Surfing in Santa Cruz: Junior and English teacher find relaxation riding waves

March 29, 2024 — by Amy Miao and Emily Wu
Courtesy of Marcos Cortez
English and Map 10 teacher Marcos Cortez surfs in the Santa Cruz shoreline.
Junior Logan Gecils and English teacher Marcos Cortez find surfing to be the perfect blend of tranquility and thrill to look forward to during stressful weeks.

Five years ago, junior Logan Gecils was introduced to surfing by his stepfather, which has since become one of his favorite recreational activities. With the Santa Cruz beaches just a 45-minute drive from the school, Gecils regularly heads to his favorite surf spots to destress and enjoy time in a natural setting. A few staff members, including English teacher Marcos Cortez, also regularly catch waves on the same beaches.

Junior Gecils surfs on weekends with family

Recently, Gecils makes the drive down CA-17S to the diverse beaches of Santa Cruz roughly every other weekend. Among his favorite surfing spots are Pleasure Point, 30th Avenue, The Hook and LightHouse Point, with Pleasure Point topping his list due to its consistent quality breaks. His typical surf sessions last 2 to 3 hours, often followed by a stop at Point Market in Santa Cruz for a bite to eat.

Gecils recalls that the pandemic gave him more free time to dedicate to surfing, allowing him to catch the waves about twice a week. However, as a junior balancing schoolwork and other commitments, finding time to surf has become increasingly challenging. 

“Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go as much lately, but when I do, it’s a great way to relax and forget any stresses or worries that I had throughout the day,” Gecils said. “It can be frustrating if you don’t catch on the waves, but when you finally do, the feeling is extremely gratifying.”

The past summer, Gecils and his family also visited Costa Rica, where he surfed twice a day for a week. He found that the warmer temperatures provided a more comfortable environment for surfing, and the surf spots in Costa Rica had extremely long breaks, making them less crowded compared to Santa Cruz. 

Over the past few years, Gecils has worked toward performing tricks while riding the waves. Currently, he has mastered many types of cutbacks, which are maneuvers that help surfers change directions to stay in the “power zone” of the wave. 

“My goal is to learn new skills like aerials (a skill where the surfer ‘jumps’ out of the lip of the wave, flips 180 degrees and lands inside the curve of the wave),” he said. “I also want to increase the size of the waves I surf, as it provides an extra challenge and element of danger.” 

English teacher continues to pursue lifelong hobby 

English and MAP 10 teacher Marcos Cortez has had a long history of surfing starting from his teenage years growing up in Pacifica. 

“There was a strong surf culture in my community so it was just part of what everyone did,” Cortez said. “It was almost like you weren’t able to get your driver’s permit until you learned to surf.” 

Now, over 30 years later, Cortez resides in Santa Cruz and maintains his passion for the sport by surfing an average of three times a week. He meticulously plans his surf days, waiting for the best conditions with optimal temperature, wind, swell, tide and crowd. This consistent routine has helped him form numerous friendships within the surfing community, as he frequently encounters familiar faces among the local surfers during his sessions.

Cortez said he chooses surfing to be his primary form of exercise because it fulfills him emotionally, mentally and socially. By bouncing back after getting crushed by a wave, trying to figure out the best time and meeting new people who share the same interests, Cortez finds that surfing improves many aspects of himself.

“Surfing is wonderful because you’re always learning as every wave you encounter is different,” he said. “The ocean will also always teach you about humility, as there’s always going to be a time when you get pounded. But it’s also extremely rewarding when you catch a good wave. Whether your skill levels are at the professional level or the beginner level, the sense of enjoyment and fulfillment can be equal.”

Outside of Santa Cruz, Cortez has surfed in several North American countries like Mexico, Canada, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, as well as Bali, Scotland and Morocco. When vacationing in a new coastal region, Cortez finds that he can quickly join a community and make friends.

In the future, Cortez hopes to continue surfing and enjoying the benefits for as long as he can. To him, surfing can be both a way to release anger after a harsh day or continue his mood on a good day. 

“I love to surf and to travel so my goal in the future is to continue exploring new places around the world to surf,” Cortez said. “I also hope to continue surfing at my desired level, even while getting older and dealing with the challenges that brings.” 

Tags: surfing
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