HMB’s bat man hones wood gems

Bats almost completed.jpg

By John Murphy 

One day about three years Mario Vazquez’s son, Aidan, broke his bat.

“Can you make me a new one?” the boy asked his father

“I said, ‘Uh, no.’” Vazquez remembers.

But that event became the impetus for the Humba Bat Co. Now Vazquez, an attorney for the city and county of San Francisco, is a bat-making artisan, churning out homemade wooden beauties from the shed behind his Half Moon Bay home.

Apparently he was paying attention during woodshop class at Cunha Intermediate School so many years ago.

“I also learned a lot from YouTube and from the people at the Trinity Bat Co. in Fullerton,” Vazquez said. “They were really nice.”

The reviews are in and Coastside players — and those from points beyond —love Humba bats. (Humba is Vazquez’s nickname for his lifelong home of Half Moon Bay.)

“Just got my new Humba bat,” Brayden Cleland says on Facebook. “Mario Vazquez with another masterpiece. Can’t wait to swing it when the rain stops.”

“Top quality. First-class, handmade to smash baseballs,” says Matt Frediani on Facebook. “A great product from the coast.”

Vazquez is a 1987 Half Moon Bay High School graduate who played football forformer coach Jack Coolidge and baseball for Jim Junge. He also took an all-important woodshop class or two at Cunha. His bats are made from maple, ash and birch sticks and are lovingly made in his well-equipped work shed.

“I’ve used one in a game just for an at-bat and they are weighted really nicely,” said Half Moon Bay High School slugger Max Jenkins. “I got a single, and it felt great off the bat.”

Every year Half Moon Bay Little League has wood-bat week and Humba bats are all over the field. This year the week runs from April 16 through 23 and Vazquez’s team will play three games in that span for which he’ll make three different bats.

Vazquez crafts the bats one at a time. They range from pro grade A which could be used in professional games to lesser but still formidable sticks.

“The pro grade A have a minimum of 18 inches of perfect grain,” Vazquez said. He describes ash bats as “flexible,” maple as having the “most pop” and birch as the “hot new wood.”

Home run king Barry Bonds used maple Louisville Sluggers. And older baby boomers fondly recall the feel of a wood bat and the sound that comes from hitting the ball squarely on the barrel. But since the mid-1970s, when high schools made the switch to metal and youth leagues followed suit, wood has been as dated as disco music.

Now wood is making a bit of a comeback, and Vazquez is a true believer, spending much of his free time crafting masterpieces, each emblazoned with the logo of a bat (cave-dwelling variety) chomping down on a baseball.

“Aluminum bats are light and mine are not as light as aluminum,” Vazquez said. “But they’re good, light bats for kids.”

The Coastside man has three lathes running at 2,500 rpm in what he describes as his “dungeon-like” shed. He uses a contraption called a “roughing gouge” to cut the wood into shape.

“It’s very therapeutic bringing dead wood to life,” he said.

The bats cost $100 and he makes them for Coastside kids as well as semi-pro and college players competing in offseason wood-bat leagues. Some buyers are from out of state. Some kids get discounts, and he’s also donated his creations for raffles and fundraisers.

He also makes fungos, such as the one Half Moon Bay assistant coach Tony Magagnini wielded at a recent Half Moon Bay High School practice. A fungo is a long, slender stick specifically made to hit grounders or fly balls during infield or outfield practice.

Magagnini, a former Half Moon Bay head coach, wanted to replicate a fungo made for him years ago that had a thicker handle and knob than found in a typical fungo. He wanted one much like the bat he used when he played at Sacred Heart Cathedral in the mid- 1960s.

“He did a real nice job on it,” Magagnini said.

While son Aidan and daughter Emma dig their dad’s bats, wife Avril (also an attorney) merely puts up with the sidelight.

“She thinks I bring too much sawdust in the house,” Vazquez said with a laugh.

Vazquez says he’s not exactly making money on Humba bats, but profit is not the incentive.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s great to see a kid smile when you hand him his bat. Besides, what are you going to do when it’s raining at Smith (Field), but make bats?”


The South San Francisco treat

Brittney at El Camino

By John Murphy 

Saratoga won the section Division III title game Saturday, but South San Francisco had the game’s best player.

She’s sophomore 5-foot-8 point guard Brittney Cedeno, a pony-tailed marvel in blue and white who had a game-high 17 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

With apologies to Rice-A-Roni, she’s the South San Francisco treat.

