How to Balance Surf and School

Kekoa Cazimero on staying in the water while earning a college degree

| posted on April 04, 2012

Kekoa Cazimero, keeping the balancing act going on the South Shore of Oahu. Photo: Baeseman

Balancing the demands of higher education and a saltwater addiction is not an easy undertaking. Between cramming for midterms and keeping your place in the lineup, something is bound to suffer. But according to Kekoa Cazimero—a former NSSA Open Men’s National Champion and current full-time college student—if you get your priorities in order, and make best use of your time, you can thrive in both realms.

Set Your Goals. Kekoa graduated from a traditional high school with a 4.0 GPA. In the ensuing four years, Kekoa became a budding pro surfer and spent his days chasing events, shooting photos, and more or less living the good life. Despite the good times, he eventually opted to pursue a higher education. “I’ve always believed having a college degree would open a lot of doors for me. And the way the job markets are right now, you’ll need everything you can get to get a great job,” says Kekoa. “I looked around at what I was doing and what everyone was else was doing and decided that I wanted to go to college. I talked to all my sponsors and told them what I wanted to do and they were really accommodating. We worked out a way for me to still do photo trips and shoot videos and do a few contests, all while I’m a full time student taking 18 credits a semester. It’s by no means easy balancing school and my love for surfing—going back and chasing the Tour is still a very real goal of mine—but in the long-term, I know that having a college degree will be worth it.”

Make the Time. Very few of us are milking the day for all it’s worth. For Kekoa to commit himself to a full-time curriculum, he had to prioritize his schedule. “My days are pretty grueling, to be honest. I spend a lot of time at school studying. But to get the most out of every swell, I’ve scheduled my classes in the morning so that I have a window in the early afternoon to head down to Bowls or Sandy’s for a quick session. After that, it’s back to school to study until it’s dark and then home for dinner and then more studying. Wake up and repeat. There’s time in the day to do both, but you’ve got to be on it and make the most of each hour.”

Turn off the TV. If you’re looking for an easy way to shave an hour off your schedule, turn off the TV. It’s estimated that the average American watched an average of 34 hours of TV each week. If you can find the time to tune into Dancing with Stars, you can find the time to get in the lineup. “That’s an easy one,” says Kekoa. “I’ll watch a bit here and there, but there’s no way I could keep surfing as much as I do and still keep my grades up if I watched a lot of TV or screwed around on the Internet all day. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut out the stuff that’s keeping you away from your goal.”

Stay Driven. There will undoubtedly be days when it’s easy to brush off quick pre- or post-work session. You’re tired, it’s too cold, too small, too big, etc. We know, we’ve all been there. But it’s a rare occurrence when you regret paddling out. “Yeah, of course there are days when I feel like I’m too tired or too burnt out from studying to want to jump in the water,” says Kekoa. “But I truly love surfing and feel better almost every time I come in from the water. It’s not always easy to get in the water, but it’s always worth it to find the time to squeeze in a surf. You just got to stay fired up.”

How do you balance surf and school? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

  • Michael Casper

    Great article. Sounds like the way i’m going to be doing it when I start at UNCW this fall. Another tidbit especially if your house isn’t on the way to the beach is to be prepared. If you know there might be surf right after class, but you only have an hour or two to surf before work or something, packing your stuff in the car before school and then zipping straight to the beach will save you a good amount of time for surfing. It’s also all about telling yourself to get homework done early so you can surf later too. It does make your schedule tight, but on the plus side, you’re wiped out at the end of the day so you sleep early, get a solid night’s sleep, and repeat…. maybe a dawn patrol if you don’t have a “snooze button” addiction.

  • http://SurferMag zrosario

    I scheduled my classes after 9:30 AM that way I can get up 6:00 AM and be in the water by seven. If for some reason I can’t make it in the morning I’ll try to squeeze in a session in the afternoon.

  • ler

    Wow! I was wondering where Kekoa went. Taking 18 credits and still finding time to surf is Awesome. Wish more of the young guys were this smart, keep up the good work!!!

