Sharks surfer wins shortboard title in final senior-year competition

Vanessa Clarke masters a late wave to edge out Ventura rival at Zuma Beach

“We had many great results at the final high school regular season contest at Zuma Beach on Saturday, April 22, and I congratulate all of our Sharks for their efforts and their results,” Malibu Sharks Surf Team communications volunteer Arpie Petkus said. “But I must highlight that we witnessed one of the most spectacular finishes of any Shark I’ve ever witnessed. And when I say ‘finishes,’ I mean it literally.”

Vanessa Clarke had to beat Lilly Gilholm of Ventura to win the LA-SB-Division Womens Shortboard Title in her final senior year competition. Petkus said Vanessa was leading the ratings by only 64 points (4,260-4,196) going into this contest and she wasn’t even sure she would compete. 

“She not only put other obligations aside to compete with the Sharks, she won the event and took the title, but that wasn’t easy,” Petkus said. “In the second round, Vanessa and Lilly were head to head with four other girls; only three would advance. If either girl got fourth or lower they were out — the other would take the title.” 

Petkus said Vanessa did not surf her best heat, and she came in frustrated and feeling defeated. The results came in, Lilly got second, but Vanessa got third. The race continued into the final.

“Lilly got lots of waves but nothing special. Vanessa was patient, she got a decent turn in the middle of the heat but then nothing. And nothing. And nothing. And then with one minute left, Vanessa takes off on a wave that looked like every other wave, but a little rip current held it up, formed a section; Vanessa saw it and attacked it,” Petkus said. “Carved a turn like no other in the entire heat, and came down into the breaking whitewater, which was basically on dry sand, and she held on to ride out and complete the maneuver.”

Petkus said Vanessa’s dad Steve, yelled, “That’s my daughter!” and ran around pumping his fists. 

“It took a while for the results to come in and to be announced, but we all knew, every Shark knew, Vanessa won her senior year, last high school contest to take the division title,” Petkus said.

Malibu Sharks Surf Team
(From left) Malibu Sharks Surf Team members Sean Krasner, Leon Reed, Whitney Shanahan, Vanessa Clarke, Carmen Brunel, Brody Graham, and Head Coach John Cross pose together after the contest April 22 at Zuma Beach. Photos Courtesy of Arpie Petkus, Malibu Sharks Surf Communications Team

April 22 Zuma Contest finalists

Womens shortboard

Vanessa Clarke, first place

Mens longboard

Leon Reed, third place; Brody Graham, sixth place

Womens longboard

Whitney Shanahan, third place

Body board

Sean Krasner, fifth place

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