“Their depth was an issue, but what a fantastic job by Cedeno,” Saratoga coach Mike Davey said. “I didn’t know what we could do – I box-and-oned her the whole game. She is going to be a stud. You can’t stop her. We trapped her and she still went around us half the time.”

A “box-and-one” is a combination defense with four players in a zone while one guards a designated player, in this case Cedeno. The 15-year still reached her season average of 17 while leading a team that suited up just seven healthy players with a starting lineup of all sophomores.

She brought the ball up against the press, often zinging accurate 40-50 foot passes off the dribble with either hand – some of which were caught by teammates and some not.

“The thing that’s so special about her is you can see she really wants to include her teammates,” South City coach Paul Carion said. “She really makes everybody better.”

Today at 7 p.m. Cedeno leads South City into a CIF-State Northern California Regional Division III game against host Tamalpais-Mill Valley (27-5).


Ironically, the South City phenom and PAL-North player of the year is the sister of El Camino High basketball royalty. Half-brother Michael Smith was a huge star at intra-city rival El Camino who last month was named the All-PacWest men’s basketball player of the year for Cal Baptist of Riverside after averaging 26.6 points per game. His oldest brother Anthony Smith also played at El Camino, as well as Skyline College and Howard University.

These Smith brothers couldn’t cure a cough (a little more advertising humor), but they did give little sis a hard time growing up.

“They definitely did,” Cedeno said. “We had a basketball hoop and my older brothers when I was 7 years old would swat my shots into the street and make me go get the ball and then they’d do it again. I’d go inside the house and cry, but it made me better because I wanted to be better than them.”

Said Natalie Cedeno, mom of the brood: “She’d be so excited to play and she’d go up for a shot and they’d just smash it down into her face. She’d cry, but then she’d go right back out the next time and play with them.”


The Warrior star lived in Daly City when she was little and then moved to South City at age 5. Within a year she was playing on a team at the San Francisco YMCA, followed by stints with the Brisbane Warriors and Peninsula Elite travel teams, Our Lady of Guadalupe CYO and Alta Loma Middle School (Her elementary school, Buri Buri, did not have a team).

Cedeno chose to attend Sacred Heart Cathedral for high school, but left after her freshman year.

“It wasn’t for me,” she said. “I didn’t seem to fit the program and its style.”

She then matriculated at South City, bitter rival to El Camino where she said brother Michael had “changed the face of El Camino basketball.”

Cedeno tagged after her bro in those days, but now was preparing to lift the Colts’ biggest rival.

“South City is close to my house and I don’t need to get up super early like I did at Sacred Heart,” she said. “I like that friends I grew up with in the neighborhood can watch me play as well as my teachers from Alta Loma and Buri Buri.”

The budding star also said “El Ca” (that’s what she calls it) is a “great school, but she yearned to blaze her own trail and “make a name for myself.”


Some thought Half Moon Bay would win the PAL-North this season, but Oceana and South City were unexpectedly good. Led by Cedeno, the Warriors swept HMB in league, split with Oceana and finished 10-2 to tie the Sharks for the title.

Teammates Valerie Avila, Jerlene Miller, Nevaeh Miller, Cheyanne Magpantav, Alyssa Garcia and Becca Tasi all contributed, though some have little experience beyond playing for the Warriors and the South City line-up was as thin as a 20-year-old sock.

Cedeno and Avila played 32 minutes against Saratoga, Magpantav and Nevaeh Miller logged 30 minutes each and Jerlene Miller 26.

Yet Cedeno never got flustered against a Saratoga defense geared to stop her, nor blamed her teammates for the occasional dropped pass.

“I like to play at a fast tempo and run up and down the court and score off fast breaks,” she said. “If we don’t get the fast break, I’ll look for an open shot. And I enjoy looking for my teammates and throwing crazy passes.”

It takes a village to build a star. Cedeno’s former AAU coach Rich Avila taught her to use both hands, her brothers stoked her competitive fire and set a good example scholastically (she has a 3.7 grade point average at South City). And mom is her constant companion, not allowing the teen to date yet and shaking her head at Brittney’s antics like taking a selfie from the family’s rooftop.

“She’s a prankster and sometimes gives me heart attacks,” Natalie said. “She’s playful, but also loving and committed to her family.”

