Logan Hofstetter, 11, of Largo warms up for a Gnarly Charley Grom Surf Series competition in Melbourne Beach July 12. This year, Logan qualified for the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championship, held in Huntington Beach, California, June 26 to July 3.
LARGO – Logan Hofstetter, 11, like any competitive surfer, pays close attention to weather patterns, winds and storms. Catching waves big enough for him to surf can be a bit of a challenge – based, as he is from Largo, closest to the often-lackluster Gulf waves.
But it’s nothing Logan’s focused self-motivation can’t handle. He and his father, Mike Hofstetter, travel to prime surfing spots on both Florida’s west and east coasts to catch the best waves. They’re usually trekking across the state on the weekends.
“It’s nothing for me to ... get 20 texts: ‘The wind’s blowing.’ ‘When are we going?’ ‘Where are we going?’ ‘The truck’s loaded.’ ‘Let’s go.’ ‘I don’t care about your meeting.’ ‘Let’s move,’ ” Mike explained with a smile. “Things of that nature is what we deal with.”
Mike and his wife, Debbie, are proud of their son and his determination. And they admit that they had a part in his love for the beach.
“We’ve always been water people,” said Debbie. “Logan’s been in the water since he was a baby.”
When he was a toddler, Logan saw kids skimboarding in the light surf of local beaches and decided he wanted to try it, Debbie said. His parents got him a cheap skimboard to start, but Logan was more serious about the venture than they expected
“He’s 2 and a half, dragging it across the beach,” Debbie said. “We realized then: he’s got something special.”
Mike was an avid snow skier, but got into surfing about 20 years ago. As Logan’s coach, he works to instill techniques and discipline in Logan. And for the last 18 months, Logan has been competing.
“It makes me happy, and the water’s my second home,” Logan said. “I like to have contests against my friends and stuff – to prove that I’m better. I just like the rush of trying to beat people.”
This year, he qualified for the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championship, held in Huntington Beach, California, June 26 to July 3. The qualifying competitions began in August, one or two a month. This year, Logan did very well.
“He was ranked second in his region for his age division,” Mike said.
The East Coast Regional Championship was held April 7 in one of Logan’s frequent surfing spots: New Smyrna Beach. The competition included surfers from Florida and as far north as New Jersey and as far south as Barbados.
“Everybody goes at it. And then you either get your ticket or you don’t,” Mike explained.
Logan qualified for nationals in the open and explorer divisions in his age group. The competitions usually involve 15-minute heats. Each competitor is allowed to surf a maximum of 10 waves. Their score is based on their two best waves in the heat.
“When I paddle out, I try to catch the first wave. And then I try to get two big scores and then go look for bigger waves and bigger scores,” Logan explained.
Surfing is not without peril. New Smyrna Beach in particular is known for its sharks as well as its consistent surf and warm water.
“There were spinner sharks jumping during his heat,” Mike said. “Four kids got bit by sharks that weekend.”
Logan said the sharks used to scare him, “But I’m used to it now.”
He does still get nervous ahead of the competition, worried that he won’t do as well as he hopes.
“The day comes really quick for me. And I just try to calm myself with music and stuff,” he said.
During a competition in May, the nose of his surfboard broke off as it hit the sand on the shore pound on a particularly good wave. Logan had caught one good wave before that, so he still made it to the finals.
During the national competition in California, his challenge was the larger surf: 6- and 7-foot waves, higher than he usually surfs in Florida.
“It’s just harder to go from me knowing how to surf a small wave. And I have to get rid of that and learn how to swim a big wave and use that technique instead,” he said. “I think I did pretty good.”
To train for competitions, Logan practices at local skate parks and trains on equipment in his garage: weights, balance balls and an Indo Board balance trainer. He films himself performing tricks on land and water, to correct his technique.
“A lot of it is going down and making a progressive move in the most critical part of the wave. So in order to do that you need ramps and things to simulate going up and performing a maneuver and landing that maneuver and keeping your speed going so that you can make numerous maneuvers on said wave,” Mike said. “There’s a lot of bumps and bruises that occur.”
Logan currently is training for a qualifier in the Rip Curl GromSearch, held again in New Smyrna Beach.
“Many of those that have won that contest … have gone on to big careers. So it’s a good stepping stone,” Mike said.
Logan’s sister, Lily, five years his senior, also is into a beach sport: beach volleyball. Mike and Debbie are very busy keeping up with both of their children’s competitions.
“We are very blessed: he won the longboard last week and got to the semis in shortboard, and she won her beach volleyball tournament,” Mike said. “We’re just proud of both of our kids. They seem to have found something, and are taking and running with it.”
Logan wants to eventually go pro, and said he thinks he has a good shot. His mother suspects that one day he’ll be drawn not only to visit his uncle in Hawaii, but to live there with him.
“Uncle is waiting for a surfing partner,” Debbie said. “I feel it coming.”
At school, Logan gets consistently high grades. He’s participated in a math competition and won a scholarship for a summer art program at the Dalí Museum this year. At Frontier Elementary School, where he just graduated, he often was nominated for exemplifying the character trait of self-motivation.
“I’ve never seen a child as motivated as that one,” Debbie said. “He doesn’t stop. It actually amazes me what he does. He’s got his mind put to it. Watch out.”