Back on board

FAU Surf Club is back to taking on competitions and finding waves after losing its eligibility a few years ago.


Max Jackson

Chris Rubsaman rides a wave during the Oct. 18 Southeast National Scholastic Surfing Association surfing competition. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Joseph Kennedy, Contributing Writer

It’s early Sunday morning and a set of double red flags ruffle on the beach at Fort Pierce Inlet. The light offshore winds being produced by hurricane Joaquin can’t even begin to dull the powerful swells spreading across the eastern seaboard.

As members of the Florida Atlantic Surf Club team pull their boards out in the parking lot on the north side of the inlet, you can see a variety of local sponsors’ stickers peppered across their fiberglass exteriors.

They have taken the chance to travel a couple  of hours north of Boca in search for the perfect wave along the east coast. With forecasts predicting clean 4-to-6 foot waves, the team doesn’t want to waste what could be one of the best swells all year.

They work together on the shore, coordinating with phone calls and video messages to sort out where the best spot is before getting together.

This scene probably wouldn’t have happened for the club members a few years ago, as the team was taken off FAU’s official club register in 2012 after failing to provide the official documents to be an organization. Without that license, they wouldn’t be able to compete in scholastic surf competitions for at least a year.

“We didn’t have anyone to do the work that it takes to keep the club together and stay registered with the athletics department,” said Melanie Gannon, a marine biology major and the club’s current president. “Then Mila [Wyman], the former president, stepped up and it was game on.”

In order to get the club back, the group had to file paperwork with the Campus Recreation department and set up a club website.

They also did volunteer work, which included cleaning up local beaches as well as helping with the group Surfers for Autism.

The organization throws events at the beach so people with developmental disorders can go surf and have a good time around the water.

“It’s just nice to be able to give back to the community, especially working with Surfers for Autism,”  explained Gannon. “Those kids seem to get so much from going out in the water. It’s really cool sharing something we all love.”

Building a sense of community within their own ranks, the club’s meetings are now held at members’ houses instead of a random room on campus. They get together to cook for each other and talk about the expeditions they have taken to different surf locations, while planning out future trips.   

Members aren’t just interested in taco nights and remembering their favorite waves though. The club also has a competitive side.

When the team takes the water, it becomes apparent why they regularly do well at the intercollegiate competitions. Powerful turns and smooth lines seem to come effortlessly to the riders.

The regional competitions are held monthly up at New Smyrna Inlet, just south of Jacksonville, Florida. While positions on the competitive team are performance based, anyone is welcome to come up to surf, relax and cheer on the competitors.

“We just want to get together surfers of all experience levels and have a good time,” Gannon said.

(L to R) Austin Chachko, Anthony Cox, Ian Henderson, Melanie Gannon, Chris Rubsaman relax after placing 5th overall at the 3rd National Scholastic Surfing Association contest of the year. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
(L to R) Austin Chachko, Anthony Cox, Ian Henderson, Melanie Gannon, Chris Rubsaman relax after placing 5th overall at the 3rd National Scholastic Surfing Association contest of the year. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

In 2014, the team placed sixth in the National Scholastic Surf Association East Coast Championships in a nine-team field. The University of North Carolina-Wilmington took the title for the sixth straight year.

“The best part about competing is traveling and getting to know each other. You get to meet so many people and the contests are really laid back,” Gannon said.

The consistent competing does allow them to travel out to California in the summers for the NSSA Nationals to surf against the top teams in the country. Last year, the Owls finished 13th out of the 15 teams that qualified.


Off the water, members are breaking typical surfer stereotypes while seeing things as more than just pulling up to your local beach in a smokey van. You are more likely to see graduate textbooks and lab reports falling out of their car doors.

Several members are working on their master’s degree, including former President Mila Wyman, who chose to step down from the position when starting graduate school for special education.

“It is a lot of work setting up for the contests, and I had to make sure that I could focus on school,” Wyman said. “I still compete and do everything else with the club.”

Working to make the most of their second chance, the club hopes that its sense of closeness leads them to more time out on the waves and less time without the chance to compete.

You can find the FAU Surf Club website at: .