Purveyor of RAD #0008 Tim Hutten
Seal Beach, California
Men's USA Water Polo National Team
Where are you from originally?
Seal Beach, CA
When did you start playing water polo?
I started playing water polo when I was 11 after a few years of competitive swimming. Once you in to water polo you don't go back to swimming.
When did you start surfing?
I started surfing at age 9 during Jr. Lifeguards and became obsessed. It was all I wanted to do. Watching older guys who were good surfers made me want to be on a board as much as possible.
Back when you studied and played Water Polo at UCI, you were only about 20 minutes from Newport. How often were you able to sneak away for a surf? Was there a memorable session?
When I was at UCI I didn't surf as much as I would have liked. We were training at 5:30 every morning and 5:30every evening with school in between, so unless it was epic or I had a day off I didn't get out much. I lifeguarded during the summer between trainings so I felt lucky if I could sneak a session in.
My teammates and I would spend a lot of time bodysurfing down around 13th street. Sometimes we would bring out a ball and try to see how long we could hold onto it while riding the wave. That made things interesting, especially if it was big.
You have had an incredible professional Water Polo Career since your Silver Medal Olympic debut in Bejing. You have played in Greece, Croatia, and Italy. Tell us about playing water polo in Europe. What are some Highs and Lows.
Living in Europe takes some getting used to. There are aspects to life in some of those countries that is hard to deal with for a 9 month stretch, but there is also much to embrace. The winter months can be very cold and lonely, especially if you are by yourself. It is hard at times to keep your head in the right place and you find yourself counting the days until you fly home.
The ultimate low of lows is not getting paid. Since water polo is not a big sport and it doesn't get TV coverage like soccer, club teams usually rely on sponsorships from businesses and private investors. If that person's company starts to take a hit, which is happening everywhere in Europe right now, the first thing they do is pull the water polo sponsorship because there is not a return of profit. The players in turn stop getting paid, and that's when things go bad really quick. If that happens you usually leave with 3-4 months of missing pay checks and a sour taste in your mouth. It is a sad story and unfortunately the majority of us players can tell it from experience.
Aside from the bad there is also a lot of good. Meeting new people, eating great food, and establishing yourself in a new culture are some of the benefits to playing in Europe. You find yourself falling into a rhythm that is slower than what we are used to in America, and it just works. It can be scary at first because everything is different, but you end up adapting to the culture you are living in and take back home with you a new perspective on things.
Did you surf when you were living and playing in Europe?
I never surfed when I was in Europe because I never had a board and there were usually no waves, but I would always find myself looking at certain beaches and wondering what would happen if a strong wind pushed a few feet of swell that way. Most of the time I just try not to think about it because it makes me anxious to get back home.
I did on a few occasions see rideable waves. When I was in Greece I showed up at the pool for practice one morning, which was right on the sea on the corner of a large open bay, and was stopped cold when I saw a 2-3 foot wind chop breaking right in front of the club. And there were a few people surfing! I petitioned my coach to skip the 8k swim set and go but no chance. I was freaking out the whole time in the pool thinking about what was going on just on the other side of the wall. It took me a while to recover mentally from that. If I could go back I would have called in sick that day.
What was the longest period you have gone without paddling out?
9 months on multiple occasions....it sucked!
The worst part is that when you get back home and surf again you loose your timing and feel for the wave and it takes a while to get it back.
You also played Water Polo in Australia. Tell us about that experience. What was the most memorable surf session you had out there? Favorite break?
Australia was epic. I traveled 2 boards over and surfed as much as possible, usually a few times a week. I loved surfing breaks that I had never been before, and was always searching for new spots. My favorite thing was just packing up my beat up old ute and heading out from Melbourne to explore the coast. I proposed to my wife during a camping trip on the Great Ocean Road, such a great place!
My most memorable session took place towards the end of my stay when the first winter swells started to come in. We spent a few days on the coast and were on our way back to the city. I dropped my wife off about 5 miles down the road so she could go for a run and told her to meet me at Bells. When I pulled into the parking lot the sun was setting and it was hard to find a spot. I'd surfed there a few times before but had never seen it like this in person. It was going off; 6-8 foot, long lines, strong offshores, and at least 150 people in the lineup. Tourists and spectators lined the bluff, snapping off photos and gawking at the conditions. I was on the fence about paddling out for 10 minutes because it was so crowded but finally decided to pull the trigger. I followed a guy that looked like he knew what he was doing (another tactic I picked up when surfing new spots), and had a fairly easy paddle out at the top of the point. I soon realized that 70% of the surfers out that day were mainly just for show and immediately dialed it in. I picked off a few smaller ones and got hung up on the lip with the wind on a big one, which gave me a pretty good thrashing, before I out-paddled some blokes for one that took me all the way onto the sand.
I thought about going in but figured I would just catch one more (a move that doesn't usually pay off after a great ride), paddled back out through the masses back to the top of the point, and waited for another. Another big one came a few minutes later and the guy next to me gave a pretty minimal effort before pulling off. That turned out to be the wave of the day for me. A few solid turns, almost eating it but saving it at the last second, a good spray on a water photographer, praying I could gain enough speed to make each section, and a nice little inside tube left me on the beach a few hundred meters from where I started, completely stoked. I was pretty speechless on the run back up to my ute, and had to take some time to reflect before I got on the road.
I fished writing a song I was having trouble with after being inspired by that day. It went down in my top 10 sessions of all time, and I was only in the water for 40 minutes!
During the summer, The USA Team trains in La. Do you have much time to get in the water between trainings or on days off?
It depends on how hard we've been training. After 7-8 hour days the conditions have got to be damn near perfect if I am going to put my shoulders through any more suffering.
What is your favorite spot to surf in California?
I've got a lot of spots that I love up and down the coast but if I had to pick a favorite I would say the Huntington. It is close to home and the current gets going pretty strong when there is swell, which spreads out the crowd and allows me to get more waves. If the conditions are decent it is usually a good time.
Does surfing make you a better athlete? If yes, How so?
No. It just makes me want to surf more.
This summer, you will be playing Professional in Malta. What are you looking forward to most about this experience?
It's a new place, new culture, new experience. It's always exciting when you go somewhere new and foreign. I've also heard the crowds can get big at the matches. It's gonna be great.
Team USA: World Champs next summer and Rio in 2016. Will you be competing?
Yes, I plan to carry my career through 2016. I'm still having fun and the lifestyle is really hard to give up. Traveling the world, doing what you love, and getting paid for it! How can you beat that?