The winning tradition continues at San Clemente High and Shorecliffs Middle School

By Jake Howard

When the Beach Boys wrote their hit “Be True To Your School,” they may as well have been singing about our local schools here in Orange County.

The famous 1963 tune opens with the verse, “When some loud braggart tries to put me down / And says his school is great/ I tell him right away / Now what’s the matter buddy / Ain’t you heard of my school/ It’s number one in the state!”

Last weekend, the NSSA State Championships took place at Seaside Reef in San Diego, and it couldn’t have gone much better for the academic surf powerhouses of this area.

San Clemente High’s Varsity and Junior Varsity teams both defended their state titles, as did Shorecliffs Middle School. And topping the podium in the college division was nearby Saddleback College.

While all of those big trophies are impressive and a testament to the depth of surf talent in this area, it’s how the respective teams won that speaks volumes.

Continuing their dominating form, the San Clemente High School Surf Team just captured their fourth consecutive NSSA State Championship and their 12th title in the past 15 years. Photo: Courtesy of John Dowell

“It was a great weekend for Triton Surfing at the NSSA State Championships,” said Coach John Dowell, head surf coach at San Clemente High. “We won both team titles and several individual titles. It was a commanding performance by all athletes!”

The Tritons’ Kai McPhillips, Brayden Burch and Raiki Nishida all made the final of the high school shortboard division, while Aidan Sautner finished runner-up in longboard and Reese Dewey was a women’s finalist.

For the JV squad, Henry Grattan won the men’s division, while Julia Guild ruled the women, winning back-to-back JV titles with a dominating performance that saw her tally the highest two-wave total of the entire event: a remarkable 18.17 out of 20. Another highlight was Griffin Glenn catching a wave at the buzzer to win the longboard division.

“I’m so proud of everyone that competed and brought home another title for San Clemente. This team just continued to add to the legacy that is San Clemente High School Surfing,” Dowell said.

For the Triton Varsity team, this was their fourth state title in a row. They’ve now won it all 12 out of the past 15 years. And for the JV squad, this was their sixth consecutive state title.

For the first time in a long time, Shorecliffs Middle School’s reign appeared to be in jeopardy, but Coach David Hennings and his crew pulled off a miracle to capture their 15th consecutive state title.

Dash Pinegar won the boy’s shortboard division, while Banning Wetzel took top honors in the longboard division. In the end, Shorecliffs edged out Oak Crest Middle School from nearby Encinitas by a score of 113-111. 

And in the college ranks, Dana Point’s Bethany Zelasko helped lead Saddleback College to a commanding team victory. It was a huge moment for first-year head coach Ken Workman as Saddleback topped last year’s champs, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Other local standouts from the NSSA State Championships included Ryann Daly from Dana Hills High, who won the high school women’s division, and Indie Hoffman from Marco Forster Middle School in San Juan Capistrano, who won the Middle School Girls.

Congratulations to all of the surfers, parents and coaches who turned this season into a dream run for everyone. From the youngest competitors to those already in college, you’ve once again proven that San Clemente and Dana Point are the premier hotbed for surf talent in California.

It’s like the Beach Boys sang, you’re “number one in the state.”

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