Shortly after South City’s title game loss to Saratoga, brothers Anthony and Michael were among the many well-wishers to call or text little sis and congratulate her for her efforts. Her former tormentors had become supporters.

“Now they want to take credit for her,” Natalie said with a laugh.

Coastside team brings it

HMB coach Keith Holden

By John Murphy 

HALF MOON BAY, CA — Ten miles west of where Tom Brady once starred at Serra High is the picturesque city of Half Moon Bay.

It’s a quaint town, better known for its annual pumpkin festival and Norman Rockwell-like downtown than producing Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks.

But don’t let the tourists on Main Street snapping photos or the folks sipping lattes at Cafe Society fool you — this burg has a high school football team that will knock the snot out of you.

Through four games, all victories, Half Moon Bay High has out-scored its competition by a combined 189-13. The Cougars have a bye this weekend and then meet host South San Francisco at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 in the PAL-Ocean opener for both teams.

Nearly four decades ago Half Moon Bay offensive line coach Don Diaz journeyed from the Midwest out to the Pacific Ocean and was awestruck.

“I came out to visit a good friend of mine in December of 1976 and just fell in love with the coast-side,”  said Diaz, a Cougars’ coach since 1982 (minus six years at Archbishop Riordan). “I was in my last semester of college and went back and put the house up for sale, the car up for sale and the dog up for sale and moved out here.” 

Diaz actually kept the dog, but the rest is accurate. The veteran assistant and the rest of the Cougar coaching staff have traditionally stressed fundamentals, practiced repeatedly until they become automatic. Half Moon Bay’s precision triple-option attack and bone-rattling defense have been flattening opponents this season.

Half Moon Bay High, a scant mile or so from the ocean, is football heaven.

“The coaching staff is full of technicians,”  Diaz said. “We stress technique. There’s a certain way things need to be done in order to be successful.”

Boasting just 25 players, HMB’s roster is not dotted by 4.4 sprinters and blue-chip linemen. The Cougars just have good high school athletes like running backs Chase Hofmann and Matt Spigelman, linemen Justin Terra and Sean Baird, sophomore quarterback Gavin Tombelin and a runt of blocker, Kurt Katzenberger, who gets under the pads of bigger players and rocks them. The diminutive one stands 5-foot-7 and weighs in at 168. That was small by 1960s standards.

“Before the game I always have the pre-game jitters and think ‘Oh, they’re going to be big and they’re going to be stronger than me,,” Katzenberger said. “But then I get the first play done and really it’s nothing that I can’t manage.” 

Half Moon Bay coach Keith Holden, 40, is a former Cougar player. During Half Moon Bay practices he wanders the field in Bermuda shorts and a black knit top, sipping coffee out of a small cup and dispensing his wisdom.

When Holden returned to Half Moon Bay after playing at Whittier College, he met his future wife Meredith (maiden name Milner), also an HMB grad who played tennis, basketball, soccer and softball. She is now in nursing school.

Toward the end of a recent practice Meredith sat in the HMB stands with the couple’s grade-school children Addison and Paxton and discussed her coaching husband.

“Keith’s dedicated to coaching. It’s his love and his passion,”  she said. “But he has a decent balance. When he comes home we’re  not talking football.” 

Graduating from college was not the norm in Keith’s working-class family, Meredith said. He did so only after some steering from his old high school coaches Jack Coolidge and Neil McNevin.

Now Holden is stressing not only education, but the traditional hallmarks of the Half Moon Bay football program — hard work, discipline and an all-for-one mindset.

“It’s a small town so they know each other and they know each other’s families,” Holden said. “I think that goes a long way as far as dedicating yourself to someone else and trusting someone else and not just playing for yourself but playing for the people around you.”

Limited by the school’s small enrollment and lack of blue-chip players, Half Moon Bay is traditionally competitive but has had just pockets of wild success as a team. In 1977 the Cougars, coached by Jerry Murphy, won a North Peninsula League co-title, rallying in the final two minutes to win six games. Area media dubbed them the “Cardiac Kids.” 

Ten years ago when Holden was assisting Matt Ballard, the Cougars reached the zenith of the program’s  success, winning the school’s  only section football title.

Asked to compare this year’s white-hot team with the 2005 edition, Holden said: “In 2005 we had more numbers. We had a really good core or guys then, like I feel we have right here now.” 

