SANTA CRUZ – Noah Clarkson, a talented soccer player and avid surfer, lost most of his possessions when the CZU Lightning Complex decimated his family home in Bonny Doon in August.
Clarkson, a member of the Santa Cruz Breakers, made sure he packed his treasured surfboards when his family evacuated their 1.7 acre property. Between the fire and COVID-19 keeping him and his friends from competing on the soccer field, it’s been a tough year for the Scotts Valley High Senior.
There were also some bright spots. Among them, Clarkson gave an oral pledge earlier this month to play soccer for the NCAA Division I UC Irvine.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “I visited the campus and thought it was a great place.”
Noah Clarkson, a senior Scotts Valley senior whose family lost his home in Bonny Doon in the fire at the CZU Lightning Complex, has pledged to play soccer for the NCAA Division I UC Irvine. (Contributed)
Growing up, Clarkson had two main goals: to play DI soccer on the west coast near the ocean. A coastal college would fuel his soul: a cool climate, cool landscape, and the ability to ride waves. The ocean is one of his happy places.
Another happy place is on the soccer field. As an attacking midfielder, Clarkson played for the Santa Cruz Sharks and Santa Cruz Revolution U8-U12 teams. He later played in the U11-14 teams for the San Jose Earthquakes before moving to the Breakers Academy in Santa Cruz, now Breakers FC.
Clarkson met many caring people on his football trip. His Breakers teammates were among those who helped after his family lost their home. They took him on a shopping spree and had a dinner party.
Another was former Earthquakes and Breakers coach Simon Tobin, a Santa Cruz resident who has served as the head coach of San Jose State University since 2014. Tobin liked Clarkson and what he brought into play. Clarkson is a skilled and technical player who eyes the ball on the best pass to break through a defense.
“He’s always dangerous,” said Ryan Gomez, a Breakers team-mate. “He can change the game immediately. He can dribble and make the final pass. And when he shoots it, he shoots it hard. ”
Tobin offered a scholarship to Clarkson, who owns a 4.6 GPA, but he knew about the soccer player’s love for surfing. Tobin contacted Yossi Raz and told him about Clarkson’s talents.
Clarkson made an unofficial visit to Irvine last winter after he and his father Sam returned from a surf trip near Seven Sisters in Baja California, Mexico. His mother Sarah flew down to join her husband and son in their meeting with Raz. It took two hours.
In addition to searching for Clarkson’s perspective on football styles and strategies, Raz delved deeply into Clarkson’s personality and family life, and even asked about his relationship with his sister Maya, a freshman on the South Carolina equestrian team.
Raz is known to put teams together by immersing himself in a player’s psyche and functionality as he tries to put contiguous units of the field together. His strategy has also brought him success. He posted a 54-17-12 in four seasons with Cal Poly Pomona and led the Anteaters to the Big West Conference regular season title in 2018, a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament. and was named Conference Trainer of the Year.
In 2019, the Anteaters went 7-7-5 with six losses.
“You are very good,” said Clarkson. “In terms of competition, it will be very difficult. I’m going to have to work very hard and I’m looking forward to it.
“Yossi runs a very self-confident and excellent program. I definitely think bigger things are to come. ”
When the Clarksons attended the meeting with Yossi, Sam and Sarah shared the same thought: wouldn’t it be cool if this guy coached our son for the next four years?
“He’s dynamic and thoughtful,” said Sarah.
The Clarksons, with the help of some friends, moved to Santa Cruz after the fire. Clarkson is nowhere near packing for college. He still has one more semester to complete in Scotts Valley. But when he does, he knows a few things to bring with him for the trip. The same things he prioritized when evacuating his home in Bonny Doon: his surfboards.
Clarkson will have a new home while studying, but he won’t forget where he’s from. He’s made a handful of trips back to Bonny Doon to see the charred remains of what was.
“It’s super hard to go back,” he said. “It’s different to see what it was and what it is now. But I think it’s good to go up and see. I lived there for 17 years. I want to remember where I lived. I still feel a connection to it. ”