Santa Monica Scholars Net 20th Annual JPL Surf Bowl Wi

Published : Wednesday, February 27, 2019 | 5:39 AM

The 2019 Santa Monica High School Ocean Sciences Bowl team will go on to compete in the national competition. From left to right: Coach Ingo Gaida, Teddy Berger, Ryan Chien, Donny Sanders, Derek Wen and Ireland Neville. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Jet Propulsion Laboratory extended its traditional hosting of the annual “Surf Bowl” to a 20th year at a Feb. 23 competition that saw Santa Monica High School emerge victorious.

JPL’s digs can hardly be considered “beachy,” but the Surf Bowl thrives annually as a place for those who study the ocean to come test their mettle against others in the field.

The day-long competition entails 12 teams, of four high school students each, answering questions about fish biology, the history of ocean exploration, ocean wildlife protection policies, and wind turbine components.

The event is a regional tournament, the winner from which will go on to compete in the 22nd National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals in Washington D.C. in April.

This year that will be Santa Monica High.

Santa Monica High lost one round during the double-elimination period of the competition but squeaked into the finals. They came back to win two rounds against runner-up Arcadia High School.

Team coach Ingo Gaida, who teaches a class for different academic competitions, said former Surf Bowl participants have gone on to careers in ocean and environmental sciences.

“I think the comradery is really beneficial,” Gaida said. “We have a lot of fun at practice, but they also have to work together as a team, and some of them have never done that before; they’ve only studied individually. It’s different when their team is counting on them.”

Santa Monica’s team captain, senior Derek Wen, said he’s thinking about studying environmental science in college. Team member Ireland Neville said the win is even sweeter because it took place at JPL.

“It’s pretty cool to come to JPL, where we’re among the stars, and win something huge,” he said.

To learn more about the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, visit

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