Instructor Bud

In his surf students, Bud Freitas rediscovered the stoke he lost years ago

| posted on January 10, 2013

Bud Freitas is fresh out of the water, breathing heavy after peeling soaked 5mm neoprene off himself after a sunset session underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. “I’d never surfed there before,” he says. “I just really wanted to be able to say I had. It was terrible, windy and cold. Booties, hood, gloves, the whole bit. But I had fun.” This is a version of Bud Freitas that hadn’t existed for years.

When he was younger and in his competitive prime, surfing was always fun, and he had a knack for winning. “It was kind of a cakewalk when I was young,” recalls Freitas. “I was winning all the amateur events, and even some pro events. It was all just falling in my lap. It was that easy.”

At the time, Freitas was one of the most hyped talents to come out of East Side Santa Cruz in years. He lived up the road from Pleasure Point, honing his power, style, and flow on those pointbreak rights since gromhood. With his success came copious amounts of both praise and pressure. Freitas was unable to balance the two.

“I kept winning and winning,” says Bud, “and then at one point I just hit a wall. I wasn’t as psyched, I stopped performing, and I couldn’t win anymore. It just stopped coming to me. There were other talented kids in Santa Cruz coming up around me, and they wanted it more. They had more aggression; I just stood back and let them pass me by. It ate me up to realize that I wasn’t the kid winning everything anymore.”

Freitas turned to the side of surf culture that doesn’t actually involve much surfing. Partying became his priority, and his surfing suffered as a result. Some injuries, a loss of sponsors, and a lack of interest had him teetering on the end of his career. “One day, I realized that I was going to have to work for this. I realized I had to lay off the partying and I couldn’t just go through life half-assing everything. It was time for me to put my head down and really want something.”

Enter Surf School Santa Cruz. “I started my surf school three years ago. I was looking at all the other surf schools in Santa Cruz, and they were all run by kooks. I didn’t think that was fair for the students, so we built a website and the school took off. I give lessons everyday, and coach the younger kids too. I go surfing with them after school, showing them what to do and what not to do.”

On top of his surf instruction, Freitas is surfing professionally again, putting out an impressive section in the 2012 film #NoFilter. His late nights are behind him, and Freitas is back at the center of the surf scene in Santa Cruz. “It’s not like I’m trying to be a cover guy, I just want to stay involved with surfing. I’m just going with it and really enjoying my surfing again. I get to cruise, ride good boards, travel, and teach kids how to surf. It’s freaking awesome. To watch these kids so stoked after they catch a good wave, it makes my day, every day.”

Read more comeback stories in our February Issue, on newsstands now.

A bearded Bud Freitas, on the right side of a comeback in Santa Cruz. Photo: Ellis

He spends more time in the water in Santa Cruz now than he has in his entire life. Instructor Bud, leading by example. Photo: Ellis

  • tom struble

    To quote Bud Freitas ” I was looking at all the other surf schools in Santa Cruz, and they were all run by kooks. I didn’t think that was fair for the students”. Assuming that is true, how does one change that?

    • Gorkin

      His name isn’t Bud Frietas. It’s Butt Fetus.

  • Jimmy the Saint

    I picked up on that quote too, and thought it definitly colored the rest of the description of the guy in a negative light. To describe others running schools as kooks is pretty harsh, maybe they are, I don’t know, but nobody is going to think any higher of you if you say that they are. Also isn’t this story grinding repetitive, the usual story of a spoilt pro who had it all and blew it. Yeah your surfing is amazing but who is the real kook Bud?

  • Rodger Eales

    I’m a big Bud fan, surfs really well. Powerful. To say he had it all and blew it is a over statement I would argue. It’s in the culture of surfing that athletes long for the extreme and the theme will always be a part of the ones who rise fast. Rather than thinking of it as boring or repetitive, I find it inspiring because guys like Bud are the exception most disappear never to be herd of again. Right On Bud. Keep Ripping!

  • Brennan

    I remember Bud! He ripped and would of never been propelled to the next level anyway because no opportunity at that time. Tom Carrol, Curren, Potter, Sunny, etc., Taylor Knox ruled the game. Now multi million dollar contracts and 11 year olds doing huge stylish reverse airs no problem. Surfing is lame now. Target, Nike etc. The surf culture is lost. SUPS and go pro cameras crowd the line up. He is where his heart is telling him to be, in the water now. Soul surfing is for the soul. Contests are for recognition and money. Big difference. Go BUD!!!

