Sophie Simon ’21: How surfing has opened her eyes to appreciation of her surroundings


Sophie Simon ’21 carves a wave, causing an ocean spray. Credit: John Simon (used with permission)

Dylan Mullaney

Many consider surfing to be a large part of Ventura’s community and culture since the town’s birth. It is home to many popular breaks such as California Street, Mondos and South Jetty. According to the Ventura Surf Club website, the first ever surfing competition was held at the end of California Street.  

Surfing is not only a competitive sport, but it is also a common recreational pastime. Sophie Simon ’21 jokingly stated that surfers can range from “toddlers to the oldest of old.”

While competitions are divided by age and gender, surfing for fun can be a bonding experience for families.

Surfers come in a variety of different styles, therefore different types of boards are needed. Although Simon prefers shortboards, there are also mid-length and long variations of these boards, ranging up to 10 feet. Each type of board has different advantages based on the surfer’s style and goal. Longboards are more attuned to hang 10 and walking up and down. These are usually more prevalent among beginners and older surfers. Shortboards are geared toward quick maneuvers and sharp turning but are more difficult for maintaining balance and catching waves.

Simon became involved in surfing because she was influenced by her older brother. Simon reminisces that she saw him from a young age and was inspired to try it herself. He has become one of her strongest mentors and impacted how much she has succeeded.

Simon also looks up to professional surfer Lakey Peterson from Santa Barbara. She admires that although Peterson is one of the better female surfers internationally, she is very humble.



She was especially drawn into the family feeling. Simon describes the vibe as “really laid back, as you’d expect.”

She loves the fact that “you may not even know the person, but once you figure out they surf, you guys have a connection.”

Surfing competitions are typically composed of 15-minute heats where the contestant goes out with anywhere from one other girl to five, all trying to catch the “best” wave and do the cleanest “smooth maneuvers.” Judges score the contestant on a scale of 20 (10 per wave, as the top two waves are counted) from the beach.  

Simon has competed in many different leagues, including NSSA and SSS. Simon’s biggest achievement so far was winning her first SSS contest at Solimar.

For Simon, surfing has taken her to El Salvador and Nicaragua for competitions. More than anything else, these experiences have drastically impacted her life, especially pushing her to “appreciate what I have.”

“When I went on a surf trip to El Salvador […], just to see all the kids there that didn’t live in homes and had to walk miles for clean water, it kinda just kinda took me back and made me realize to be thankful for what I have,” she said.

These trips, as well as the conditions in her own waters at home, inspired her to keep the earth clean because “when you see trash out there, it’s pretty upsetting.”

Simon loves to surf because it is a good way to get things off her mind, and although ”it sounds really cliche, you’re just connecting with the Earth and it feels really cleansing.”

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