Oyster River Surfing Community

 As the new school year rolls in, surfers at Oyster River High School had the chance to better their skills over the summer by working with their peers. Aidan Janetos and his friends have built a small community of ORHS student surfers that has almost doubled over the summer. The community allows surfers to come together and share their common passion out on the waves.  

     Aidan Janetos (‘21) has made surfing a huge part of his life and can surf up to 30 hours a week, which sometimes includes waking up at 4:00am to surf before school. Janetos has been surfing since he was 8 years old, but really came into the sport within the last couple of years. Since then he has worked hard to not only get better himself, but to help other aspiring surfers get started as well. 

     The Oyster River surfing community is a group of students who talk about waves, conditions, and places to go surfing with each other. This is a way for different people to connect over a shared passion. Janetos has played a huge role in cultivating this surfing community. 

     Janetos has surfed in places where the communities are drastically different. Janetos learned to surf in New England, which he describes as a supportive and small community. After visiting places like Kailua and big surfing beaches in California, Janetos seems to be grateful for our smaller community. 

     Last summer, Janetos visited Kailua, Hawaii, where he had the chance to surf some of the best conditions with the most talented surfers. “I had never seen waves that were that powerful before. On one of the big days I was out, I was in awe of how everyone out there were such great surfers,” Janetos shares. “I think the biggest thing that affected me was being in a place where the surfing community was so present.”

     Like Janetos, Owen Fleischer (‘21) is a dedicated surfer at Oyster River High School and has been focusing on the sport for the last two years. Fleischer and Janetos have been surfing together since the beginning and seem to be the first students who started this Oyster River surfing community. “I’ve got to really attribute [building the student surfing community] to Aidan, as he’s the one who really got me into surfing. He reached out to other people and offered to help take them. So many people have messaged me asking when or where I’m going surfing,” explains Fleischer. 

     Melissa Janetos, Aidan’s mother, grew up in California and supports his passion. Once Melissa introduced Janetos to surfing, she was eager to take him to Hawaii. “I think the sport is so much about being centered and being in the moment, unlike other sports where it’s all about being better than somebody else,” Janetos’ mother said. “In talking to a lot of people in Hawaii who surf, I’ve learned that this is all they do when they have time. The instructor who Aidan was taking a lesson from explained it was about being in the water and about being present.”

     Janetos must balance his workload and responsibilities alongside his passion. His mom admits that at times she feels a tear between what Janetos wants to do, and what he has to do. “He’s got things to do and he just wants to keep surfing because that’s what makes him feel good,” she shares. “That’s why I don’t mind him surfing in the morning because I’ve seen him be more productive, which is amazing if you think about it.”

     David Hawley, a teacher at Oyster River High School, is just one of the staff members who surfs in their free time. Hawley first began surfing after college when he moved to New Zealand to ski. “I sold my skis for a surfboard in 1996 and gave it a try for a few months,” he recalls. Hawley has seen two very different communities between New Zealand and New England. He describes the New England community as more kind with supporting people, and the New Zealand community as unfair, difficult, and somewhat unwelcoming. “You would get beat up by going on a wave in New Zealand. Not by the wave, but by the people. It was very locally controlled and scary because they were very protective of their territory.”

     Sophie Sullivan (‘21) is another ORHS surfer, who not only surfs in her free time but also worked as a surf instructor at Cinnamon Rainbows Surf in Hampton. “I thought it was so much fun [teaching lessons] because it didn’t really feel like a job. I was able to show little kids what I liked the most about surfing,” says Sullivan. Sullivan has been surfing for around four years now and has loved it ever since she started. “A lesson is how I first got into it so it was fun giving lessons to kids and seeing that they were totally gonna get into it.”

     For Sullivan, the Oyster River surf community and New England surf community as a whole are great ways for her to surf with other students and expose herself to the variety of surfers in the area. “The Oyster River surfing community has grown a lot. Before it started there were just three kids I knew who surfed, and now they have brought their friends in,” she explains. 

     Vinny Golden(‘21), is somewhat new to surfing as he mainly picked up the sport this year. Janetos was a huge help for Golden, as he went with him during the summer to help. “[Janetos] is always watching you when you start paddling to get in the wave, and if you’re getting up too early or too late he’s gonna let you know and that’s just been a huge help to me,” says Golden. Golden is not the only person that Janetos has taught. Janetos offers to take people who have never gone before, lends them equipment, and helps teach them. Exposing more students to surfing not only grows the community, but creates a wider and more diverse variety of surfers who can relate over a common topic.

     Janetos definitely wants to continue surfing. It’s the type of sport that you can take with you as you go and it encourages you to meet new people. Janetos wants to continue to take advantage of the opportunities that New England provides for him. “As I progress more and more, I want to keep surfing more and more,” says Janetos. “Every single day the waves change and everything is different. You’re always trying to find waves which keeps you coming back, and every once in a while when you find one of those good waves, on a really good day, there’s nothing better.”

Artwork by Aaron Hoag

Pictures taken by Chase Amarosa