Championship titles lead to sponsorship for Encinitas pro surfer


The first time Encinitas athlete Taylor Clark surfed, he was only 6 years old.

“I started when I stopped playing Little League baseball,” he said during a break from the recent U.S. Open in Huntington Beach. “My dad used to surf, so I took it up. The more I got into it, the more fun I had.”

Now 18, Clark is having more fun than ever with surfing; after going pro, it was recently revealed he signed the holy grail of surfing sponsorship deals with Billabong, the famed Australian clothing and accessory company. This is the latest in a list of accomplishments Clark has made on a surfboard, all of which he says he takes in stride.

“I’ve just been trying to enjoy the attention and be happy when this kind of stuff happens,” he said. “You kind of just soak it all in.”

“We’re beyond thrilled to add Taylor to our talented roster of athletes,” noted Billabong USA’s Team Manager Micah Byrne in a recent press release announcing Clark’s signing. “Taylor is a rare breed of surfer who can not only perform in heats, but also in front of a camera, and he is a favorite among photographers. With a strong support system at home, and the drive that he has inside, I can’t wait to see what he does in the near future.” The same press release pointed out San Diego’s North County as a “fertile environment for world-class surfers.”

For many years, Clark was slowly working on making a name for himself in the surfing community — no easy feat. It wasn’t until a two-week span in 2013 made industry watchers, not only at Billabong but around the world, start to take notice of his talent on a surfboard.

“I became the 2013 U18 U.S. Champion, and the next week I was named the 2013 NSSA Open Men’s Champ,” he said of his back-to-back titles in the two renowned surfing competitions. “I always like competing, but afterwards you kind of want to go on a trip.”

Clark, whose home beach is Cardiff’s Seaside Reef, has been bouncing around all over the world thanks to his burgeoning career, whether it was a recent trip to Tahiti or his favorite surf spot, Fiji’s Tavarua Bay.

“The ‘getting there’ part isn’t fun,” said Clark, who graduated two years ago from an independent study program at North Coast Alternative High School because of his hectic travel schedule. “But all of the rest of the experience definitely is. Especially since I usually travel with my brother, Christian.”

For the past seven years, Clark has spent his winters on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. “I’ve been going to the North Shore there, because it’s always a lot of fun,” said Clark of the spot’s choice waves, famous for their quality and fierceness. “It’s always crowded there that time of year, but the waves are always nice.”

It’s that kind of schedule and urge to perfect his technique on the waves that caught the eyes of the powers at Billabong. Throughout all of Clark’s recent accomplishments, his parents (who own a North County auto detailing company) and friends couldn’t be happier for his success.

“I don’t see my friends from Encinitas as much as I’d like, because when I’m home it’s not for long. But they are always pretty supportive,” he said. “I also try to go to San Clemente a lot in the summer. I have a lot of friends up there too.”

After the U.S. Open, Clark is looking forward to heading back to Tahiti for the trial stages at Billabong Pro’s Tahiti WCT event at famed surf break Teahupoo. He’s also gearing up for the release of a video for Surfing Magazine that Clark shot last month in French Polynesia.

And as always, he’ll spend every day of the week out in the water.

Instead of preparing for competitions, he said, “I try to keep it simple and just surf all the time. Just going surfing is the best way to improve on surfing.”