the dawn patrol

Words: Eric Ducker

Photography: Alex Tehrani

Most weekday mornings of the school year you'll find the members of Huntington Beach High School's surf team at lifeguard tower number one on the south side of the pier. Practice starts at first light, usually around 6am, when the kids roll up to the beach on their bikes in their wetsuits, carrying boards. Some get dropped off by carpooling parents, others walk from their homes. Everyone has to get in the water for at least an hour, but most stay in as long as possible, then rush to school to get to class before the bell rings.

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Some of the Huntington Beach riders are also part of respected surfing legacies: four-time surfing world champion Lisa Andersen's kid is on the present team, as is the daughter of Robert August, costar of the essential 1966 surf documentary Endless Summer. August comes to the beach most mornings to watch the team practice. "Can you imagine?" says coach Andy Verdone. "That's like going to your little league game and Willie Mays is there."

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Huntington Beach calls itself Surf City, USA, and even got in a legal dispute with the city of Santa Cruz, California, when Huntington trademarked the title in 2004. Huntington Surf & Sport, located right on the pier, is one of the biggest surf shops in the country. Quicksilver, the major surf apparel company, is based here too. Both institutions have become key supporters of the high school surfers, helping cover the cost of team trips to places like South Africa, Australia, and Costa Rica. Pictured: Davis Freud.

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The Huntington Beach team was started back in 1967, by social studies teacher Bill Garland and student John Davis, and is recognized as the first organized high school surfing team in the country. Now there are surfing teams all the way up California's coast and throughout the country that compete for league, state, and national titles. Huntington's squad has dominated its league for four decades.

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There are over 100 members of Huntington Beach High School's squad, including more than 20 girls. Everyone who wants to join, can—no one gets cut. When it's time for competition, Coach Verdone decides who will participate in the heats. Pictured: Matt Warren and Max Seiersen.

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