“Call me Professor Wright or Dude,” Mark Alan Wright introduces himself at the beginning of a semester. “Dude, where I come from, is a title of respect.”
The professor of ancient scripture hails from Long Beach, Calif., and the moniker comes from the days he’d surf before and after work six days a week. “I say dude a lot,” says Wright. And stoked. And he’s full of tales of the gnarliest waves and the worst wipeouts, of surfing next to dolphin pods or experiences “in the green room”—riding inside the barrel of a wave. And while it’s not a full hang 10, “I can hang five,” he says—meaning he can drop five toes off the front of the board.
He still has just two of his five boards: his 10-and-a-half-foot Harbour San-O and “the Log,” a Holden long board from the ’60s that he and a friend bought at a garage sale for $9 when they were 12. Today it’s worth thousands. “I had a guy get upset at me for surfing it, telling me it should be in a museum,” says Wright. “But that’s not gonna happen; it’s still way too much fun to ride.”
Wright opted to teach religion at BYU over institute in California so he could continue his scholarship on Mayan ritual and religion. While landlocked, mountain biking “gives me a little bit of the stoke I would feel surfing,” he says—at least until he can make a trip back to his beloved Seal Beach.
“There are even days when it’s totally flat out, and I’ll still paddle out and just sit on my board,” says Wright. “It’s this time to ponder and meditate and commune with nature.”