Surfs up for Malibu High sophomore-in Brazil

Dillon Perillo, 15, has won a spot as one of only eight members of the U.S. team in his age division, and will compete in world surfing championships in Brazil.

By Ward Lauren / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu could soon challenge Huntington Beach for the title “Surf City USA” if Dillon Perillo has anything to do with it.

The Malibu High sophomore is headed for Brazil this month to compete in the International Surfing Association World Championships as one of eight members of the United States team’s under-16 division. One of the top amateur competition surfers in the nation in his class, he stands a good chance of placing well and thus earning acclaim for his country and his home city at the event in Maresias, Brazil May 7-14.

Perillo made the team at the World Qualifying Series tryouts in March in Huntington Beach. Thirty surfers from both coasts, including some from Texas, competed in heats two at a time, from which the coach chose a total of 15, including alternates, in all divisions to represent the U.S.

Earlier, last month, Perillo scored two resounding wins at the National Scholastic Surfing Association Southwest Conference Open Season competition at Newport Beach. In the esoteric patois of the association’s Web site, he “cranked his skills up a notch and powered out double wins in both Men’s Open and Juniors…What’s even more amazing is Dillon smoked ’em despite being tagged with an interference call in the heat’s early stages…Hurley CEO Bob Hurley observed, ‘When I saw Dillon surfing, he looked like one of those guys you only see every 10 years.'”


Perillo entered his first organized competition when he was 12, a school meet in Oceanside conducted by the Interscholastic Surfing Foundation. His results matched his age. He came in 12th place.

When he was 13 he entered his first NSSA competition, a series of events held throughout the year at various sites in California. The next year he made his first big score, ranking third in the nation in his age group.

He topped that last year at the Volcom World Championships in Newport Beach where he came in second among a large group of amateurs from all over the world.

Although he’s not a professional surfer, as he doesn’t get paid, his abilities are recognized by many pros and commercial interests involved in the sport. The Hurley Company, manufacturer of beach clothing, became his first sponsor when Perillo was only 14. He now is also sponsored by Smith sunglasses, Robert’s surfboards, Dakine surfing accessories, Freestyle watches, Sex Wax (for surfboards) and Clout surf shop in Malibu.

In addition to his achievements on a surfboard, he keeps up a 4.0 grade average in his studies at Malibu High. His best subject is math, he said; he made the honors class in algebra II.

Because of the rigorous demands of his surfing career, he is enrolled in a special independent study program in which he works with one teacher on assignments in English, math, science and history at his own pace, a week at a time. This allows him to ride in the morning when the surf is best, then spend the afternoon on his studies.

“I have to surf every day,” Perillo said. “It’s the only way you can keep up.”

He has the full support of his parents in his surfing ambitions. They have either accompanied or sent him to a number of choice surfing locales around the world to hone his skill: Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Fiji, Samoa and Indonesia. Mom Karen, the nonsurfer of the family, will accompany him to Brazil.

Perillo was five years old when he first paddled out in the water on a board at Zuma Beach one day in 1995. Although it’s unlikely he saw such a serious future for himself in the sport at the time, he took to it from the start, with no problems other than not wanting to go home when the day was done. But his father, Damien, a longtime surfer, began to have some life-changing thoughts for the family based on what he observed that day.

The Perillos lived in Woodland Hills at the time. Two years later, they moved to their present home on Latigo Shore Drive in Malibu. Dillon went to grammar school at Juan Cabrillo, when he wasn’t in the water on his surfboard.

Looking ahead a couple of years, he’s unsure about pursuing a professional career in his sport after graduation from high school.

“I may go pro,” he said, “if I can. It’s really tough competition; there are only 44 pros in the whole world. I do want to see how far I can go in surfing, though.”

But he definitely intends to go on to college, and one way or another hopes to integrate it with his love for surfing. So, although he hasn’t yet thought about any particular university, he does know one thing. It will be located somewhere on the Pacific Coast.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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