Surfers of UC San Diego: Teresa Young ’74 & Sean Celona ’14

Teresa Young ’74
▪ College: Revelle
▪ Major: Chemistry
▪ Hometown: Silicon Valley, CA
▪ Currently Lives: Kauai, HI
▪ Career: Retired | Partner – Deloitte
Trustee Emeritus – UC San Diego Foundation

Sean Celona ’14
▪ College: Sixth
▪ Major: Physics
▪ Hometown: Solana Beach, CA
▪ Currently Lives: San Diego, CA
▪ Career: System Integration Engineer – Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

How did you learn how to surf?

Teresa: I learned to surf when I was in high school in Northern California. I grew up in the Silicon Valley area—before it was Silicon Valley. It was all fruit orchards back then, and I actually went to high school with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. But I had to go to Santa Cruz to learn to surf and it was freezing. That was before there were surf leashes and good wetsuits too, so if you fell off your board, you had a long, cold swim ahead. But I just stuck with it. And I’ll tell you, one of the reasons I came to UCSD was for the surf. I felt like I was in the tropics, even though now that I’m in Hawaii, San Diego feels cold.

Sean:  I got into surfing cause both of my parents surf, so they used to bring me to the beach and take turns going surfing. I was exposed to it from a pretty young age. I played the typical sports that most kids played growing up, like baseball and soccer, but as I got a little older and learned more about surfing, it became the sport that I really enjoyed doing. But yeah, with two surfing parents, I don’t think I really had a chance to not surf.

What inspired you to join the surf team, Sean?

Sean: I came to UCSD interested in working at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. So between that and the surfing—the two ocean-centric parts of UCSD—it really appealed to me. Once I got there, it was not a hard choice at all. I’ve competed for a long time and I knew it’d be a really good way to meet people who have similar interests. It was a no-brainer.

Teresa Young ’74 catches a long wave.

What is unique about the surf at Black’s?

Sean: As far as waves in San Diego, it breaks very differently. It’s got a very intense and complex bathymetry off shore that causes the waves to do really interesting things. Deep canyons offshore cause the depth of the water to go from really deep to really shallow very quickly. And it makes for some really, really exciting, unique and large waves. Then there’s the massive cliffs that make it a journey to get down there; it’s kind of always a cool adventure to go down there. It’s a hard place to beat.

Teresa: All I remember is walking down that hill with my, big, old, heavy longboard. And then I get to the beach and paddle and paddle and paddle, or some days because the surf was too big and then I’ll have to walk back up the hill. It was tough.

Do you have a favorite memory from surfing there?

Teresa: Well, I’ll share one story with you. One of my favorite professors was Paul Saltman; I worked for him as a TA when I was either a freshman or sophomore. He was a surfer, and my biology professor, and he was just so inspiring. To have him talk about how much he loved to teach, how much he loved biology and then his love for surfing too, Paul Saltman really stands out in my mind.

Sean: There’s so many typical good days at Blacks and you’re down there with a bunch of your buddies. But a couple of times we went down during the summer, during the full moon gatherings, to night-surf—that definitely stands out.

Sean Celona ’14, frontside.

How do you think has surf culture has impacted UC San Diego?

Teresa: What’s great about UCSD is it’s known as a rigorous college. It’s difficult to get into, and you have to really work hard. But it’s also such a unique place to be if surfing is your sport. It may be that way for many other sports, but surfing is particularly rare in that it’s so location-based, and UCSD has such an amazing location. Plus there’s a recreation department that makes great use of it. So for me, that’s why the surf culture is important—because it augments an already a great school and gives it such a unique edge and bonus.

Sean: I would only add to UCSD has a reputation of not being the most social school, and while there may be some truth to that, if you do the surf team or other sports clubs you have an automatic network of people that are like-minded. But they also have so many other varied interests and backgrounds—they can be really top researchers and scientists, or others who just generally have a ton of passion and drive in life. When you surf at Blacks, you can actually meet many UCSD alumni who have gone on to have really successful careers, but they’re really devoted to surfing and love the ocean still. So it kind of opens up your horizons a little bit as a surfer, you look at all these really smart surfers who have gone on to be doctors or entrepreneurs… it definitely motivated me to do as much as I can with my life.

Can you speak a bit about your careers?

Sean: I was studying physics in school and I knew I wanted to apply that to some sort of earth science. With my passion for the ocean too, physical oceanography seemed like a pretty good fit. So I got an internship at Scripps, and that led me to getting a job during the school year at a lab that I still am at to this day. So I’ve been working at Scripps doing physical oceanography research, different kinds of engineering work, writing papers and just doing all aspects of research. I’ve been able to travel a lot for work as well, which has been really cool.

Teresa: Well, I got a little bit of a late start with my career because I probably was more of a surf bum after I graduated, certainly more than Sean was. So I traveled all over the world surfing, then I went back to school and I got a master’s in accounting. But really, my undergraduate degree in chemistry was excellent preparation for any career. I went to work for Deloitte and worked my way up the ranks, eventually becoming partner and having a long career there, but I always kept surfing.

Did you find a favorite surf spot over the years?

Teresa: Obviously Hawaii. That’s one of the reasons we moved here 10 years ago when I retired, because there is a wave here that I call a perfect old people wave because it has this great channel to paddle out, a very long paddle out, but then the wave is very long too. Big or small, there’s almost always something to ride.

Teresa Young ’74, still riding that wave. (Told you it was long…)

Sean, what would you share with someone thinking about joining the surf team?

Sean: I definitely knew a lot of people who were kind of hesitant to join the team because they viewed it as only for the competitive aspect of it. They’d say, “I’m not at that level or I don’t really like to compete,” and I think that’s kind of a wrong way to think about it. Because for a lot of people the competition part was a pretty small commitment, maybe five contests a year. But you get this network of surfers and people who are really enjoyable to be around.

You’re a mother and son Triton duo. What’s it like to be a surf family?

Teresa: It was so much fun to go to Sean’s competitions—all the UCSD contests when we still lived in San Diego, and even when we moved to Hawaii I went back for that championship, the one where they won the regionals. It’s really fun watching your kids do a sport that you love.

Sean: I’m very thankful to have a surfing family. A lot of my friends growing up would be trying to find a ride to the beach every weekend, some way to get to the ocean. So my parents made it accessible and really easy for me to surf, even on family vacations, too. It’s also cool to see how much women’s surfing has grown, even in my lifetime. And while it’s been known as a pretty male-dominated sport, I always appreciated growing up with a mom who was a really good surfer. It’s amazing to see how much the sport was improved with more women involved.

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

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