Tucson is home to a wild variety of people, but few compare to Tucson's core group of surfers.
Sure, there are many beach-bum look-a-likes who tour Fourth Avenue, but for seniors Josh Saunders and Sean Bollinger, the surf lifestyle is alive and well in the desert.
Bollinger and Saunders are co-presidents of the Arizona Surf Club at the UA, and although the club loves to hit the waves when it can, Bollinger and Saunders try to embrace the surf culture in the classroom as well.
""Sean and I live together kind of in our own surf club headquarters,"" Saunders said. ""It's just a little ocean hut in the middle of Tucson. We just try to keep that surf vibe strong.""
For these two, as well as the other 25 or so members of the Arizona Surf Club, a common passion for the waves and the freedoms of surfing is what keeps them going on a day-to-day basis.
Keeping the surf alive in 110 degree desert heat takes a bit of creativity.
Whether the club is trekking into California or their car is breaking down while crossing the border, these extremists are always down for an adventure.
""We don't have the convenience of the ocean in our front yard, so we have to travel,"" Bollinger said. ""We treat all of our trips a lot like little missions when we go.""
Unlike the Arizona Snowboard Club — which stays in hotels and plans dinners during its excursions — Bollinger and Saunders said that their club hoofs it. For them, a lot of the surf culture is found in the adventure, but also in fighting the surfer stereotypes.
""Because we're a surf club, we get stuck with the stereotype of drug-smoking, boozing hippies that are good for nothing,"" Saunders said. ""We kind of have to fight that everywhere we go. Like when we go to campgrounds we get mad-dogged by all the guards and stuff. Anybody with authority thinks we're up to no good, which sometimes might be true, but we're just out there to have a good time.""
""These trips are just to give us a break from our education,"" he added. ""We're not going for drugs, like a lot of people assume. We really try to fight that image on the trips. We're not squares, but we're not all stoners, so that's nice.""
Bollinger and Saunders like to think that surfing is about the times with friends and their travels to the next big swells. In a place like Arizona, for a group of surfers to unite, a sense of family and community makes missing the waves that much easier to handle.
""All the chilling out, cooking and good vibes definitely transfer back to Tucson,"" Saunders said. ""We've got a core group here, and we just chill out and watch surf DVDs and get as much of our ocean fix as we can.""
Surfing for them is true therapy.
For me, it's got a lot to do with like … this sounds totally hippie … like harnessing the natural power of the Earth,"" Saunders said. ""It's just an ocean thing I guess. When you're surfing, you're taming the waves, taking control of them.""
""With my major (architecture) it's also a one-on-one thing, with a project and a deadline,"" Bollinger said. ""Surfing is very meditative like that too.""
As with the nature of the waves they long for, no two trips are alike for this unusual club.
Bollinger explained that Mexico trips normally engender the most fun.
""One kid flipped a Jeep and we had to pay a Mexican mechanic a bunch of pesos to rig a wooden tow to get him back to America,"" Bollinger said.
Other times, it's the sheer spontaneity that feeds their adventure.
""It had a lot to do with tequila,"" Saunders said, ""but we bonded with these three Mexican fishermen one night, and it was like us 10 gringos with fisherman in the middle of the Pacific at one in the morning.""
In their minds, there is only one other passion these two say can remotely compare to their love of surfing.
""When we're here we have to defend the surfer as a whole, but in Cali, we gotta defend Arizona. We have to represent in the water,"" Saunders said. ""We're kind of dorks about Arizona when we go to California. We rep the state hard.""
Coming from Tucson, any surf is good surf for these guys, and it's what will continue to feed their hunger.
""Surfing is just a release. It's what I daydream about in class, and then wake up to find that I'm in the middle of the Tucson desert,"" Saunders said. ""These trips are just what keep us sane.""