Stab Magazine | Does San Clemente’s CT Success Start In Their Public Schools?

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Does San Clemente’s CT Success Start In Their Public Schools?

Fourteen consecutive California State titles would say yes.

news // Mar 7, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Why does San Clemente consistently produce more world tour surfers than any other place in mainland North America?

Part of it is the cobblestones. The proximity to Trestles has provided generations from Phil Edwards to Archy to Griffin Colapinto with a canvas to draw their respectively radical lines. Then there’s the heritage that sets the stage for every emerging generation (again, Phil Edwards to Archy to Griff). But over the last couple of decades, the foundation for success may oddly be coming from the city’s schools.

Last weekend the NSSA Interscholastic State Championships went down at Seaside Reef. Normally this would be but a blip on our radar. It rained all day Saturday and the swell was waist-high at best, but what made the weekend notable is how San Clemente schools continue to dominate the field. Yes, other schools get close, but nobody dominates like San Clemente.

Shorecliffs Middle School won its 14th straight Middle School State title. Coach David Hennings’ teams have maintained a firm grasp on the title since 2006. The dude deserves an award or something. Hennings and Mitch Colaptino, Griff’s dad and a local teacher and lifeguard, are tight. They’ve got an amazing formula figured out—mainly keep it fun, keep it loose, and keep it positive.

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“This has got to be a testament to Head Coach David Hennings, who now must be considered one of the greatest surf coaches in the history of our sport,” read an NSSA Facebook post.

That success feeds right into San Clemente High School, who just won the Varsity and Junior Varsity titles. For Head Coach John Dowell’s Triton squad, it was the 16th Varsity State Title and 8th Junior Varsity Title. In terms of “best high school programs ever,” the historic Huntington High teams of old are in the conversation, but San Clemente’s grown into a force to reckon with in recent years. Dowell’s a good man. He builds his teams around character, not just performance. His seniors consistently graduate and go on to four-year colleges.

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That scholar/athlete tradition has then led to success at the university level as Malia Ward, Chris Ward’s daughter, just claimed the women’s college title for the University of Southern California. Not only is Malia chasing her surf dreams, but she knows full well that a piece of paper from USC can set her up for life. And now the kids at Shorecliffs are seeing what she’s doing, getting fired up on following a similar path, and next thing you know, you’re not only producing good surfers but good humans.

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Full disclosure, I currently live less than a mile from the San Clemente High campus, so maybe I’m biased or too close to the source, but as a someone that grew up in Northern California without anything even remotely like this available, it’s impressive. Huge credit goes to the coaches, administrators, and parents that make all of this possible. Dawn patrol surf practices, rainy weekends at comps, I see a lot of the kids and parents around town and know how much they all put into it. It’s rad. It’d be rad if every beach town in California embraced their local surf programs like San Clemente does…then maybe we’d win a World Title (or a CT event) again.

More on that soon. 

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