Kekoa Cazimero, keeping the balancing act going on the South Shore of Oahu. Photo: Baeseman

Balancing the demands of higher education and a saltwater addiction is not an easy undertaking. Between cramming for midterms and keeping your place in the lineup, something is bound to suffer. But according to Kekoa Cazimero—a former NSSA Open Men’s National Champion and current full-time college student—if you get your priorities in order, and make best use of your time, you can thrive in both realms.

Set Your Goals. Kekoa graduated from a traditional high school with a 4.0 GPA. In the ensuing four years, Kekoa became a budding pro surfer and spent his days chasing events, shooting photos, and more or less living the good life. Despite the good times, he eventually opted to pursue a higher education. “I’ve always believed having a college degree would open a lot of doors for me. And the way the job markets are right now, you’ll need everything you can get to get a great job,” says Kekoa. “I looked around at what I was doing and what everyone was else was doing and decided that I wanted to go to college. I talked to all my sponsors and told them what I wanted to do and they were really accommodating. We worked out a way for me to still do photo trips and shoot videos and do a few contests, all while I’m a full time student taking 18 credits a semester. It’s by no means easy balancing school and my love for surfing—going back and chasing the Tour is still a very real goal of mine—but in the long-term, I know that having a college degree will be worth it.”

Make the Time. Very few of us are milking the day for all it’s worth. For Kekoa to commit himself to a full-time curriculum, he had to prioritize his schedule. “My days are pretty grueling, to be honest. I spend a lot of time at school studying. But to get the most out of every swell, I’ve scheduled my classes in the morning so that I have a window in the early afternoon to head down to Bowls or Sandy’s for a quick session. After that, it’s back to school to study until it’s dark and then home for dinner and then more studying. Wake up and repeat. There’s time in the day to do both, but you’ve got to be on it and make the most of each hour.”

Turn off the TV. If you’re looking for an easy way to shave an hour off your schedule, turn off the TV. It’s estimated that the average American watched an average of 34 hours of TV each week. If you can find the time to tune into Dancing with Stars, you can find the time to get in the lineup. “That’s an easy one,” says Kekoa. “I’ll watch a bit here and there, but there’s no way I could keep surfing as much as I do and still keep my grades up if I watched a lot of TV or screwed around on the Internet all day. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut out the stuff that’s keeping you away from your goal.”

Stay Driven. There will undoubtedly be days when it’s easy to brush off quick pre- or post-work session. You’re tired, it’s too cold, too small, too big, etc. We know, we’ve all been there. But it’s a rare occurrence when you regret paddling out. “Yeah, of course there are days when I feel like I’m too tired or too burnt out from studying to want to jump in the water,” says Kekoa. “But I truly love surfing and feel better almost every time I come in from the water. It’s not always easy to get in the water, but it’s always worth it to find the time to squeeze in a surf. You just got to stay fired up.”

How do you balance surf and school? Leave your answer in the comments section below.