Q&A With Surfing National Champion, UCF Captain
With the East Coast Championships about to get underway, it was an excellent time to chat with University of Central Florida team captain Amy Nicholl. The 21-year-old from New Smyrna Beach, Florida is a National Champion and has won multiple East Coast Regional and Conference titles in both individual and college divisions. Amy recently added another accolade to her impressive list of achievements by being named NSSA Captain of the Year for the 2010-11 season.
Selected because of her outstanding active leadership and service to the UCF team plus exceptional competitive accomplishments, Amy has made a big positive impact on both college surfing and women’s surfing in America. She will be officially recognized with this honor at the 2011 National College Championships at Salt Creek June 16-18.
Janice Aragon: Give me a little bit about your surfing background and when you started competing.
Amy Nicholl: I learned to surf when I was 9 at a summer time surf camp near my home. I entered my first NSSA at 11 and surfed menehuene against the boys and in the Open Womens division. It took another two years before I wanted to do the entire season in the Southeast/North conference. Back then, I was always by far the youngest and littlest girl doing those contests.
What’s the best thing about living and surfing in Florida?
I love to surf the summer season in Florida, I don’t really care if it is mostly knee high because I think the sand bars are better then and the A-frames still have perfect form. Some days you wake up to really fun chest high lines when it was forecasted to be flat everywhere else, and that’s pretty normal. After moving from Pennsylvania when I was young, I am obsessed with the hot weather we have here. Besides that, I enjoy driving on the beach and the laid-back lifestyle. I live in a charming area between the ocean and the river and it feels like I’m in the countryside.
What made you choose going to college at UCF?
There were so many factors that went into my decision to attend UCF. In the end, I only sent out one college application total and it was to UCF. I initially visited several good universities in California the summer before I graduated, because I really wanted to be in Cali where it is fun and there is better surf. Yet, I stayed in Florida because the out of state tuition was too high and I could choose any 4-year university in Florida for essentially free on a scholarship. I really liked the modern campus and large size of the school. Honestly there were only two reasons why I chose UCF over other Florida schools. First, it is only 1 hour from my home in New Smyrna and the best waves on our coast. Lastly, I knew that the UCF Surf Team was prestigious; the most organized, and most supported college surfing team in the East. I spoke with lots of the college kids at the local NSSA contests and decidedly UCF was the best. Orlando is a very fun city, with all the theme parks and exciting dining. I get to attend the Orlando Magic games too!
What are you studying and when will you be graduating?
I am a Marketing major with a Sports Business Management Minor and International Business Minor. I will be graduating fall 2013.
How long have you been captain of the UCF team?
I was chosen as a sophomore and it has been two good years. My first time around I was co-captain so I could learn the ins and outs of my position and understand UCF’s sports club council.
How were you selected?
Todd, our captain asked me to take over the team right after the East Coast Regionals my freshmen year and I officially began in the following fall semester. I had won the College Women’s division and UCF won the conference that 08-09 season.
Tell me a little bit about your role as the UCF surf team captain.
First off, I have 100% say at team try-outs who makes the team. From there I must coordinate our A, B, and C teams to be present at all our contests. I send out emails, text messages, update our facebook page about anything team related. I am the main correspondent between our team and our main sponsor Ron Jons Surf Shop. I take care of paying for all our events we do, and finding new contests to participate in. I like to give out some advice to our riders before their heats. Also as an officer, I have to attend SCC meetings on campus and I help with other daily functions of our team and club.
I’m sure taking on the duties of captain has been demanding. What inspired you to take on the job?
I initially did not want to be captain because it is time consuming. I had seen the amount of work the officers of the club actually do, and it is non-stop. The night before a contest I get text messages from 2pm and all through the night! We have 27 team riders and more as alternates. I took the job, because I knew that I would be the best at it, and as a member of the team I wanted to see it succeed and improve.
What are your expectations for the UCF team at this year’s Regional and National Championship?
I want our A team to be in the top 3 at Regionals. Ideally I hope we win, but that is not something I can claim right now. We will have to arise to the challenge when it comes around. When it comes to Nationals, I simply want to take the best kids we got that are quality surfers and people. It’s a major team effort, since everyone has to contribute in team points. Personally, I am here this year to win it all. Last year, I was in a different mindset, and more complacent.
After numerous years of competing at the Nationals, you claimed your first career National title in 2009 winning the College Womens. Describe the final and the feeling of finally getting a National Championship title under your belt.
Of course, I wish the victories had come sooner, but I learned so much more every year and I have become a more complete surfer. I have some trouble adjusting to waves other than home, but I do love the Creek. Before my final, I knew I was going to win, that was something I was very sure of. I had my best friend with me, and my team was there by my side cheering. I had one good wave to start it off and then a lull. Those lulls are dangerous for me, and I get stuck in them all the time. I was looking for a certain kind of wave, the type I know I can ace. It came my way in the last minute, and I was tingling with excitement and adrenaline. With all those happy nerves I scooped a right into the rocks and got a solid score. It was a happy moment, one of my best in surfing.
