Scouting the Staff: Spiritual Athletes

In the midst of hectic lifestyles, the alluring call of sparkling waves, clean, crisp outdoors and the natural world is irresistible. To working adults who toil away for countless hours in the confines of their workspace, finding a way to blow off steam and clear the mind is necessary to maintain sanity.

For teachers Susana Herrera and Greg Stoehr, their participation in sports is not so much for the thrill of competition as for the thrill of taking time off to reinvigorate themselves.

Susana Herrera
For 20 years, English teacher Susana Herrera has been running down the path of life for as many as 54 miles at a time. She started running in third grade, when her stepfather encouraged her and her peers to race.

Though she did not run competitive track or cross country in high school, Herrera felt that there was a “deep hole in [her] life” and joined the college track team. Even after leaving the world of competitive running, Herrera still felt a connection with the sport.

“Running is the answer to the blues,” Herrera said. “It’s about your mental commitment and makes you feel like you’ve done something positive.”

Herrera has an impressive resumé of accomplishments in the sport, having run 19 marathons. One of her proudest accomplishments is running the 26-mile Boston marathon in 3 hours and 28 minutes.

For now, Herrera is taking a year-long break from running: Training, taking care of her child, revising her book and teaching have made it nearly impossible to get sufficient sleep.

However, despite her exhaustion, running is still one of her first loves, and she truly enjoys practicing and running rigorously with her trainer and other teachers. Herrera sees it as a kind of healing process to soothe the mind and get away from the many stresses of real life.

“When I run, I feel so peaceful,” Herrera said. “I can reflect, meditate, pray and be. It’s such a good way to take a time out, breathe and just get away from life for a while.”

Greg Stoehr
Science teacher Greg Stoehr has been surfing since first grade. He loved the ocean and surfed frequently since the ocean was so close to his childhood home in southern California.

“I’ve surfed my whole life,” Stoehr said. “It’s my natural state.”

Although Stoehr is not a competitive surfer, he commits a significant time to surfing every week, going to the beach every couple of days. Currently, he surfs about 120 days a year. He lives near the beach in Santa Cruz, making surfing trips convenient.

Although he has suffered a few minor injuries while surfing, they have never deterred him from returning to the shore with a board in hand.

According to Stoehr, there is something special about being one with the ocean and hanging out with friends in the waves. He enjoys the sense of struggle between man and nature each time he tries to catch a wave.

“When you surf, there are big waves trying to get you while you’re surfing with the waves at the same time,” Stoehr said. “It’s almost like yin and yang.”

Surfing is a spiritual experience for him; he enjoys surfing as a peaceful pastime in which he can be a part of nature and experience the world in its purest state. He does not expect to stop surfing anytime soon.

“Being out in nature — lets us experience the world in its more natural state as opposed to the artificial state we often find ourselves in,” Stoehr said. “I’m going to surf until I die.”