Sports

Del Mar bodysurfing world champion Meredith Rose barrels through waves, glass ceilings

Tech jobs are tough. Software engineers answer to demanding clients. They are almost always on deadline. Competition for top jobs is fierce. The male-dominated profession is even tougher for women.

Welcome to Meredith Rose’s world.

“I’ve had to work harder to gain acceptance to prove that I’m very capable of doing this job and excelling at this job,” Rose said.

Rose has excelled as a network design engineer, staring down challenges since she started out in the mid 1990s.

That same fearlessness and drive has helped her navigate the choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Last month, Rose won her third bodysurfing world championship title in her age division at the 42nd Annual World Bodysurfing Championships held in Oceanside. In addition, Rose won her division in two other major contests held in Manhattan Beach and Huntington Beach in August.

Rose has found a sanctuary from the rat race in a sport she picked up after turning 40.

Bodysurfing is not without risk. It requires athleticism and survival instincts. But with the risks also come rewards. During some fleeting seconds in which she was riding through the barrel of a wave, the annoyances of endless email and message alert beeps are worlds away.

“When you get into a wave that is perfectly carrying you along and then you get into that barrel, everything inside that barrel is beautiful and quiet and spectacular and also full of energy,” Rose said.

“It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been inside the barrel of a wave. It lasts one or two seconds, and it usually ends just as quickly as it begins.”

Rose was raised in Southern California and learned to swim when she was practically a toddler. She didn’t take up bodysurfing until she turned 40. She learned to body board when she was 6, and started board surfing when she was in her 30s.

Rose was a board surfer when she joined the Del Mar BodySurfing Club (DMBC), which she credits for her success in the sport.

She’s found bodysurfing to be more exciting and more community-oriented.

The DMBC was established in 2012. It’s an informal group of about 20 to 30 members that welcomes local residents along with travelers to learn about the sport. Those who have joined the club range in age from 7 to some in their late 70s.

Rose wears fins and uses a hand board that gives her a little more lift.

She’s found bodysurfing to be a more immersive and enjoyable experience.

“I feel more comfortable going under waves, riding waves and wiping out without having that large board attached to me. It’s an individual thing but to me it feels more comfortable. You can do a lot more in terms of enjoying it and feeling the waves and things like that.”

Angling for the right position slide into the wave is challenging, and requires split-second decisions.

“There’s a point where you’re kicking and then you feel the wave has picked you up and is carrying you into the energy of the wave. It’s kind of a point of no return where you’ve got to commit to that wave, fully. You can’t back out or you would risk getting flipped over and taking a beating.”

In addition to her most recent championship, Rose won world titles in 2015 and 2017.

Rose attributes her success in the sport to the DMBC, which she describes as an extended family.

She’s found her career in tech to be less welcoming.

Rose started out in 1994, when software engineering jobs were almost exclusively occupied by men.

“Even my employer at the time was discouraging me from taking my career to the next level, which meant achieving higher levels of training and certification,” Rose said.

“It just wasn’t common and it was more acceptable for men to be the technology consultants and the women to be more into the sales side of things. I just kind of persevered and I studied on my own without employer’s support.”

Women have since made inroads, but the industry remains male-dominated.

Stereotypes persist.

“Still to this day when I go to a customer’s site I will still occasionally have people say, ‘We thought you were bringing an engineer to our meeting,’ and then ‘ I’ll say ‘I am the engineer.’”

Rose has throughout her career had to out-work and out-perform her male counterparts.

Her fearlessness and determination have played a role in her success in bodysurfing, too, she said, noting both endeavors require a willingness to take risks.

“You’re not sure how it’s going to end up if you take this risk, is it going to be worth the effort or are you going to crash and burn at the end?” Rose said. “That is kind of a theme that runs through being a woman in technology and bodysurfing in challenging conditions.”

At least on the ocean, she’s competing on a level playing field.

“The wave has no care,” Rose said. “Mother Nature does not care when she’s hurtling you down the face of a wave about your gender, your age, or anything else.”

For more on the recent bodysurfing world championships, visit www.worldbodysurfing.org.

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