By Charles Hoffmann |
Hat…check. Gloves…check. Scarves…check. Wetsuit? Check!
It’s bitter cold on the beach and the wind is howling. The flags are whipping loudly. Deal beach is nearly empty, with the precious few people around bundled up and layered from head to toe. A reasonable person would long for a warm coffee and an electric blanket today, however local surfers Zach Yates of Little Silver and Frank Massa of Shrewsbury are right at home despite the Arctic-like conditions.
Changing their hats and gloves for a wetsuit and boots is natural for them as they prepare to “paddle out” for their afterschool surf session. As for their ritual, Massa said, “It’s hard to put into words why we like it so much, but we just do.”
The two Red Bank Regional seniors are not easily affected by Mother Nature and her cold, vicious wrath. It may seem like a bizarre activity, surfing through the brutal Jersey winters, but committed wave riders won’t be hanging up their wetsuits anytime soon. This pair of adrenaline junkies are committed to surfing 12 months of the year, regardless of the temperature.
As Massa and Yates talked about their passion for surfing in the warmth of a nearby pizzeria, their faces illuminated the dreary November day. “We love to get away from the ‘everyday,’ ” Yates explained. “When we are out there, it’s like nothing else is going on in the world.” Remarkably, the intimidating weather hardly fazes the duo. “Even on an ice-cold day with snow on the ground, I just can’t say ‘no,’ ” said Yates with conviction.
“Paddling out can be pretty hard with a thick, heavy wetsuit in the winter, but it’s definitely worth it,” agreed Massa.
While teens are often criticized for their time spent in front of the TV and on the computer, surfing steers far from that stereotype. It is a healthy, exhaustive activity that requires every muscle in the body to perform. Plus, it’s not only fun, it is essentially free – not including some surf wax and the post-surf session burrito. The enjoyment is obvious as the hollers and congratulatory yells can easily be heard beachside.
It is certainly moving to see their youthful, carefree mentality. The sport has been overwhelmingly impactful to these two youngsters over the years. Both credit their supportive parents, who have been taking them to the beach year-round since they were kids. Mazza’s father would often photograph the beach scenes while Yates’ father would be happy to join him in the water.
Surfing is clearly shaping their future paths as well; both are heading to college next fall and neither will end up far from the beach. They are each looking at schools in California and Florida.
This article was first published in the Dec. 7-14, 2017 print edition of the Two River Times.
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