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Waves bring opportunity for UNCW surfer

McLeod Brown | Sports Editor

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For Romy Sidelsky, surfing has always been an important part of her life.

“I started surfing when I was nine or ten,” said Sidelsky. “I grew up in Florida and traveled a lot. My family is from South Africa, so I’ve been traveling the world since I was pretty young. All the boys were surfing and I wanted to be like them. I grew up with a bunch of close guy friends and it was the one thing that I never really got to do with them, so I started surfing.”

What makes surfing that much more personal to her, though, is what the sport offered not just her, but her father as well.

“My dad had a really stressful job and he moved to Florida to rid himself of the high stress and start over,” said Sidelsky. “Surfing was a common ground between us. I started first and got him into it as a sort of stress reliever, and now he does it every day. He calls me every day and tells me, ‘Did you see the surf in Jacksonville this morning?’ He’s super into it.”

Now, the thing she loves to do most is helping her out in another way, by helping to pay for her schooling. The Atlantic Beach, Florida native is the recipient of the 2012-2013 UNCW Surf Team Scholarship, something she does not take lightly.

“It’s great,” said the senior. “I’m an out-of-state student and I worked real hard to try to graduate early, because it’s just an absurd amount of money to get. Any little bit helps. I was working two jobs at one point. It’s nice to have a little bit of support.”

Sidelsky has been a member of the surf team at UNCW since her freshman year. The marine bio major has also been a key member of the women’s club lacrosse team. Both sports were main reasons she chose to attend UNCW.

“I played lacrosse in high school, and I was recruited by a couple schools up north,” said Sidelsky. “But I’m really close to my family, and I love the warm weather. I kind of wanted to stay on the coast. I was in the middle of figuring out what school I wanted to go to, and my mom was online and found UNCW. I actually applied before I even saw the school. They had a surf team and a lacrosse team so pretty much everything wrapped in one.”

While both sports made Wilmington that much more of an attractive place to call home during her collegiate years, Sidelsky participates in each for very different reasons.

“I like the competitive aspect of lacrosse and hate the competitive aspect of surfing,” she said. “I think having a team behind me is the difference. In surfing there’s a lot of pressure on you. You surf to rid yourself of stress. When you’re competing it’s more stressful and makes something that should be enjoyable not enjoyable if you do poorly.”

Sidelsky was unable to surf with the team this past year as she is recovering from a torn labrum she suffered playing lacrosse. That did not stop the surf team from enjoying more success, however, as they were able to capture their fourth consecutive East Coast title.

They then moved on to nationals in Dana Point, California, where they placed third in the nation and were the highest placed team on the East Coast.

“We have a solid team,” said Sidelsky of the squad. “Everyone thinks the West Coast generates good surfers, but don’t underestimate the East Coast. The East Coast can create a more challenging wave and it’s a different kind of feel.”

Sidelsky has been an avid surfer all her life, traveling all around the world to some of the biggest surf spots, including Bali, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Barbados, and Mexico.

None of her individual travels compared to her experience in competition with the school’s surf team, however.

“When we went to California for nationals my freshman year, it was just unreal,” said Sidelsky. “I’ve traveled a lot as an individual surfer but I’ve never done it as a team. It opened my eyes to a whole different aspect. The help and donations and everything from the community-everyone wanted to see us do well. Everyone wanted to see us win. Everyone was very gracious with their money, time and efforts. It was cool to see, and being a part of that helped shape Wilmington for me. I didn’t know a single person when I moved here. The trip automatically made me a part of the team.”

When asked why surfing has been such a key part of her life, Sidelsky revealed that there was much more to the sport for her than just catching waves.

“I think just the connection to the ocean is my favorite part of surfing,” she said. “It’s such a miraculous place that a lot of people take advantage of. Beauty is in 70% of the world. When you surf, you feel so small in such a big place. On land, humans think we’re the apex predators and we’re the top of the line on everything, but you go in the ocean and you’re the smallest thing out there. It really puts things into perspective.”

As she is on the path to graduate this winter, Sidelsky looks back on her time at UNCW as some of the best years of her life.

“I think I’ve met a lot of people that I’ll stay in contact with for the rest of my life,” she said. “Wilmington is a great place. It’s a place I’ll always call home. I never thought I’d live in North Carolina growing up, and Wilmington has become home for me.

“I want to give a big thanks to everyone that played a role in the scholarship and the support from everyone.”

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Waves bring opportunity for UNCW surfer