By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer
Oso Stoked Surf Club has become the first surf club at Baylor — a feat that has been two years in the making.
Oso Stoked is the work of Fullerton, Calif., graduate student and club president Stephen Balzora. Fullerton is only minutes away from the beach, making surfing convenient and easy at home for Balzora. He said when he came to Baylor, he searched for a way to stay involved in the sport and to enjoy a slice of home.
“Surfing is one of the things I always missed from back home,” Balzora said. “And when I finally got to do it [in Waco], I was like, ‘This is truly amazing. This is truly unique.’”
Members of Oso Stoked are able to surf in the wave pool at Waco Surf. Although it’s not as authentic a feeling as surfing on real ocean waves, Honolulu junior and club vice president Kiana Walters said it allows for a perfect wave each time, regardless of weather.
“It’s easy for Texas, and [Waco Surf] is the only surf park in Texas,” Walters said. “Surfing in the ocean is always going to be different than surfing an artificial wave, but it’s still really nice and exposes you to your flaws while surfing.”
Walters found out about Waco Surf while in the ocean in Hawaii through another surfer, and she applied to work there when she came to Baylor. She said surfing and being near the ocean are a large part of her identity, having grown up in Hawaii.
“I’ve been surfing seriously for five years, but as a kid, I would go to the ocean all the time and bodyboard because my dad bodyboarded,” Walters said.
Surfing is a social sport, according to Balzora. He said he enjoys the moments out on the ocean or “chilling on the sand” when surfers get to know the people around them.
“You share the stoke together,” Balzora said. “The stoke is like the excitement … That’s how I came up with the name for the club. I wanted people to be excited about it and try something new and do it together.”
Enthusiastic shouts of “yah brah” can be heard whenever someone catches a wave at Waco Surf, making for Kemah sophomore and club secretary Francesca Scotto’s favorite piece of surf slang, along with “hang tens.”
The club, although new, plans to make its mark on campus and in Waco through philanthropy and community service efforts. Balzora said he wants Oso Stoked to have as much of a focus on the community as it does surfing.
“We want to make community service a big part of the club, where we’re going out and engaging with Waco, helping the people that need it and knowing that the thing that brings us together can also help Waco feel like home for our students,” Balzora said. “Surfing itself has its own excitement and draw to it. There’s really no better high than riding a wave and feeling like you’re flying over water.”