SEASIDE - The Beach Boys sang that if you catch a wave, you'll be sitting on top of the world.

That's how April Cockcroft, 11, feels when she catches some waves in Seaside. The Broadway Middle School 6th-grader and 26-year-old Seaside surfer Rachel Schmid recently won awards in the Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic surfing contest in Pacific City.

"You feel really free when you're out there," April said. "Surfing is something you can do whenever you want. I like jumping up like I did something cool."

April won second place in the contest's Minehune - "little people" - division, for children aged seven to 12. Rachel won first place in the women's division, competing against women ages 13 and older.

"There are a lot more women surfing lately," she said. "And they're good."

April said her favorite surfing movie is "Blue Crush," especially because it has girls in it. Her father, Ben Cockcroft, is also a surfer, and taught her the sport when she was five. She's been competing since she was nine, and now, she wants to help teach some of her friends.

"Well, I want to teach them because it's fun and everybody wants to do fun stuff," she said, with a wide grin. "You feel like you've really done something when you catch your first wave."

One of the advantages of surfing is that it is great exercise, Ben Cockcroft said. Though April is also involved in many other activities, this was something that the two could do together.

"Well, I surfed, and since we lived in a beach town, I thought it would be a good sport for her to learn to do," he said. "I don't find too many forms of exercise that are really pleasurable to do."

It's also a way to relieve stress and anxiety. There's nothing like exercising on water, surrounded by fresh sea air and gorgeous landscapes.

"It's an area to focus all my energy on," Rachel said. "It gives me such a release."

But there's no doubt that surfing is a challenging sport.

"I think one of the biggest challenges is being at the right place at the right time and knowing where the surf is," Rachel said. Although she doesn't necessarily agree with this attitude, she said that almost any surfer would be willing to give up a day of work if the waves are good.

Another thing she keeps a sharp eye out for is sharks, although Ben Cockcroft said that attacks are very rare.

"I'm always a little scared of sharks," she said. "They're definitely there."

Surfers constantly have to be aware of their boards. April prefers to use a long board - longer, heavier and wider than its shorter counterpart. It makes it easier to catch a wave.

"If you fall off your board, you have to immediately cover your head," she said. "That's so the board doesn't bang you on the head and knock you out and you drown."

Competing in a surfing contest is interesting, Rachel said. Although it is competition against other surfers, it also is an individual competition between one surfer, her board and the waves.

"When I compete, I want to be friendly with the other surfers, but I have to keep focused," she said. "I try to stay calm and focus on what I'm doing to win."

Both surfers have caught waves in Costa Rica and can't wait to surf a pipe wave in Hawaii. April wants to keep on surfing as a hobby and become a novelist. Rachel works at the Cannon Beach Spa and wants to continue to travel to good surfing spots.

April said that surfing has taught her to think before she does something. She's become more responsible and keeps better track of her belongings. Her father said she's learned much about water safety and still maintains a "normal 11-year-old's fear of the ocean."

"I think 'oh no, here comes a big wave. How am I going to catch it?'," she said. "But then I also think, 'don't be scared of the waves, then you'll get hurt.' Face your fears!"

- Helen Warriner

Tags