Surfers of UC San Diego: Sander Nauenberg ‘00

Headshot of a man standing in front of grass.
Sander Nauenberg ‘00

Sander Nauenberg ‘00

  • College: Muir
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering
  • Hometown: Santa Cruz
  • Currently lives: Santa Cruz
  • Career : Digital Marketing Manager – Galleher Corporation

What inspired you to join the team?

When I was applying to colleges, I had a pretty narrow scope of places I was willing to go because I wanted to be on the coast. That narrows your choices down dramatically. That’s also probably a familiar refrain from just about all the folks who were dedicated to surfing at UCSD. The surf team was tied directly to our decision for those of us who conned our parents into allowing us to go to a school where we could still surf. We also all had lofty goals of joining the surf team. Every kid leaving high school who surfed decently thought they were going to just jump on the surf team. Many of us came to a hard realization that we weren’t good enough when we first got to school. 

When did you first learn to surf?

I was probably about 10 years old in Santa Cruz. I was infatuated with surfing from a very young age, and in hindsight, surfing has actually tied into every professional direction I’ve ever made. I don’t work in the surf industry anymore, but I have many jobs that are related back to some relationship I had with somebody through surfing.

Where did your career lead after you graduated? 

I worked for a bioengineering startup in San Diego and got the job through a friend that I surfed with. The startup didn’t workout, so I traveled for a while, came back and got a job in engineering again. I went to UCI Paul Merage School of Business for marketing— it had to be by the coast. Since I switched trajectories from engineering to marketing then actually worked in the surf industry for about six or seven years on the apparel side and then at a surfboard company.

I did a little bit of contract consulting work for some other companies, but I wanted to move back to Santa Cruz. I worked for a company called Surf Deck for a number of years, which was the largest surfboard manufacturer.

What is your experience surfing at Black’s Beach?

The idea of being able to go to a school where you were within walking distance to arguably the most iconic waves in Southern California was mind boggling. At that time, there were a lot of local homes that were available to students, and we all lived in the neighborhood across the street.

Do you have a favorite memory?

The greatest memory about that whole experience was just walking down from class and going surfing on a daily basis. It’s not until afterwards that you realize how unique that is, that the ability to do that in such simplicity. I still live in a place where I have relatively close access to the ocean to go surfing. And I’ve been able to maintain a lot of that, but I’ve talked to so many other folks who were just very similar to me in terms of what they wanted to do. Now, It’s so much harder. The minute you have a job and a family, and you add in a commute, the regularity of doing something like going surfing just disappears. So that’s the memory that sticks out the most. It’s the end-all goal for people who love the ocean. 

What did you learn from your time on the team?

It gave me focus. Being the team captain, I was asked to start interacting with brands and to talk with the folks in the industry. The action sports industry is very tight knit and isn’t at all friendly to outsiders. So any little inroad you have that’s justified is very helpful in terms of giving you a foot in the door which came into play later on. It played into the jobs I originally got in the surf industry where my education and experience were probably second to the fact that I was on the surf team. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s the reality. 

How was your overall experience at UCSD and how did being on the surf team compliment it?

Being in engineering was a very time consuming degree to go after. I didn’t share a lot of outside interests with many folks within the community. The surf team and surf club were my structures outside of my major. Beyond studying, the majority of my experience at UCSD was related to surfing and surf culture. Without that, I would have struggled to maintain any level of commitment. It really was my outlet. If I had been studying engineering and gave up on surfing, I wouldn’t have stuck with it because I needed another source of community. Surfing was an essential component to my experience at UCSD.


Read more Q&A’s with UC San Diego surfers here.

And reach out to us with your answers to have your own! –

And read and submit your surf memories on this group Google Doc!