Intent on getting back to the top, Half Moon Bay has done all the right things. They played in a Carmel passing tournament and made a team-building trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk afterward. They have Thursday night team dinners at an array of venues; at one of them Spigelman’s mom, Lu, brought a Cougar head molded out of Rice Krispy treats..

The team’s  well-organized cheerleaders even mimic the Friday Night Lights’  movie and TV show by delivering hand-made baked goods to players.

“I’m a good baker,”  said senior cheerleader Remi McMullen. “I don’t mind. And the games are fun, especially when we’re winning.” 

But even given all that, can the mind-numbing success continue for the Cougars as they plow into league and meet the likes of South City, The King’s Academy, Menlo, Hillsdale and Woodside?

Nobody knows, but no matter what happens the Cougars are enjoying the heck out of the ride.

“It’s awesome,” running back Anthony Klingele said. “The coaching staff is awesome. My teammates are awesome. I just love playing here.”


Banner day for Monarchs

Monarch celebrationBy John Murphy

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — Mitty’s C..J. Romero rocked and delivered the final strike of his magnificent pitching effort.

That St. Francis batter whiffed and — as if a keg of dynamite had been lit – the reaction was powerful. On the home side equipment flew, a player fell to the turf as if shot and the Lancers could only lament the title they knew “should have been” theirs.

On the visitors’ side Monarchs charged the field like loons as coaches warmly embraced. The Monarchs wound up in a sweaty, surreal scrum, celebrating the title they knew “is” theirs.

Archbishop Mitty 2, St. Francis 1 and nobody who played in this classic will forget it soon. It gave Mitty an outright WCAL title, temporary bragging rights and a result the game’s hero, Joe Cahn, called “unreal.”

It was Cahn’s towering, seventh-inning solo home run off John Gavin that gave Mitty the lead and ultimately the victory.

“I wasn’t trying to do too much, just looking to get the runners on base,” Cahn said. “He left the curve ball up 1-1 and I just extended my hands and pushed them through the zone.”

Cahn sent the ball soaring over the wall in left field as Monarch players and fans exulted.

Did he know it was gone?

“No, no way,” Cahn said. “I thought it was a pop-up. … I felt euphoric. It’s huge, it’s definitely huge.”

If only because, just a few hours earlier, St. Francis (22-4,, 11-3) led Mitty (22-5, 11-3) by one game in the standings with one to play. But a twist in the league bylaws dictated the Monarchs would win the title outright with a victory — by virtue of a season sweep over the team it would tie in the standings.

Romero wasn’t sweating the details post-game as he received well-wishes from family and friends after defeating one of the state’s top pitchers.

“No words,” he said. “We’re hanging a banner — that’s all I can say.”

The senior doesn’t lack for confidence, as conveyed when asked when he knew it was all under control.

“Right when I stepped off the bus,” he said. “I saw it in my mind today, when I woke up. We just put in so much hard work and we’re a brotherhood. We just came up clutch – that’s how our team is.”

By contrast, St. Francis coach Mike Oakland was grim-faced and disappointed, but generous with the credit.

“We had chances early on to put up a crooked number (on the scoreboard), but we couldn’t get it done,” Oakland said. “(Gavin) shouldn’t have to throw a shutout every time and that’s kind of the position we put him in. It’s unfortunate, but (Mitty) can swing the bats. They earned it. They deserved it.”

The victory was the 626th of Mitty coach Bill Hutton’s career and produced his sixth league title. It also fittingly capped off a week in which it was learned he will be inducted into the prestigious California Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Hutton seemed quietly content as Monarch players celebrated and mugged for photos along the first-base side.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “This is a grueling, 14-game league. To have a chance to come play to get a title is almost good enough. But to actually come do it on another team’s field is even more special.”

St. Francis struck first. catcher Tim Susnara blasted a triple to left-center field off Romero to start the second. He scored on Jeremy Ydens’ solid single to left field.

The Lancers weren’t done. They had men on second and third base in the same inning before Romero bore down. He sandwiched two strikeouts around a shallow fly to right to escape the jam.

“He was tough,” Hutton said. “He’s a tough kid. His pitch count was up (after) he got out of the second inning where they had a bunch of men on base.”

Mitty now needed a run — no cinch with the hulking Gavin on the mound. But Brooks Allen led off the third with a single to left field and advanced to second when St. Francis misplayed a bunt. After a throwing error allowed Allen to advance to third, Chris Zapata drove Allen in with a sacrifice fly to right.

