To de-stress from work, this Anaheim officer loves to grab his board and catch some waves

By Greg Hardesty

The surfer cruises down the road on his way to the popular wave-riding spot known as Churches, located in front of Camp Pendleton campgrounds.

Ziggy Marley is playing in his Toyota Tundra, setting the perfect chillaxing vibe before a mid-morning weekday session in sets of 2- to 4-foot swells.

His face slathered in sunscreen, Shawn Boatright isn’t playing hooky – he’s getting in what he calls “salt water therapy.” He surfs a few times a week before his 2 p.m.-to-midnight shift as an Anaheim PD bicycle patrol officer in the city’s resort district.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright makes his way through Downtown Disney while on bike patrol.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Surfing, says Boatright, a 27-year law enforcement veteran, is the perfect way to decompress from a job that can be very  stressful.

“Overall, surfing helps me be a better person,” says Boatright, who’s been surfing since he was 12. His father, a contractor, would drop him off at the beach with a surfboard and $5 for food.

He got hooked.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright pauses for a moment while he waits for a good wave to ride as a group of pelicans fly by.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Now, as a father, surfing and other water sports are ingrained in his family.

Boatright parks and takes his “puddle jumper,” a Lost short board, out of the bed of his truck. He owns about 15 surfboards that are stacked up in his garage like firewood.

Boatright grinds some wax on the 5-foot, 10-inch board.

He plucks a tube of sunscreen from a large bag filled with numerous tubes of sunscreen — some appear to date back years — and applies a little more to his face.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright surfs Churches on a recent weekday morning before heading to work.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Boatright is 48. His dermatologist has been getting on him about protecting himself as much as possible from the punishing sun.

He also keeps a bag of shampoo and soap so he can clean up before going to work.

Boatright takes off his pair of cheap sunglasses before hitting the sand. He loses sunglasses a lot, so he doesn’t buy expensive ones.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright gets his Lost surfboard out from the bed of his truck as he gets ready to surf at Churches.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A surfer walks up to him. He has a cut, and he asks Boatright whether he thinks it’s safe to go back into the water.

No big deal, Boatright tells him.

Another surfer walks by and tells Boatright 20 minutes in the water did wonders for his aching shoulder.

It’s like this down here. Strangers become fast friends.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright in front of the entrance to Disneyland’s California Adventure.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Boatright hasn’t been doing a lot of surfing recently because he’s had back issues.

“I have two bulging disks, like most cops do,” he says.

He says years of wearing a gun belt with uneven distribution of weight can do that.

Regular visits to a chiropractor and jiu jitsu — another of Boatright’s passions — has helped, but Boatright warns his surfing today won’t be stellar.

“It’s starting to come along,” he says of his skills.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright walks to the beach at Churches for some surf time.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He wears a long-sleeve wet suit top for sun protection and to prevent rashing on his chest.

The water is 70-ish — fairly toasty for O.C. beaches.

Boatright starts to head out to catch some sets.

“If I’m having a bad day, a stressful day, (surfing) takes it all away,” he says.

Boatright became interested in law enforcement when he was a youngster.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright makes his way through Downtown Disney while on patrol.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“My uncle had a lot of police officer friends who were inspiring to me,” he says. “I also did a couple of ridealongs when I was young.”

Boatright majored in criminal justice at Fullerton College. He entered the police academy when he was 21 after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department hired him.

He spent five years at the LASD before joining the APD so he could work closer to home.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright surfs Churches.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

At the APD, Boatright spent many years in patrol and also served as an SRO (school resource officer) for several years. He became a bike patrol officer in the resort district seven years ago.

“I love it,” he says.

While on bike patrol, Boatright rides a Kona mountain bike with street tires. He needs to be able to maneuver down stairs and other tricky spots. His skills have landed him the role of bike trainer for law enforcement officers throughout the state.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

At the APD, Boatright also is a trainer in arrest and control techniques, and is an assistant wrestling coach for youth where he lives – other activities that keep his nearly half-century-old physique chiseled and toned.

Boatright often surfs with APD Lt. Craig Friesen, APD Corrections Officer Ryan Gurley, and APD Officer Ken Webber. He also surfs with officers from different agencies. Boatright is close to Harbor Police Officer Mike Hontucan of the San Diego Unified Port District, who’s shown him some sweet surfing spots south of O.C.

Officer-involved shootings, domestic violence incidents and child abuse are among the toughest calls law enforcement professionals respond to.

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright takes a breather before heading out for another set at Churches.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“They can take a toll on your psyche and emotions,” Boatright says.

That’s where surfing comes in. In addition to that, he also plays the guitar.

“I sit in the garage at night and look up tablature on the Internet and play my favorite songs,” Boatright says.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sometimes, just coming down to the beach is enough therapy for Boatright.

“I don’t even have to get in the water,” he says. “Just being here… there’s a good, positive energy about the ocean. You’re in the medium of the purest form of nature. It’s cleansing.”

Anaheim PD Officer Shawn Boatright pauses for a moment while surfing at Churches.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC