The Reluctant Champ


Most people who are at the top of their profession are known for having similar attributes. They study their craft. They put in extra, extra, extra effort and they eat, sleep, and drink dreaming of being the top. Then there was me…The Reluctant Champ.


Very humble beginnings. Jerry Lendon and myself.

As a kid, I was focused on being great at surfing. But in the down time, I often skateboarded and fished around my home beaches. Then came a Christmas gift. A Morey Boogieboard. My buddy Jerry got one too. So I would surf and then come in for an hour and return with the bodyboard and goof off doing 360s and pulling into utter closeouts. It was pretty fun!

Years later, my amateur career was in full swing. My contest buddies and I were keen to win a trophy in surfing but there was a lot of downtime between heats. So we eyed the smorgasboard of other side events that were running; kneeboarding, longboarding, and even bodyboarding.


I hate to rat anyone out but yes, several of us entered the bodyboard events. One being a very famous world professional surfing champion with a bald head. So there we were, slapping on jersey and trying to get another trophy.


At first it was fun and games and we all experienced some mild successes. But as time went on, I kept getting better and better results and my ranking increased. Somewhere at this point, the fun and games ended for Kelly and David and they returned their focus back to the surfing events but for me, it just kept snowballing.

Then I found myself entering stand alone Bodyboard events and I was picking up trophies there as well.


Oddly, the more I improved; the more I felt that this was distracting me from my stand up surfing goals. I also was not willing to seriously commit to bodyboarding more than a few hours every week. If that.

Big Time!

One afternoon, I stumbled down to the mailbox and inside there was a letter. It was from Morey Boogie. When I opened it, it was an entry form and an invitation. An invitation to the Pipeline Masters! This was something that made me feel odd. The reality was that I felt that I did not belong and there was someone who really wanted that spot and worked hard that I beat out. So I gave my spot to the next person in line.

By this time, I had also picked up a sponsor and they were trying to work out a plan to get me into their management team. Their plans made me queasy. They kept mentioning eventually sending me to their main factory where they also made toys along with the bodyboards. Oh yeah…the factory was far from the ocean.

Jumping the tracks

After another year, I had once again turned down a spot in the Pipeline Masters. Then came The Southeast Regional Championships held by The Eastern Surfing Association. Once again, I did double duties and after a 7th place in Mens Surfing, I took to the finals in bodyboarding. I knew the spot being a local and found myself throwing barrel rolls and 360s on some of the best sets. When it was all said and done, I came in second and was now one of the top rated bodyboarders in North America.

Then came my odd set back and my big surfing swan song. It all came about due to one very infamous trip to California which resulted in me not getting my entry into the championships in on time. After that, it only made sense for me to then I turn pro to surf in the Qualifying Series.

With that came my mic drop.

I removed my fins and never entered another bodyboarding event again.



About 1stpeaksteve

Welcome to The Side Wedge! The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, a writer, surf coach, and hospitality manager. This is a collection of travel tips, motivation, and stories from my past. Finally, I offer surf coaching through The Side Wedge. Please feel free to contact me with questions if you want to improve your performance today! Thanks for reading!
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