HONOLULU — Ally Roth has traded one island for another.
When the Emerald Isle native isn’t hitting the books at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, she’s hitting Waikiki Beach to surf.
“I really got into surfing when I was 8, and I thought it would be so cool to live here,” the former Croatan standout athlete said. “I thought it would be great to have the opportunity to go to school here.”
Roth applied to UH as a dream school but figured it was a long shot because of the out-of-state tuition. She then earned an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship.
“When I found out I got the scholarship, I cried,” she said. “I knew that meant I could come to Hawaii.”
Seeing that she wouldn’t be making any weekend trips home like so many other college students, Roth said her parents weren’t nearly as thrilled.
“They were definitely sad I wanted to come to school here,” she said.
After growing up surfing on Bogue Banks and falling in love with the sport, she soon dreamed of a future surfing in Hawaii. She reported the waves in Honolulu haven’t disappointed.
“Oh my gosh, they tell you it’s different here, but I can’t even explain it,” she said. “If a hurricane comes or passes by, you can get some nice swell back home, but here it’s everyday. It’s awesome.”
Most days are 3-4 feet, but she said that description doesn’t do it justice.
“They say Hawaii’s 3-4 is like 5-6 anywhere else,” she said. “It’s just a great swell.”
Roth’s surfing ability shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who witnessed her career at Croatan. One of the best athletes in school history, she was named all-conference in basketball, cross country, swimming and soccer.
She was named the school’s Best All-Around Athlete and was a part of some of the best basketball and cross country teams in school history. Her spring season with a soccer team that had state championship aspirations was cut short by the pandemic.
“I miss basketball, and I miss soccer,” she said. “Oh, I miss soccer. I can’t even think about us not playing soccer last spring.”
Roth surfs Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays when she doesn’t have class. A true scholar-athlete at Croatan with a 3.7 GPA, she devotes the rest of her time to her studies, which are more difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m definitely not an online learner, so it’s kind of sucks,” she said. “All of my classes are online. My school work is absolutely insane.”
Roth has classes in the mornings and does her homework in the afternoons. She does ROTC PT (physical training) in the afternoons.
And like other college students these days, she’s trying to get used to campus life during the pandemic. She doesn’t have a roommate in her dorm and has yet to meet her classmates or anyone in her ROTC group.
“It’s super hard to meet people,” she said.
There is also getting used to life in a state that is taking the virus seriously.
She had to quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Honolulu. For a time, people weren’t allowed to sit on the beach. They either had to walk or be in the water.
“When I compare it to back home, it’s definitely stressed more here,” she said of virus protocols. “You have to wear a mask when you are out walking around instead of just wearing it in school or businesses.”
Hawaii is in the bottom five of the country in coronavirus cases per capita with 865 cases per 100,000 people. Compare that number to Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona and George, with each averaging more than 3,000 cases per 100,000 people.
“It’s super strict here,” Roth said. “They are kind of loosening up. You are allowed to sit on the beach now.”
And while her first year of college probably isn’t what she expected, she’s still the envy of her friends.
“They all want to come visit,” she said. “When spring break comes, they tell me they are heading this way.”
She will soon get to meet her ROTC group at last. Roth chose the military route because she’s wanted to be a pilot since her early high school days.
“I might fly fighters, like the F-22, but I haven’t decided,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind flying cargos. We’ll see.”
Having a job that allowed her to travel and have blocks of time off appealed to her.
“I plan on getting into triathlons when I’m older, and so I wanted the kind of a job where I can have time to train,” she said.
She viewed the job’s lifestyle up close in high school, as Steve Hagerty, the father of her basketball and soccer teammate Kelly Hagerty, is a Delta Air Lines pilot.
“He would be gone a week or two, be home a week or two. I like that schedule,” she said. “I wanted a job that would let me travel. I just think it’s a cool profession.”