That’s the way the score remained as the mitt-popping Gavin and gutsy Romero bored through the line-ups — that is until the 5-foot-10 Cahn stood tall for the Monarchs.

Cahn said he felt “euphoric” after his hit, but knows the journey is not done.

“Winning a regular-season banner is great, but we have to focus on long-term goals” he said. “This was important to the team and gives us a nice morale boost going into the tournament playoffs.”

Ah, the playoffs. Mitty begins the WCAL tourney at 3:30 Tuesday against visiting Sacred Heart Cathedral. St. Francis hosts Riordan at 7:30 p.m.

Romero gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked nobody. Seventy of his 102 pitches were strikes.

Gavin was overpowering, but struggled with control at times. He yielded four hits, struck out five, walked two and hit four batters.

The bottom of Mitty’s lineup produced all of its hits, one each by Tommy Hudson, Allen, Max Werner and — of course — the one Cahn will never forget.


Rage quelled, Jacobs runs for daylight

Damien Jacobs by tennis courts

By John Murphy 

SAN BRUNO, CA – Homecoming is special for any prep football player and it was especially so two weeks ago for Capuchino High’s Damien Jacobs.

The senior running back scored five touchdowns and rushed for 270 yards in a 41-0 victory against San Mateo.

“Homecoming is the one where the tears were really coming,” said Tina Jacobs, Damien’s adoptive mother. “The stands were full of people and there were fireworks and it was magical and sweet.”

Down on Carl Reyna Field with his cheerleader girlfriend Tiana and family and friends with fireworks exploding overhead, Damien told his mom it was “like the Super Bowl.”

Things weren’t always so rosy. Damien was in foster care since birth, taken in by Tina at four months and adopted by the single, Caucasian mother at 2 years old. He started football at age 6 but was never a star and by 2010 was whisked away to a residential treatment facility in Billings, Montana due to his angry outbursts at home. He didn’t return to San Bruno or play football for 4 1/2 years until the 2014 season. But oh what a homecoming it’s been.

Among those at the San Mateo game two weeks ago were Damien’s Aunt Teri (actually just a close family friend), Teri’s son Patrick and Damien’s speed coach D’Marcus Williams who has helped him drop his 40-yard dash time from 5.1 seconds to 4.42.

Asked what it was like to see her son run wild like that in front of packed stands including family and friends, Tina said: “It was just utter joy and pride. There were tears rolling down my face. He’s had a lot of obstacles to overcome and to have his family and his speed coach there was unbelievable.”


The train keeps a-rollin’ for Damien, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound dynamo. Last Friday night in a showdown for first place in the Peninsula Athletic League-Lake, he scored four more touchdowns and rushed for 397 yards in a 49-44 win against Jefferson. That gives him 17 touchdowns in his last five games.

Count Jefferson coach Will Maddox as impressed.

“That guy was something else,” Maddox said. “We couldn’t stop him.”

Capuchino coach Ben White also likes what he sees.

“He’s had a difficult life, but he’s a nice guy and he listens and is easy to coach,” White said. “He’s physical and strong and fast. On video he’s running away from all the Jefferson kids and they have one of the fastest teams around.”

Damien’s efforts have Cap sitting pretty in the PAL-Lake race. The Mustangs, after a 0-3 start in non-league, are 3-0 in league and 4-4 overall.

“It’s been one crazy ride,” Damien said. “I never expected to go off like I have been. It’s still coming as a shock even after all the great games I’ve had, one right after another. It’s still like ‘This is crazy.’ I don’t want to slow down at all – I want to keep going.”

Nobody could have predicted Damien’s rise, certainly not back in his Pop Warner days with the West Bay Rams when he so disliked the sport coaches had to physically go to Tina’s car and bring him to the field.

“At first I didn’t really like it,” Damien said. “I didn’t like getting hit, but then I started liking it more and here I am today.”


Well, not so fast. There was, after all, those 4 ½ years at the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch which eventually earned the Cap star the nickname “Montana.”

Uncontrolled outbursts at home caused a therapist to suggest the move to the treatment facility and Tina agreed. Besides the temper issues, Damien has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder and asthma.

“I have a lot of things wrong with me,” Damien said with a laugh. “I was born with a couple medical conditions and I needed help controlling the outbursts I had so they just put me there just to get things situated for me.”

