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SURFING : Surfing Mom Mearig Making Comeback

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kim Mearig, 31, once one of the world’s best women surfers, gave up the waves five years ago to become a mother.

But after having Justin, 3, and Kaitlyn, 8 months, she began to miss the salt and sand and decided to make a comeback this week at the Op Pro Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach.

After easily advancing to the second round Monday, Mearig, who lives in Santa Barbara, looks as if she has not missed a beat.

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And if Mearig continues to excel, she could end up facing Lisa Andersen of Ormond Beach, Fla., also a mom who is ranked second in the world.

“It would be so exciting to meet Lisa in the finals,” said Mearig, who is competing in only her second contest since retiring from the pro tour in 1990.

After traveling the world on the surfing tour for 10 years, Mearig decided to quit to have a family. She left the sport while still on top.

And just to prove she hadn’t lost it, she came out of retirement in 1993 to win the Op Pro, the second time she won California’s most prestigious contest.

Now, she is considering coming back on a permanent basis. Mearig has a personal trainer and says she is in better shape than when she was 19.

She also has learned she can balance motherhood and competition as well as she can balance her lithe body on a surfboard.

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“My husband [Brian Gruetzmacher] was completely supportive of my decision,” Mearig said. “He surfs too, so we both have a love for the sport.”

Since she has been away so long, Mearig wasn’t sure who would be the main challengers at this week’s contest.

“Except for Lisa, I really don’t know any of the the other competitors,” Mearig said. “Everyone I used to surf against has since retired.”

Because she is unranked, Mearig was competing in Monday’s trials, which serve as a qualifying event to the main draw.

Andersen, for instance, doesn’t have to surf until Thursday’s quarterfinals.

But in her 20-minute heat, Mearig served notice that she still was capable of challenging for the title. Her best maneuver was a floater, in which judges gave her 7.2 points, the highest score of the first round.

“I think experience definitely gives me an edge,” Mearig said. “I hope I can do OK. But it would be cool if the two moms were in the finals.”

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