A year to remember

The 2010-11 school year has been nothing short of an amazing ride for Taylor Pitz.

That's how the Laguna Beach student-athlete describes the past seven months, months that have seen the 18-year-old strive for new goals and see them come to fruition.

"A lot has happened but it's been so amazing," she said.

Pitz could have entered her senior year on cruise control, having already achieved plenty. But to do so wouldn't have been her style. Instead, she challenged herself in different facets of her life, from the classroom, to college admissions, to the ocean. Along the way, she seemed to beautifully blend her studies with sports. At times she has found the challenges difficult, but in the end they were oh-so rewarding.

Her mantra was to just go for it.

In the span of a single weekend last month, Pitz learned that she had been accepted to UCLA, then two days later, she captured her second straight High School Varsity Women's title at the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. State Championships at the Huntington Beach Pier. Pitz dominated the division, scoring 12.67 to finish well ahead of second-place Kulia Doherty of San Clemente, who scored 8.37.

To defend her state title was one of her main goals this year.

"I'm so happy to have won state again, it was something I really, really wanted to do," Pitz said. "I'm a senior and this is my last year competing, so I really was focused on repeating. "I knew the girls in the competition would be tough and I thought if I got the right waves, I could do well. I picked out and sat in a great spot, and once the heat started, I got into a rhythm. Everything just seemed to open up for me and I was in the right place to get the waves I wanted.

"That was the most fun I've had in a heat in a long time. It felt great to win so definitively. And what an amazing weekend it was. To find out on that Friday that I had been accepted to UCLA and on Sunday, win another state championship, well, it couldn't have gotten any better. It was unbelievable."

Pitz seemingly has been in a rhythm during her high school years and has done the hard work to put herself, as she put it, in a "great spot."

As a competing member of the NSSA since age 7, Pitz this year is the Open Women's division ratings leader and has four victories to her credit during the current NSSA Southwest Open Conference Season. With one open event remaining, April 23 and 24 at Oceanside, she's in line to win her first Southwest Open Season title, one year after finishing six in the Open Women's ratings.

She also will compete in May at the West Coast Championships in Huntington Beach and in June at the NSSA National Championships.

Pitz, who was featured as the NSSA Surfer of the Month in the December 2010 issue of Surfing Magazine, is the embodiment of what the NSSA stands for, says executive director Janice Aragon.

"Clearly what Taylor has accomplished both in the water and the classroom is an amazing display of commitment and excellence," Aragon said. "She is a terrific role model for young surfers and I hope her dedication to surfing and school can inspire and show kids that they too can be surfing standouts and champions, while also pursuing a higher education."

Before being accepted to UCLA, Pitz was accepted late last year to Stanford. She said she also has been accepted to USC, UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego. She said she will make her decision before May 1 and that she will decide between UCLA and Stanford. When she filled out college applications, she said she had a 4.5 grade-point average.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to a four-year school, a two-year or compete on tour," Pitz said. "I pushed myself to apply to really tough schools to see what could happen. When I heard from Stanford, I was so surprised. I read that e-mail about 12 or 15 times, just to make sure what I read was for real. It was so amazing.

"I visited Stanford and liked the campus, but Northern California is a lot different than Southern California. When I visited UCLA, I fell in love with the place."

Pitz has been a four-year member of the Laguna Beach High surf team and is a three-time league champion. She's also a four-year member of the Billabong girls' team and a three-year member of the USA Surf Team and has competed with the team at the International Surfing Assn. (ISA) World Jr. Surfing Championship in Ecuador and New Zealand. She had an 11th-place individual finish in New Zealand.

She said she learned to surf at the Laguna Presbyterian Club H2O Bible/Surf Camp.

"I always had a lot of fun there," she said. "I've worked there since as a camp counselor and it's always cool to go back there to teach the kids and show them how fun surfing can be."

During her junior year, she started the Laguna Beach High School Surfrider Club through the Surfrider Foundation. The goal, she said, was to make people aware of issues that effect the ocean and beaches.

"I started it last year, but officially got it rolling this year," she said. "It's been baby steps and this is something really important to me. We need to take care of our beaches and ocean and we can do that through community projects and community service. I want to get this off the ground before I leave school."

Pitz has just a little more than two months left before she leaves Laguna Beach High. Her NSSA high school career also is nearing its end, as well. She said there's still several goals to work toward.

"I want to do really well at the West Coast Championships and the (NSSA) Nationals," she said. "I've been involved with the NSSA for such a long time and it would be amazing to go out with a national title."

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