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Freshman introduces surf club

By Katie McEvoy
On April 18, 2012

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Moving from Manhattan to Avalon, N.J. posed many problems for nine-year-old Nate Henderson. The most troublesome was how to get his new classmates to like him. 

"I came up with an elaborate lie-I told them I was a surfer," Henderson says. 

Quickly Henderson realized he needed to back up his claim, so he asked his father for a surfboard and started taking surfing lessons. What was once a ruse to impress fellow fourth-graders became an active hobby. 

In high school, Henderson worked at an all-girls surf shop, successfully taught over 60 people to surf and shared his passion with others while volunteering as a counselor at a Young Life summer camp.

When Henderson arrived at the University, he was eager to start a surf club as a way to network surfers on campus and explore student interest. So far, 30 students have joined the Villanova Surf Club. 

Henderson insists the club will grow in the coming months. 

"Everyone envies surfers-everyone wants to share the joy surfers experience on the water," he says.  "Our goal is to have 100 members. Anyone is welcome. We want to create new surfers, we want to make surfing a sub-culture on campus." Henderson claims surfing is not a sport, but a lifestyle. He smiles as he explains "stoke," or the high of surfing. 

"It's a sensation that cannot be described using a word," he says. 

Unlike some other athletic clubs, the Villanova Surf Club will combine sport and service.

"Surfing is a unique medium for service," Henderson says. In his opinion, the community dynamic of surfing culture makes it a suitable fit for a service project. The University's service projects align with the friendship and acceptance of surfing culture, too. 

"Surfing can be a community of one or of 100 when you're out on the water," Henderson says. 

Henderson waxes philosophical when he describes surfing as an outlet "to share the good."

Henderson has a deeply spiritual connection to surfing, which is part of why he hopes the club gains momentum and is able to take a "surf and serve" -type trip.

"I initiate conversations on the water," he says. "A lot of times it comes back to God. There is no need to look at someone as bad. It's similar to God in that people don't judge you. There's no need to set goals [in surfing]. You just do things."

Henderson met the club's adviser, Michael Russell, a couple years ago when the two were surfing on the same strip of beach in Avalon. 

Unknowingly, they were reunited through a mutual friend at the University in the fall who recommended Henderson get in touch with Russell, an avid surfer, about starting the club. 

Russell and Henderson quickly realized they had already met before. Together, they worked out some preliminary plans for the Villanova Surf Club and discussed their goals-including the service trip.

Despite surfing for nine years, Henderson has never experienced surfing in the Pacific. Henderson anticipates his first major surfing trip will happen with the Villanova Surf Club.

"I would love to visit California, Puerto Rico or Latin America," he says.

Henderson hopes to incorporate his passion into his job.

"To accommodate my surfing, I have to have time and money," he says. "I am looking to employ people to perform the ideas I come up with while surfing. The only thing you need is an idea and a personality."

In the meantime, however, he bonds with fellow surfing enthusiasts on campus at regular club meetings. 

The Villanova Surf Club's next meeting will be held on April 20 at 3 p.m. in Mendel 258. 


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