TEACHER FEATURE: Math teacher Katie Williams


Alexandria Poh

Surfing is a hobby that math teacher Katie Williams has taken up for two and a half years. Although the school year has started, Williams makes her best effort to surf in Santa Cruz at least three times a week, as it gives her a sense of balance that she believes is essential in life. Photo used with permission of Katie Williams.


Tell us about how you got started with surfing!
I learned when I was in college. I had this boyfriend and he thought he would take me out surfing, [but] it’s really frustrating to try to learn from your boyfriend, so I didn’t get involved with it. Then a few years ago… I was looking to move up here to get a new job and I decided I wanted to pick up a new hobby, because I wanted to create something that was really mine and really had a lot of independence, allowed me to travel. And I figured I would start surfing again.

How did you get started again?
So I went to Nicaragua for a week and I learned to surf with this all-womens’ surf camp, and it was the most eye-opening, life-changing experience. Not just surfing, but realizing I could travel, and travel the world, and surf. And I spent that whole next summer traveling through Costa Rica with a girlfriend and we just rented a car and brought our surfboards, and drove up and down the hills of Costa Rica. And it was awesome. I hadn’t looked at travel like that, haven’t looked at that possibility of being able to follow a wave. It was very much like an endless summer, if you’ve heard of people saying that. It’s very cool.

Have you had any injuries?
I got thrown against the cliffs a few times, but nothing too harsh… One time in El Salvador — this is funny — I went out and paddled out and the waves are just mushing over me, and I go to dock out the wave and I haven’t put enough wax on my board, and it slipped out of my hands and popped up. The waves pushed it back into my head and it marked my head and my head started gushing blood, and this Brazilian surfer guy paddles over and is like, “You’re bleeding!” and I’m like “I know!” and there’s blood everywhere, and I’m freaking out, and he’s like “You’re okay, you’re ok,” and I had to go sit at the emergency room and I’m just gushing blood. And that was interesting, because the hospitals in El Salvador are nothing like the ones here.

How often do you surf?
If I could surf every single day, I would [do it]. I would say once school starts it’s hard; I commute so I drive over the hill, and depending on that drive it can take a long time. And it’s hard because I get home and I still have to work, and if I surf I might be staying up later to do work. But I would say, on average, three to four times a week. Over the weekend, both days. [I go to] Santa Cruz.

Where do you hope to be with your surfing in ten years?
I just want it to be something that really centers me and helps me balance my life. I certainly would like to be able to get a tube wave; that’s something I’ve been working and trying for. I get in the tube and then the wave just eats me up and swallows me whole. But that’s my number one goal right now, regarding my surfing. And to catch as many waves as I can.

How has surfing changed you?
Surfing for two and a half years, I think it mellowed me out. My students probably wouldn’t know the difference, but I think it mellowed me out a lot. One of the things surfing has taught me is that I don’t have control over everything. Sometimes you just paddle out, and the ocean stops and you can’t do anything about it.

What does it take to be a good surfer?
I think like any successful person, there has to be dedication, commitment, drive, and there has to be passion. I don’t think anybody becomes great at what they do without being passionate for it. And so I think that that passion has to be a motivator in whatever you do.

Where do you want to go next?
Morocco! Japan! I want to go to China. It’s not just the waves, but there’s also so much culture. I mean, I surf here but I know the culture already. Oh, and I also want to go to Peru!