beach, the session became extremely fun to watch...airs, slides, fins-free snaps, and the occasional over-the-falls onto almost dry sand.

Two highlights stick out in my mind when the session moved over into the shorebreak. Lauren pulled an amazing frontside spin in the shorebreak, throwing her tail all the way around, then rotating back around to complete the move. The second highlight wasn't a specific ride but Holly's overall performance in the shorebreak lefts. I think Holly received a bit of inspiration from Lauren's aerial approach because I have never seen her hit the lip so well...she pulled airs, big lip slides and her fins were barely ever in the water.

I hate to admit this but sometimes I feel like falling asleep while I'm standing on the beach shooting photos. Not this time though, this day was really special to me because it was an unexpected treat. I had just had multiple sessions with some of the world's top surfers...sessions where I anticipated amazing things but came away feeling empty after witnessing jaded attitudes, yelling, screaming and flipping off waves, and a general disregard for anything resembling a classy approach to life or their professional careers. In contrast, this gray summer day provided inspiration, a pushing of personal limits by the girls, and amazing energy. It was wonderful to watch.

Upon exiting the water I told Lauren that I thought she had inspired Holly because I had never seen her rip so hard.

Lauren replied, "That's all I want to do...inspire! That's the best thing I could ever hope to do with my surfing."

The world tour surfers might have already left for Europe, but on that day, in those waves, this was the best surfing I had seen all summer long.


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Caption Index

1. Early morning slice from Holly Beck. This left peeled off for about five more snaps.
2. No stranger to throwing spray, Lauren Sweeney with a nice backside snap.
3. Emily Wratschko, textbook style and form.
4. Huge in the 80's but sometimes forgotten in these aerial times, the frontside floater still feels insane!
5. Lauren Sweeney is getting really good at backside airs...pretty much able to punt at will now.
6. A fan of down-the-line surfing and early 80's punk, Jessica Rodgers drives into a smooth cutback.
7. Perhaps the most visible of the new crew of South Bay girls, Natalie Anzivino banks a crisp turn.
8. Holly's such a poser! No session of Holly's is ever complete without a stink bug stance, ballet move, or headstand.
9. Probably the move of the day, Holly hits it high and tight and blows out her fins in the process.
10. Buckets courtesy of Lauren Sweeney.
11. A second helping of buckets, courtesy of the South Bay's Natalie Anzivino.
12. Holly was blowing her fins out the back all day long...this time on a nice little hook.
13. Lauren Sweeney, first shot of a clean reverse.
14. Smooth form and a great off the lip by Emily Wratschko.
15. Nice edge work by Lauren Sweeney. Fins out and ready for re-entry.
16. This was such a sick one live! Holly launches a nice little air over the inside section.
17. The waves were breaking pretty close to shore...really close actually. Holly with another clean fins-free turn.
18. Waiting for an afternoon set. From left to right, Jessica Rodgers, Emily Wratschko, Holly Beck and Natalie Anzivino.
19. Jessica throwing water on one of her many lefts that day. She rode more waves than anyone else.
20. Sunny afternoon and a nice backside bank by Natalie Anzivino.
21. Holly in full color. Projecting for a big hit somewhere down the line.
22. Jessica Rodgers with a well-executed frontside snap on a warm wetsuit-less afternoon.
23. From the back perspective of Emily Wratschko's frontside hit.
24. Wrapping the leash as well as the day, Jessica Rodgers.
25. Huh? His car's there but where is our photographer? She caught me seconds later hiding in plain sight :)



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