Middle School Sharks Ride Waves to Victory

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Malibu Middle School Surf Team

Seventh-grader Noah Klapp surfed off with two top finishes at the Malibu Middle School (MMS) surf team’s most recent event. 

It wasn’t lonely at the top of the leaderboard for the Sharks team member; five additional boy and girl Malibu surfers finished in the top portion of their surf events, as the Sharks won a record nine trophies at the Scholastic Surf Series LA/Santa Barbara Middle School competition at Summers Beach in Ventura on Dec. 19. 

Malibu coach Dale Rhodes said the Sharks showcased their talent at the event.

“Our kids did really well,” he said. “They are getting better and better. It’s also luck of the draw with the waves. Whoever gets the best wave and completes it perfectly gets a higher score.”

The nine trophies are the most ever won by a MMS team at one event, according to the team. Malibu finished second place at the surf meet. 

Klapp placed first in the girls longboard and second in the girls shortboard events. Her teammate, eighth-grader Saxon Rhodes, gained a pair of trophies by finishing one spot behind her in each event. 

Coach Dale, Saxon’s father and a former pro surfer, said winning two trophies one day before her 14th birthday were good presents. 

“She loves surfing,” Dale said of his daughter. “She has traveled with me all around the world, so she has it in her blood.”

Sixth-grader Finn Reys also won a pair of trophies for Malibu also. He came in second in the boys longboard and sixth in the boys shortboard for Malibu. 

The other top-finishing Sharks were seventh-grader Alana Witting (fifth in the girls longboard), sixth-grader Tanner Vodraska (fifth in the boys shortboard) and eighth-grader Griffin Churchill (sixth in the co-ed bodyboard). 

Dale said that in his three years of coaching the 40-member surf team, all of the kids have improved drastically, but Witting made a big jump in surfing skills.

“She has only been with us for two years,” he said, “but now she is really coming on strong.” 

The team is composed of surfers ages 12-14. Most of the group has been surfing together for the last three years. The team participates in 6 a.m. practices twice per week at Zuma Beach. 

Not all of the team members take to the water during surf events; some are alternates. Dale said all of the kids support each other, though.

“Everyone shows up, shows great camaraderie and roots on their teammates,” the coach said. “We win together, we lose together.”

The Sharks have had a lot to cheer about this season. Malibu has two first place finishes and two second place finishes in four meets. 

The surf team began the season by winning an Oct. 24 event at Summers Beach. Vodraska and Reys claimed first place finishes, while Klapp finished second in two events. Seventh-grader Dean Jenkins and Churchill finished in the top five of the boys longboard, won by Reys. Saxon finished fifth in the girls shortboard and sixth in the girls longboard. 

Scholastic Surf Series stats (although incomplete) rank Malibu’s surfers in the top of various events. Five Sharks are in the top half of the boys shortboad, led by Vodraska at number one and Reys at number five. Reys is tops in the boys longboard and Jenkins is seventh. 

Klapp and Saxon are ranked third and fourth respectively in the girls shortboard. Seventh-grader Brooke Carlson is rated second in the girls longboard, Saxon is one spot behind her and Klapp is in 10th place. Sixth-grader Gavin Cross is number five in co-ed bodyboard; classmate Skylar Diamond is tied for ninth. 

The team’s next contest is on Jan. 23 in Santa Monica, Tower 22. 

Coach Dale said the Sharks’ motto is to always finish strong. In fact, “Finish Strong” is emblazoned on the team’s gear.

“We’re building self-esteem for these mini athletes– no matter the outcome,” Dale said. “We hope they take this motto throughout everyday life.”