From the National Football League to tennis to bull riding, Erin Coscarelli has run the gamut as a sports broadcaster.
The intrepid, self-acknowledged extrovert who graduated from La Cañada High School in 2002 has traveled all over the nation to cover sports and deliver stories about the athletes fans love to watch, and that success led her to the opportunity she could not pass up.
Coscarelli returned to her Southern California roots to become one of three hosts of ABC’s “The Ultimate Surfer,” a new reality competition show developed by surfing legend Kelly Slater that features 14 professionals — seven men and seven women — vying for a $100,000 prize and a chance to compete in the World Surf League Championship Tour, the pinnacle of the sport. The two-night premiere aired Monday and Tuesday after “Bachelor in Paradise,” one of the network’s most successful series.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime job because it’s never been done before,” Coscarelli, who graduated from the USC Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism, told the Outlook Valley Sun in a phone interview last week. “It doesn’t get any cooler for me than that because I am a SoCal native. When I grew up, my family would rent a beach house for a week somewhere by the beach, whether it was San Clemente or Newport, and those were the highlights of my childhood memories.”
The former Spartan, who played volleyball, softball and soccer while growing up in La Cañada Flintridge, added another memorable moment to her eventful life when the show wrapped production for the season recently. Coscarelli was able to finally partake in activities the competitors enjoyed during filming at Slater’s famous Surf Ranch in Lemoore.
“As my cousin put it, it’s the mecca of surfing,” Coscarelli said of Surf Ranch, a 2,000-foot-long basin that mechanically produces the best artificial waves in the world. “It was probably one of the best days of my life. It was such a nice little glow on what was already a very cool experience shooting there for four weeks. It felt like summer camp, and then the icing on the cake was our last day — we got to surf with Kelly Slater, so it was pretty rad.”
The competitors in the series seem to be just as appreciative of the experience, and Coscarelli’s goal was to characterize the diverse group for the audience.
“It’s a totally unique array of different personalities and different age ranges and different nationalities gunning for the opportunity of a lifetime, which is to make the pro tour,” she said. “That’s what really appealed to me. It was just the perfect storm of a dream opportunity to work on a surf show tied to me and the lifestyle I grew up with.”
The series also showcases Coscarelli’s passion and talent for telling a story and focusing on the human element. The LCF native is fascinated by how sports can provide transcendent experiences and let ordinary people connect with athletes on a different level.
“If we can look to these athletes and tell their true stories of who they are behind the jersey or behind the surfboard, I think we can really have a more positive effect, especially with everything that’s going on with COVID,” she said. “That’s the kind of impact that I want to have. That’s why I love what I do, because I love storytelling. … I’m the vehicle that hopefully can either brighten your day or give you hope.”
Coscarelli has specialized in delivering such introspection for more than two decades, a knack that helped her land a gig with the Raiders. The popular NFL organization that once played in Los Angeles hired her as a broadcaster for its “Silver and Black” production last year when the team officially moved to Nevada, but she wasn’t able to enjoy the roars from a crowd at the recently built Allegiant Stadium during the season because the Raiders played in an empty venue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“My focus right now is the NFL and covering the Raiders and continuing to tell the stories of incredible athletes that are on the team in Vegas and continue to immerse the Vegas market into the Raiders legacy,” Coscarelli said. “I just want to give fans that experience that they didn’t get to have last year. That’s my new focus this year.”
The sportscaster is also shifting some of her attention to her own story after years of connecting fans to professional athletes. Coscarelli is planning to launch a virtual broadcasting school later this year to “mentor and coach other young women who want to get into this kind of space by using the experiences that I went through — the failures I had and the successes that I had.
“I hope to be an inspiration for young women who want to be in sports broadcasting, because when I started out it wasn’t as common as it is now,” Coscarelli added. “I had to navigate some difficult landscapes and I want to use my story as an example, hopefully to inspire young women to embrace who they are. You don’t have to change to be a good broadcaster.”
Despite all of her struggles, Coscarelli’s curiosity, perseverance and sense of adventure remain the same and have driven her to help women, especially in the era of the coronavirus.
“COVID humbled me because it took away my favorite thing,” she said. “I’m a people person, through and through. I love connecting with people. I think the biggest lesson I learned from COVID is time is passing. … I really needed to deep dive and figure out what my purpose is and what I’m here for. What can I do to make not only the most for myself but help others and impact others and be there for them? I wasn’t the only one that struggled mightily.”
Coscarelli is ramping up NFL coverage with the season opening in two weeks and crossing her fingers for a second season of “The Ultimate Surfer,” which airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC or can be streamed online on the network’s website.