  • Ed

    If you want to make it happen, and succeed scholastically, you have to learn when to say no to surf. What sucks is that it doesn’t feel rewarding unless you stay consistent. Especially seeing mag coverage, hearing your friends talk about it. But when you’ve busted your ass and dumped a large amount of your income and at the end of the semester you’ve got a 4.0 the feeling that you followed through is pretty good. Then just surf your brains out during winter/spring/summer break.

  • Isaac

    “Balancing the demands of higher education and a saltwater addiction is not an easy undertaking.” Correct. Almost anything that is worthwhile is “not an easy undertaking.” Going to college while surfing just means you have to set priorities and keep to them. Student athletes have been doing this since the beginning of college sports. There are many doctors, lawyers, etc in the lineup that surfed through undergrad AND graduate education. A select few even spent some time as pro surfers. Everything in this article was pretty sound advice. Ed’s advice of knowing when to say “no” to surfing is also correct. Unfortunately it seemed like every time I had a midterm in college there was a solid swell. During those times you just have to hit the books and hope there are some leftovers when you’re done taking your test(s). Good luck to all you students out there that are balancing both right now. It’s all worth it in the end when you have a career that you love and you are still able to surf every day.

  • Stephanie Schechter

    As a junior in high school with a challenging schedule full of AP classes, I’ve had to put my longboarding career on hold. Women’s longboarding is not a promising career by any means, and I fully intend on getting a four year college education at one od the UC schools. I have had to give up several opportunities to compete in professional longboard competitions, because they generally take place on weekdays, but I know school is more important in the long run. A lot pf my friends and fellow competitors are home schooled, and because of this their longboard careers seem to progress more rapidly than mine, but I place a hogher value on proper education. Surfing is my passion, and I am able to surf almost every day of the week, regardless of my intense schedule at school. I compete several weekends out of the year, while balancing studying for AP classes, AP exams, and the SAT and ACT tests. I am glad to see other serious surfers understand the importance of education.

  • Stu

    In all seriousness, you’ll never have MORE time to surf than in college. Nice to see a kid do both for a change though.

  • Philip A. Cartwright Sr.

    Aloha Kekoa,
    This reminds me of a similar challenge I faced when I was your age except I was attempting to balance the trifecta of drinking beer in vast quantities, rubbing my face into the “desireables” of local women and my duties fighting the krauts in the european theatre of world war ii. kind of like you, i set goals for myself; namely “u-boating” (as my perverted friend calls it) at least one (1) french women per month and also not dying. after a series of bloody offensives and the loss of many friends it became clear we would beat the germans and i was re-assigned to the southern pacific theatre to fight the niponese. anyway, it was a shit time and as my grandson says “noone gives two (2) shits about war stories” so ill get to the point, that now im living the good life with my hot wife, and that you too can accomplish your dual goals (liberal arts degree and surfing). p.s. i still make time to surf because it makes me less mean and also makes me feel virile again (those wetsuits are very revealing). Mahalo,

  • Tony C

    I am a Law Student who only became an avid surfer during law school. The intense academic challenge and time constraint drove me to value being out in nature and living for the moment and the summer after my first year, I just went all out in the ocean. I kept surfing through the fall when school started (not so much the winter, I’m in NY) and loved every minute of it. I probably did better having that off time where what I was learning didn’t matter. There are in fact a lot of hours in a day, and even more in a week if you know how to use em’. The point I’m making and likely the point this article is making is, don’t let any preconceptions, fears or uncertainties hold you back from living your life the way you want. You can do it. Carpe Diem Baby

  • Jared

    Awesome Post! This is a great reminder to me that we make choices everyday that either get us closer to our goal or put us one step further from it. The key is to understand that WE make those choices. No one is going to remind us of those choices, and the consequences. That’s up to us to notice. Solid Bu. Keep up the good work, and I hope to see you back out there, killing it! All the best to da Hawaiian Hurricane too. Aloha!

  • walter

    love this article!