You’ve known since age 10 that you wanted to surf. When did you decide that surfing professionally was what you wanted to do with your life?
It was at the biggest amateur event, the USA championships, where I decided I wanted to be a pro surfer. As an amateur, all the best kids from Hawaii, the East Coast, and California compete at this event. And I remember I was enjoying surfing but didn’t do many contests. I came into that event really oblivious and just did it because my older brother did it. But I ended up winning, and I remember the feeling I got holding this big trophy, and I just felt so on top of the world. It was so awesome and exciting, and that’s when I was like, “Wow, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life and never, ever want to stop.”
You’ve made history as the youngest surfers to compete in the pro circuit, the World Surf League event, and the Women’s Championship Tour. What was that experience like for you?
It was incredible, getting all those experiences so young. I was 13 when I won as a wildcard, and I was qualifying for the championship at 15. Now, I look back to it, and I just think getting that early starstruck phase out of the way was really helpful. Because by the time I qualified, I was like, “All right, I feel like I belong here. And even though I look up to all these fellow surfers, I still want to beat them.”
Surfing can be scary. How do you get over any fear around being in the water and being in the game?
Surfing professionally can be intimidating, not to mention the ocean is extremely humbling. And being so young and competing against girls who are a lot older than you at waves that you don’t have experienced with—it’s a lot. But for me, I surrounded myself with so many awesome people like, my coach, Mike, who has been great about sharing his knowledge. Having the right people around me to remind me, “Hey, there’s no pressure on you. You’re young. Just go surf,” was helpful. Plus, you’d be surprised at what you put your mind to and at what you can achieve. Sometimes I’ll get caught inside by a wave that I think I’m like, “Oh my god, this is super gnarly.” And then I get through that, and I’m like, “Okay, I got through that.” So I think just knowing that consistency is key, and the more you do it, the more comfortable you get.
Do you feel like you’ve had to deal with misconceptions about you and your age being a professional surfer?
I think many people were like, “Whoa, did your parents just let you drop out of school?” and things like that. But in reality, my parents have always been really on me about education, first and foremost, and just wanted to raise a really good human. I did finish high school in 2020 (that was probably the highlight of my year), but that’s the main thing I dealt with. Otherwise, I’ve experienced a level of welcomeness and have met some incredible people surfing, so it’s been an interesting ride.
You’ve been an outspoken advocate for body positivity. What do you hope people take away from you being in the limelight throughout your career?
I think for someone like me, growing up in the limelight, people judge you. It’s about surrounding yourself with good people that have good energy. There’s always going to be people hating or saying negative comments, but do what’s good for you, do what makes you feel good, and do what makes you happy. That’s the most important thing because you can’t please everyone, but you can make sure you’re happy and that you surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good.
Do you feel like your relationship to the planet and nature has changed through your surfing?
For sure. I’m in the ocean a lot, and that’s my happy place. But I’m still not used to seeing pieces of trash on the beach, and I’m always like, “Oh, I’m just gonna pick this up because I want to protect the ocean.” You’d be surprised how small but effective something like picking up the trash or not using a plastic straw can be. The little things go such a long way.
What is it like being a part of the Roxy swim team? What does that mean to you?
Oh, it’s insane. When you’re little, your dream is to be a Roxy girl, especially when you surf. So to be on the team with someone like Stephanie Gilmore, who I’ve looked up to my whole life, and now we travel together and compete together, it’s cool. Roxy’s swim team is a great group of girls. And with a lot of surf brands, they’re focused on the guys and girls, but it’s cool that Roxy is its own thing focused on catering to female surfers.
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