60 SECONDS

posted by / Magazine / July 28, 2003

On May 7, 2003 a historic moment occurred in the history of surf competition. Harvard, Princeton and Yale met on the shores of Long Island in the first Ivy League Surf Championships. It was a valiant clash of cardigan sweaters and argyle socks, but when the smugness cleared, our nation’s oldest university, Harvard, emerged victorious. In honor of the momentous occasion, we asked Alex Patterson, the president of Harvard’s Surf Club to educate us further.

How did the whole Ivy League Surfing Championships come about?
I hear that back in the 70s Harvard had a surf club. There was a picture that ran in the paper there was a bunch of guys in wetsuits out in front of the John Harvard statue. But, our club was started about three years ago. And one of my friends at Princeton had started a team so last fall we had a Harvard versus Princeton event – they beat us, actually – and then Yale put something together. In fact, I’d like to thank the guys at Princeton and Yale and all the guys in the club for making it happen. Hopefully when the word gets around people will come out of the woodwork at other Ivy League schools.

Did you guys all get together at a tea social and . . .
Exactly, we were discussing the Federal Reserve rate’s effect on the economy – specifically the surf industry – and someone said, “I say, old chap, are you a surfer . . .?” [laughs]

Do you have practices or meetings or anything?
We used to have a Tuesday night meeting and it ended up being me and like two other guys watching surf videos and drinking beers. So now we just do that outside the confines of a formal meeting.

You realize you just obliterated the stereotypical image of a Harvard student.
I know, I know. I guess I could’ve started a tech company and made a billion dollars before I came here. There’s guys who have some company in California with 50 employees that they manage out of their dorm room. It’s crazy.

Do you have Harvard logos on your boards?
[laughs] I’ve got a sticker. But I don’t know anybody else who does. Harvard’s actually really protective of their logo. We’ve talked to surf shops about sponsorship, but Harvard won’t let its name be used in anyway its not getting money. But we’re working on it.

What’s the usual reaction you get from other students when you say you’re on the team?
They’re like, “We have a surf club?” What about the chicks?
Chicks probably think I’m immature because I have pictures of Tom Carroll on my wall instead of Renoit. Recently I was talking to this chick and she was like, “I was in New York last summer for a concert.” And I was like, “Who’d you see?” And she said, “No, I was playing at {{{Lincoln}}} Center.” [laughs] But I think the surf personality helps just because we’re more laid back than most people here.

If the Harvard motto is “Veritas”, what’s the surf club’s motto?
Damn, we should come up with a motto… I don’t know…”very tasty?”

Does it bother you that there are about {{{100}}} community colleges that could kick your ass?
No, it doesn’t bother me that the 8th grade team at San Clemente can rip the hell out of us. But we’re all about learning. So they want to show us how it’s done, we’re willing. We’re just happy to vanquish Princeton and Yale.

Considering the huge rivalry between Yale and Harvard, are you worried about any retaliation from the commander-in-chief?
Well, he’s a Harvard Business School grad and a Yale grad, but we let the other guys claim him. Then again, how much he learned at either place is up for dispute.

Does this mean one day Harvard will start recruiting other dumb guys for the surf team?
I doubt it’ll happen. In fact, my high school guidance counselor told me not to put any reference at all to surfing I my application, but I did. It’s 2003, you shouldn’t have to stay in the closet about who you are.

So part of the Harvard Surf Club’s goal is to chip away at the dumb surfer stereotype.
I figure all surfers would be able to get into Harvard if they spent less time surfing. I did it because I was landlocked in Brooklyn all winter. If I was in California, there’s no way I would’ve gotten in. I probably would’ve ended up at Princeton. Matt Walker

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