Sometimes it only takes a suggestion, along with a few people in the right place at the right time, to make an idea come to life.
That is the path the Orange Lutheran surf team took when it arrived on campus four years ago.
When social studies teacher Marc Laulhere decided he would step aside from his position as the OLu boys volleyball head coach after leading the Lancers for 16 years, the longtime surfer was approached about starting a surf team.
“When they knew I was going to retire, they came to me to see if I was interested in starting it because there were a lot of kids that were interested,” says Laulhere. “It was a perfect segue for me.”
While Laulhere has long had ties to the sport of volleyball, he has surfed nearly his whole life, including surfing for his high school team and competing at various levels.
“Honestly, it is my biggest passion for sports,” says Laulhere. “Even though I played professional volleyball for a while, surfing was always my love.”
The first year of the program saw approximately 20 students come out to Bolsa Chica Tower 18 each Red Day morning at first light. Some arrived with a number of years of surfing experience, while others were learning for the first time.
Now the class boasts nearly 60 students, with about one-third of the group representing the Lancers in competition. Each practice serves as an opportunity for the surfers to be evaluated and scored for the opportunity to surf head-to-head against schools such as Corona del Mar, Mater Dei, Los Alamitos, Long Beach Wilson, and Long Beach Milliken in the Seaview League.
From September to January, the Lancers compete in a series of dual meets against the league schools, which feature shortboard, bodyboard and longboard events. The competition culminates at the Seaview League Finals, which will take place Thursday, January 9, at the south side of Huntington Beach pier.
For Laulhere, having the chance to combine his passion for coaching with his love for surfing has been a dream come true. He is joined by two assistant coaches – OLu alumnus Jason Clayton ‘05 and OLu science teacher Jessica Hernandez. With the support and commitment of the coaching staff, the student-athletes and their parents, the program has developed into a strong and healthy community. And at the end of the day, the veteran coach feels his role is less about the wins and more about the relationships he has been able to build with the kids.
“It’s very much a blessing for me in that way,” says Laulhere. “I never really identified myself through volleyball. It was just God’s platform for me to give back and connect with kids. And that’s how surfing is for me. It’s not necessarily about the sport itself…it’s a very good connection point. And that just opens up relationships and conversations. It’s a different avenue and platform God’s provided, and I love that.”
Some of the athletes Laulhere has been able to connect within the short time the surf program has been in existence include the four senior captains of this year’s Lancer team – Jack Farquhar, Shane Scantlebury, Michael Schlueter and Elie Valdez.
Both Scantlebury and Valdez have been a part of the OLu surf team since entering their freshman year. And for Scantlebury, who has been surfing for the last eight years, the chance to represent his high school as a surfer has meant a great deal.
“It’s a good community, it’s good exercise and we have a lot of fun,” says Scantlebury. “There are good people in the class and we’ve got a great coach. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Valdez, who had only a couple of surfing lessons prior to joining the team four years ago, put aside her interest in the school’s song team so she could surf as a Lancer. The growth of the girls’ side of the program and her ability to lead and mentor the younger surfers has been as memorable for her as the surfing itself.
“I thought it was cool, especially to be the first graduating class to do it,” says Valdez. “We’ve come super far now with over 20 girls on the team. It’s meant a lot to be a part of something that has started to grow, and it’s been cool to watch people’s perspective change on surf. I’m glad to see people respect our team as a whole.”
The senior captains acknowledge that while “surfer-style” may be thought of as casual and laid back, the skill, commitment, and patience it takes to master the sport cannot be denied.
“Surf takes a while, even just to get your bearings in the water,” says Farquhar, who joined the team his sophomore year. “That’s something you really can’t rush. You just have to go and be okay with not catching waves for a while. But once you start progressing, it’s really a gratifying experience.”
“It’s hard to teach surfing,” adds Schlueter, who also joined the team as a sophomore. “But I’d say my leadership style would be supporting the kids and letting them know you can see their progression.”
While their individual goals for the remainder of their final season are varied, all four captains admit they will miss the surf community the most. And no matter what the next steps are for these student-athletes, surfing is in their blood, and none of them will ever stray too far from the water.
“We’re in a wonderland out there,” says Farquhar. “It’s crazy, just being in God’s creation. We’re all so fortunate to have surf team as high schoolers, because it really does put us in the thick of God’s creation, and everything we experience is really beautiful.”