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San Clemente Journal

The Colapinto Brothers, Destined for the Sea Life

Mar 28, 2022 04:19PM ● By Rebecca Parsons

Matt, father Don, Matt and Mike “Rocco”.

Colapinto Brothers [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
by Rebecca Parsons

If you follow surfing, the name Colapinto likely rings a bell. Collectively, the family consists of pro surfers, surfboard shapers, lifeguards, and surf camp founders. But despite being a household name in the world of surfing, the Colapintos don’t come from a long line of surfers. In fact, surfing didn’t become a part of their lifestyle until 1971.

Despite their lack of surfing heritage, the Colapintos were always destined for a life centered around the sea. Their mom was a champion swimmer, so Mike, Matt, Mitch, and their sister, Kim learned to swim when they were just three years old, were enrolled on swim team by age five, and joined junior lifeguards shortly after.

In 1971, while they were living in Malibu, their dad bought them a 10-foot Hobie surfboard and Mike, aka Rocco, became the first Colapinto to ever surf, with Matt and Mitch quickly following suit. Although the Colapinto brothers lives have mirrored each other’s in many ways, they each forged different paths to get to where they are today. 

The oldest of the Colapintos, Rocco became a beach lifeguard at age eighteen and after graduating from Humboldt State University in 1981, he became a Los Angeles county lifeguard. In 1986, he moved to Alaska, where he worked as a commercial fisherman and eventually earned his captain’s license. From there, he moved to Oahu for a couple of years where he continued to work on boats, before eventually returning to California where he began a lifelong career in the mortgage industry. 

The middle Colapinto, Matt became a state lifeguard at Leo Carillo State Beach in 1984, intermittently competing in lifeguard and surfing contests. He attended UC Santa Barbara where he met his wife, Denise, and the two moved to Oahu after graduation. During their years on the island, Matt worked as lifeguard supervisor at the Kaneohe Marine Base. Their free time was spent scouring the island in search of surf.

In 1997, Matt and Denise returned to California and Matt began working as a teacher, while maintaining his status as a state lifeguard. In 1998, inspired by his younger brother, Matt and Denise founded the Aloha Beach Surf Camp at T Street. The camp ran for twenty years and during that time, Matt and Denise taught over 10,000 kids to surf. After shutting down Aloha Beach Surf Camp, Matt founded a non-profit: the Aloha Surfing Foundation. The non-profit’s mission is to educate military families about ocean and beach safety, all while showing them a good time. 

The youngest Colapinto, Mitch attended San Clemente High School when the Colapintos relocated to San Clemente in 1982. In 1985, he followed in his brothers footsteps and became a lifeguard at San Clemente State Beach. After graduating from San Diego State, Mitch began working as an elementary school teacher at Truman Benedict Elementary School. In 1998, Mitch and his wife, Camile, opened Cola’s Surf Camp at Poche Beach, where their kids learned to surf alongside their clients. 

“Pretty much all of the Colapinto blood surfs,” says Matt. “Our wives surf, our kids surf, and our sister surfs. We all enjoy going to the beach.”

Although Rocco, Matt, and Mitch may have laid the foundation for surfing in their family, their experiences are just the groundwork for a long line of surfing Colapintos. Corey Colapinto (24) is a talented shaper and, although he chose to leave the competitive world behind, he’s insanely skilled on both short and longboards. Unlike their cousin, brothers Griffin (23) and Crosby (20) both took to the competitive scene and are already turning heads on the CT.
“Living near San O really made a huge difference,” says Matt. “We would drive down, set up the RV, and hang out all day-the water was warm and there were always little waves. We thought it was a really cool lifestyle and our kids saw it too.”

By nature, the Colapintos are humble people who tend to fly under the radar. They prioritize giving back to the community and educating people about ocean safety. Whether they’re on or off duty, the brothers are constantly searching the ocean and beach for safety hazards and have saved numerous lives between the three of them. 

“When I hear stories about Matt and Mitch saving lives, it brings tears to my eyes,” says Rocco. “It’s really special. I think one of the greatest things you can do is give back to the community.”
Most days, the Colapinto brothers spend their evening together, on a balcony overlooking the sea, talking about their kids, sharing stories, or reflecting on childhood memories. Whether it’s surfing, fishing, or swimming, the Colapintos have and always will be connected by the sea. 
“Our family always gravitated to the water,” says Mitch. “We’re all very appreciative of what the ocean has given us with life guarding, surfing, and now a career for the kids. All of us are blessed to have the ocean right here in our backyard-the ocean gives so much to everybody.”

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