    Tom, you get qualified instructors with style that can really surf. Anyone can teach someone how to jump up and ride a whitewash for 10 seconds. That is not surfing. Stylish instructors that have a passion for the water will light the fire these kids need. Almost 99 percent of school instructors dont surf well. That is because they are doing a job and just teaching the motion , not the passion. Also, real good surfers would find it hard to push kids around all day in whitewash when there home break is firing daily.

  • Ando

    @ Tom and Jimmy the Saint-I’m not sure if kooks run the other schools, I don’t live in SC but up further north the schools in my area are taught by kooks and it makes for horrible approach to the line up once the school is out…no understanding of the surroundings and whats really happening. It is pretty lame when bad surfers who love surfing try and teach others how to surf…its noble but actually pretty rediculous…its like having a person who never played baseball seriously coach beginners–it happens all the time but its not inspiring nor teaching the beginners any sound fundamentals. So having a great surfer actually running a surf school is a obvious start…

  • Lacky

    Bud rips super hard. I don’t think he meant to say all the other surf schools in Santa Cruz are run by kooks. Richard Schmidt is a legend and pretty much paved the way for all Santa Cruz surfers and runs a real damn good surf school. There’s just no other top pro’s in the area running surf schools! Doesn’t mean the other surf school instructors are kooks. I’m sure they’re teaching their students the etiquette of the line up and if they’re not, they should, otherwise they are kooks, right? Anyhow, keep doing what you do Bud! Surfing with style, flare and power! Yewww..

  • Jimmy the Saint

    Lacky – what do you mean ” I don’t think he meant to say all the other surf schools in Santa Cruz are run by kooks”, he did say it, you might not agree with what he said, but he sure as hell meant to say it, unless he was misquoted, which I doubt…
    Best of luck to Bud, and all the other kooks running schools in that area…

  • dash

    Bud used to be a pretty big jerk to anyone who didn’t grow up over on the Eastside with him, but seems like he has mellowed out a little. And at least he usually only takes his students out one at a time, unlike other surf schools which get greedy and send out 10 learners and 1 kooky instructor.

  • Bud Freitas

    Sorry if i came off as being a jerk to the other schools wasn’t meaning it like that. I have all the respect in the world to Richard Schmidt , What i was trying to say is some of the other surf instructors have no idea ,experience in what there doing in the the water .I feel like i have more knowledge and respect for the ocean than most do . Sorry again if i hurt anyones feelings.


  • Tony Tamale

    I had a ridiculously bad-mannered run in with Bud a few years ago at a mellow beach south of Santa Cruz. He had no problem paddling directly out to the peak I was surfing and blatantly dropping in on my when there was nobody else in the water (he and his crew had just paddled out). First he ruined the wave for both of us, then he asked if his board had hit me once we came up. I said yea, it had, and he just kept paddling back out. Proceeded to paddle around me the rest of the time. Not much class for someone with so much talent. Hopefully he’s changed his attitude.

  • Jimmy the Saint

    Bud, sorry if what I wrote came across as a personal attack on you or your past, it was below the belt. I have never met you and only know what I have read from this article, but if I am ever going through Santa Cruz I would definitly look you up for surf coaching, I am sure you could teach me a lot. Its great to hear that you don’t take big groups into the water at one time, good on you! All the Best!

  • Christie

    Love this guy! If you ever get the chance to visit Santa Cruz, take the opportunity to schedule a lesson with Bud.

    He is not only a great instructor but a really cool person. He taught my kids the joy of surfing. My kids surf the Oregon coast (cold & not always the best waves) with great enthusiasm because they love surfing. Bud has this way of teaching kids to have a passion for surfing. He always has this great big giant smile on his face when he’s out there with the kids.

    Bud-thank you for being you & for being a mentor & friend to Bob & Summer. You will forever be a part of our family.

    Sending our love from cold & wet Oregon, wishing we were in SC.

  • matt

    I thought the piece was well done and Bud came off as pretty thoughtful, humble guy. I am a big fan of his surfing. Style and power seem like lost attributes amongst the sea of hops , spins and aerials. I hope committed rail surfing never goes out of style.
    As far as kooks running surf schools, it may be a poor choice of words but he speaks the truth. The proliferation of these things by a multitude of bro bros whose best maneuver is a shaka is a sad state of affairs. Kids are lucky to learn under the tutelage of someone like Bud.
    Its easy to be bitter. Much harder to maintain your stoke. Keep charging Bud!

