CRESENT CITY, Calif. -- A snowboarder at heart, Staff Sgt. Ryan Demuth grew up in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area where he could find plenty of snow-packed hills to hone his skills.

But when he wound up in Crescent City on recruiting duty, he had to relook at his free-time activities -- after all, Crescent City is one of the top spots in the nation for long-board surfing, not snowboarding.

"It seemed to be a natural transition from snowboarding to surfing," Demuth said. "I picked up the sport pretty quickly."

But there was one problem: Demuth is deathly afraid of sharks.

"Before I came to Crescent City, I had never even gone past my knees in the water for fear of being eaten," he said. "But part of the Army Values is Personal Courage, so I jumped in with both feet, literally." But Demuth said he still orders shark whenever he sees it on the menu. "That is one less shark that can eat me!"

Demuth said that surfing is a very humbling sport and sometimes people forget just how small they are in the grand scheme of things.

"There's nothing like a 10-foot wave to put you in your place," he said. "Sitting in the water and waiting for that one perfect wave is like finding a Senior Alpha with no medical issues and no law issues and is ready to enlist. It just gives you that sense of excitement."

Demuth said he feels the public tends to forget Soldiers have goals and passions just like everyone else; sometimes even Soldiers get so wrapped up in the day-to-day recruiting effort and their mission that they, too, forget to pursue personal goals and passions.

"That's no way to live. There has to be some type of balance between work, family and fun," he said.

Demuth loves that he can share surfing with his family. He hits the waves three days per week before going to work, but on the weekends it's all about family.

"I take my son, Cohen, who is three years old and teach him a thing or two while my wife, Sarah, watches from the beach," he said. "Then as a family we walk the shorelines and look for agates or seashells. It has kind of turned into one of these corny after-school specials on TV, but we love it."

The first weekend in October, Demuth hit the Crescent City waves during the 16th annual Noll Long Board Competition. He took sixth place in the Hot Shots Category out of approximately 36 contestants.

"I think for people to just see an Army guy share a passion for something 'normal' and tangible was really an Army story of itself."