Fighting was an issue when Damien attended San Bruno’s Decima Allen Elementary. He was suspended multiple times, though he said he was often goaded into the dust-ups.

Tina knew her son needed help.

“He was on medications at that time and when you’re 11 your body is changing and his medications weren’t working well,” she said. “He was having difficulty in school and a lot of difficulty at home with raging, anger issues.”


The Montana ranch was a high-end facility that included an equestrian center. Damien fit in well and toward the end of his stay even got to play baseball in a Billings league.

“I learned a lot of things,” he said. “Mostly I just learned how to suppress the outbursts that would come boiling up.”

After returning to San Bruno, Damien enrolled at Cap and played some defense and tight end in 2014, earning all-league at the latter. But White noticed the late bloomer’s burgeoning speed and switched him to running back this season – a fateful decision.

He’s responded by piling up one big rushing total after another and scoring all of those touchdowns.

“It’s been remarkable,” Tina said. “He’s tried so hard and I’m so incredibly proud. It’s so exciting to see him motivate the team and the crowd and to help turn the team around.”

Clearly, mom and son now have a mutual admiration society going on — even though Damien said they still occasionally clash.

“I love her,” he said. “She’s the only mother figure in my life. She’s the only parent I’ve had so what is there not to love about the mom who raised you?”

John Murphy may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PrepCat

Wallace has a nose for winning waves


Kaira WallaceBy John Murphy 

More than a half-century ago, the Columbia Pictures movie “Gidget” brought the surf culture to mainstream America.

The 1959 flick starring Sandra Dee chronicles the adventures of a teenage girl named Francie Lawrence (nicknamed Gidget) as she infiltrates a crew of surf bums led by Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) and Moondoggie (James Darren).

It’s cheesy, but kind of fun. And it made surfing much more popular.

Gidget, meet Kaira Wallace, the monster you have spawned.

Wallace is an 18-year-old Half Moon Bay High School senior from Moss Beach who has been tearing it up in Santa Cruz Scholastic Surfing League events for years. Among her exploits, taking third in girls longboard at the 2015 state championships, first in the longboard for the 2014-2015 season and third in the shortboard that same year.

“Surfing is about the most fun thing I’ve ever done,” Wallace said. “I’ve played soccer and basketball, and nothing is quite as great as catching a wave and riding it all the way to the beach. Nothing compares.”

Wallace’s athleticism and confidence blows the ingénue Gidget to smithereens.

See a snapshot of Kaira Wallace shredding it on her dark magenta board, about as skilled as any top dude on the team. See another snap of Wallace with her board in hand, rocking lavender threads and Wayfarers and a confident smile.

Asked if classmates know of her surfing exploits, Wallace said, “They do and they think it’s cool.

“Being on the surf team is not like being on the football or basketball team, but it’s a cool thing,” she said. “People respect and understand it because this is a coastal town and it’s a big part of the community.”

Wallace started surfing in the sixth grade, following in the footsteps of brother Konrad, 20, and father Michael Wallace, a global market strategist who coaches the Half Moon Bay High School club surf team.

Michael Wallace is also an avid surfer who ran track and cross-country for a year at the University of California, Davis, before an injury, then rowed crew for the Aggies and later in England. He once competed in the Henley Royal Regatta.

“My dad taught me everything about surfing, like how to find the good spots and about wind conditions,” Wallace said. “He also shapes my boards; he does that as a side job, and it’s helpful to me because he knows my surfing so well.”

Said Dad of his surfing offspring, who on Saturday won the Jetty Open: “Kaira has a nose for the finish line, often finding a heat-winning wave in the dying seconds. She has a sweet demeanor that disguises a ferocious competitive spirit.”

The Coastside teen even works in the surf industry, logging hours at Mavericks Surf Shop.

It’s not just all about surfing for Wallace, though.

“She’s an excellent student (4.5 grade-point average),” said Mara Krasts, Wallace’s mother, who is a senior communications manager for Pottery Barn. “She’s super-focused on academics and has always been organized. She won’t settle for second best.”

Wallace plans to study math or marine biology in college and, naturally, hopes to attend a school near the ocean that has a club team.

If the schoolwork piles up and she needs to chill, Wallace knows just where to go.

“I like (surfing) because I can do it on my own,” she said. “No one is telling me what to do and it’s relaxing, and it forces you to turn off your phone and TV and just separate yourself from the world.”