  • Zack

    Yeah Bud! Ripping! Great edit.

  • ftw

    Nice, stylish surfing + good message = good video

  • Blizz

    I observed Santa Cruz surfers pretty seriously while in college there. Bud Frietas ripped much harder than anyone else I ever saw surfing those waves.

  • Josh

    Sick style would have been nice to see some lefts?

  • Steve Wimer

    Smooth surfing like Bud’s used to be the norm. Now it’s rare. .

  • Otto Flores

    Living the Dream and apreciating it that is what is all about. Suit & TIe not for us……
    BUD Has sick style…..

  • Otto Flores

    Living the dream and appreciating it. That is what it’s all about.
    Suit & TIe not for us……
    BUD Has sick style…..

  • Crushy

    yeah Bud, we all know what you meant and teaching good manners in the surf is super important-it is rare that a kid gets a chance to get a surf lesson from someone who has competed and done will in big pro contest
    glad things are going well for you
    always a sick style

  • matt

    In regards to pros or locs like Bud being jerks in the water, it’s pretty much just gang-mentality bullshit… These fuckers wouldn’t act nearly as greedy, aggressive, or tough, if they didn’t have their bros to back them up.. Anyway, Bud’s pretty chill. He might paddle around you, but unlike a bunch of guys from the area, he won’t try to fuck you up if you “disrespect the boys”

  • Gorgo

    Hey Otto: Without the “suit and ties” you wouldn’t be able to live your so-called “life-style”. Keep guzzling corporate jizz while marketing brands

  • Kerri

    Bud rips…you re better off getting a lesson from Bud than a SNITCH, THIEF , LIAR like CHRIS LYNCH anyday….sorry Rich…but you always knew that was true and you still employ him

  • jason collins

    There are kooks running surf schools and teaching people. My definition of a kook is not about skill, it’s about ignorance and lack of knowledge in and out of the water. Some of these teachers have zero to little knowledge of the ocean, tides, currents or etiquette. Some are hired at 20 bucks an hour by the owners.

    Blah Blah Blah…………

    Hey I’m a kook sometimes too, the difference is most kooks never realize or acknowledge that they are koooooks……..

    I would be bummed if I paid for a golf lesson and the guy had little idea how to actually play golf.

    I would suggest Bud or Richard Schmidt for a lesson over any other “school” here in SC.

    Oh and Bud is a nice guy who surfs very well.

  • jason collins

    Gorgo who are you?????
    Otto is a legend and I’m sorry you are some web surfing hater. It’s more than likely this is the only time you speak your mind? On a forum with some BS name.

    So just like Ma said if you don’t have anything nice to say Shut Up!

    You are supporting corporate brands by frequenting and commenting on these sites. Don’t be such a dumb hypocrite. The “Brands” you are talking about help fund these magazines and websites……

  • joe dumas

    I don’t mind guys like this surfing, but when it comes to trying to change their past….well, you can’t. Surfer magazine piece-meals this story in a certain light. I guess if you are ignorant and have been living under a rock; you would be inclined to believe this is a story of Stella getting her groove back. Please.

  • romedog

    I grew this kid up and he is doing amazing things. hes mellow, respectful and even did real well in the Coldwater trials this year. Love that guy

  • niccolo

    whattttttt. that was some seriously solid surfing. makes me really want a board with a nice long rail line. congrats on finding your path.

  • Gorgo

    Jason rat-BOY Collins:

    The name is Gorgaliskos Andures born in Istanbul, Turkey, and raised in Brooklyn, New York.

    It’s called freedom of speech, and its one of our country’s fundamental rights. I don’t have to always comment in a “politically correct” manner, I’ll express my opinion as I see things, I don’t agree w/ your perspective and by the looks of it never will you wanna-be moralist/moderator.

    Didn’t Ma teach you not to speculate and pass judgment ?

    Bull shit name?Righhht, when did jason collins become the standard for names?

    Obviously you need to keep sucking on that corporate tit, youre interests/survival/lifestyle depends on it. Just don’t impose your criteria on others. Sorry to hurt your feelings rats, but comparing frequenting a surf site to SUCKING Corp. Jizz like you and other “pros” do while claiming “suit & ties” aren’t for you, is fucking stupid and hence cannot be compared.

  • Jeff

    Very good style surfing and timing. As far as surf schools welcome to the business world. There will always be competition or new competitors looking to steal your business.