Rachlin Surfs to Escape From Rigor of Andover

Although his hands are full with teaching three sections of History 310 and coaching Instructional Swimming, Noah Rachlin, Instructor in History, manages to find the time to slip away to the beach to catch some waves on the weekends.

Rachlin has always had a special place in his heart for the water, even before he developed his passion for surfing while working as a lifeguard after his college graduation.

“That started it, and I would surf in the summers out on Cape Cod. Then, when I moved to California, that gave me a lot more water time year-round, so I just kept doing it. Now, I’ll try to duck away whenever I can to get into the ocean,” said Rachlin.

One of the many things that Rachlin loves about surfing is the pure, unbroken concentration that comes while he’s on a wave. He explained that, in such a highly connected world, there are few instances where he can focus on one thing without any distractions.

“I realize as the ride comes to an end that I haven’t thought about anything other than the experience of riding the wave while I was doing it. It’s so immersive… I really just enjoy the opportunity to step away, and I think it allows a little bit of space both physically and mentally, and it hopefully makes me better at my job, in part because it helps me to be energized in working towards the things that I care about,” he said.

“My first-period class might even notice that I’m in a slightly better mood on Monday morning,” he added.

Rachlin often applies lessons he learnt through surfing to the classroom to further enhance his students’ academic experiences.

“Just because something is hard, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. I found surfing incredibly hard to learn. In short, it takes a lot of time and frustration to get better… But it’s incredibly gratifying to feel as though I’m working hard at something and improving over time. That’s rigor and joy,” said Rachlin.

“Hopefully students feel as though they’re also being pushed to grow and to further develop in a multitude of ways, but they’re also feeling as though we’re having fun along the way… The way I construct an individual class session emanates from a place of trying to think about that balance,” he continued.

Rachlin’s passion for surfing stems from his experience as a swimmer. Throughout his high school and college years, Rachlin swam competitively.

“In swimming, you’re racing both your competitors and the clock. That means that it’s possible to swim a best time and lose a race… This is combined with the fact that most swimmers train all season for a single meet, and you’re always racing a clock, which, in essence, you can never beat. While I definitely didn’t internalize this message at a young age, competitive swimming says something powerful about the nuanced nature of success and failure,” wrote Rachlin in an email to The Phillipian.

“I think that’s a particularly important lesson that I try to bring into the classroom as much as possible by encouraging students to see their academic experience, both in my class and others, as not just a series of formal assessments to be deemed ‘successes’ or ‘failures,’ but instead as a more nuanced and complex path of growth and development,” he continued.

In addition to his weekend surfing adventures, Rachlin also often participates in triathlons. He even aspires to compete in the IRON MAN World Championship, which is known to many as the most physically rigorous and mentally demanding triathlon in the world.

“It’s one thing to dabble in these smaller-distance triathlons, but there’s a part of me that thinks that it would be really cool to do something like that one day. It’s wild. Somewhere in my mind as a possibility for something I want to do, it’s out there,” said Rachlin.

Rachlin came to Andover from the Pacific Ridge School in Southern California. After earning his Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Rachlin worked with a group of people in 2007 to start Pacific Ridge, a new independent school in Carlsbad, CA.

“[Pacific Ridge] was a really phenomenal experience, and I felt really good about the education we were providing for people who were there. I think it’s been really interesting to have this experience of transitioning from a school that was really building from the ground up to coming to a place that was founded in 1778,” he said.

“Andover stood out to me as a unique place that had a balance of things that I was looking for,” he continued.