The NSSA National College Surfing Championships will for the first time air as part of CBS Sports Network’s “Alt Games: College Action Sports Championships”. What are your thoughts on college surfing taking this giant step forward for the sport of surfing in general with CBS Sports worldwide television coverage of the Nationals?
I am not surprised to hear this, college surfing has been untapped for too long. I know it is not NCAA but with the measures that teams are taking more recently it certainly has stepped up the program for all college surf teams. There is rivalry, individual and team motivations, coaches, nature’s variables, and some fun loving youth. TV, really? No kidding. I am glad to hear it will be portrayed through CBS Sports; it will undoubtedly be very real and shown in a respective manner.
UCF’s surf team has a rich history of successful competitive results and always has a big turnout of surfers. There seems to be a good amount of support from both the school and sponsors. What do you attribute that to?
Our club is over 30 years old. We are a tier 2 club which allows us to get a good amount of funding from the SCC (sports club council) which we earn from participating on our campus, fundraising, and filling out paperwork on time. Our members are active and our officers are always looking for opportunities. UCF and Sports Club Council really recognize and support the Surf Club, if it wasn’t for SCC and Ron Jon, we may not be fortunate enough to enter and all these contests and fly out to Nationals. We are the “sports club of the month” for March.
Other surf team programs have gained strength over the years and it has been awhile since the UCF team has won a Regional Championship. How badly does the team want to get back on the podium?
I and the other officers want to put UCF back on top. The team is also fairly motivated to do well. We recently loss some very patriotic seniors, and have many new freshmen, we just have to rebuild our program and get involvement so we can do better as a team. And yes, other teams are great now and they are young teams. Our advantage is our experience in management and commitment we invoke in our riders from providing them a great time at UCF. There are some really great surfers that take UCF classes, I believe we have strong talent, but many of the best are commuter students and do not join the team. Since UCF is so large, 56,000 students, it is hard to convince everyone to take the time to be a part of something when they are more often on a satellite campus, working jobs, and in relationships. We only take those to Nationals who are participative and there for the right reasons. Our members will be trying to do their best so we get a team win.
UCF is located in the heart of Orlando which is over an hour from the beach. This must be challenging for team practices and trials. How much of a disadvantage is this compared to other schools that are closer to the coast?
It takes a little over an hour to reach the beach, and the majority of riders, including me, live in Orlando near campus. It is a big disadvantage. On days where it may not be great, but rideable I often opt out of surfing that day. Mostly because the cost of gas, and it’s a two hour round trip. Whereas, if our school were situated closer I would just go for the heck of it. Most times I can’t go to the beach due to the scheduling of my classes. I try to go home and surf for a 3-day weekend whenever possible. I have been getting accustomed to spending more weekends in Orlando though because of a heavier workload and group projects. I plan the best vacations every time there is an official holiday, so that helps.
What surf spot is UCF’s home court?
We split our time between New Smyrna and Cocoa Beach. All our contests are at Bethune in New Smyrna Beach, and most days there will be some UCF’ers out at the inlet practicing. We do monthly beach clean ups in Cocoa, and we do a surf practice afterwards. We put on some fundraising contests in Cocoa as well.
What activities does the team participate in?
We rent out Typhoon Lagoon and surf the wavepool; OWC which is a wakeboarding cable park; Flowrider; skateboard nights; camping; surf movie premiere nights; bowling; team house parties; bar/music parties for fundraising; lots of theme parties; Relay For Life; Surfrider Foundation; Surf Expo; NSSA. We make creative formats and throw our own surf contests. These are all annual events. This year we did a team surf trip to Puerto Rico.
You’ve been competing in the NSSA for many years in individual divisions and then in college. What have been your most memorable experiences surfing in the NSSA program?
Winning and losing under the sun and in the rain, with friends that I will never forget. NSSA gave me a platform to be the best on the east and a real contender in women’s surfing of America. My proudest moments were not wins, but of facing fears and challenges to be both a better athlete and person. I used to be far more competitive, but I more or less grew out of that and I am just happy that the NSSA got me surfing more hours than I ever had planned.
Anything you would like to add?
I want to thank my parents for all they do, love you mom and dad. Thanks to my sister, my biggest fan. Team officers: Josh Baer, Travis Eubanks, Laurent, Todd Rhoten. Also UCF, SCC, and RON JONS SURF SHOP for sponsoring me as an individual and the surf team. Sponsors: X-trak and Erie Surfboards. Linda Johnston and Missy Schweizer who are brilliant as conference directors and Janice for opening doors for collegiate surfers nationwide.
And finally, your thoughts on being selected NSSA Captain of the Year.
The captain knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way it is done! We’ll be winning.
Source: Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 5 April, 2011, Q&A with University of Central Florida team captain Amy Nicholl, UCF’s Amy Nicholl named NSSA ‘Captain of the Year’, www.nssa.org