If you want to climb to the top of a sport like surfing, the trick is to start early — the younger the better. That way you can get many, many hours of practice squared away, lock the technique into your brain and prepare to become a champion before the stresses of adulthood set in (and maybe also avoid too many crazy surfing wipeouts).
Meet the best kid surfers. These surfing sensations started young and are already making serious waves.
Hawaii-based Carissa Moore is a surfing machine. She learned the sport from her father who recognized that she had stunning “balance and movement” when she was just two. At the ripe old age of six, Carissa started competing in Hawaii surfing contests and won her first sponsorship deal one year on. As she began growing up, her career fast gathered momentum. At 10, she won several 17-and-under events around Hawaii. Then, in 2004, she won the Billabong Junior Pro Competition and was honored by Surfer Magazine as 2004’s Breakthrough Performer of the Year. She has now won 11 National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) titles.
Moore is such a prodigy that she has been featured on the show, Ripley’s Believe it or Not and she worked as an extra in the 2002 surfing movie, Blue Crush.
Apparently little changed by fame, though, Moore still spends up to three hours a day working on her surfing technique with her father.
Nicknamed Mike and Miggy, Brazilian boy wonder Miguel Pupo is ranked 15 on The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Championship Tour. Already, Pupo has a fistful of professional titles including wins at – deep breath – the ASP PRIME Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro and the ASP PRIME O’Neill Cold Water Classic California. Pupo is part of a new wave of young and driven Brazilian surfers.
“I was just waking up at like 5:00 in the morning every single day — just training and getting focused by myself. As long as you work hard, the results will come,” he told Surfer Magazine after winning last year’s Nike 6.0 Lowers Pro at San Clemente, California. Buoyed by his victory, Pupo waved the green and yellow Brazilian flag and walked away with a solid gold railroad spike.
The Brazilian boy wonder was recently signed by the board sport gear maker Dakine, which said his “masterful combination of technical prowess and relaxed style has proven deadly in competition”.
Pupo’s future is “unbelievably bright”, the company added.
No kid pro surfer has a more dramatic story to tell than Hawaii-based Bethany Hamilton.
In October 2003, Hamilton headed out for an early surf along Tunnels Beach, Kauai. Amid droves of turtles, she lay on her surfboard with her left arm hanging in the water when a tiger shark lunged, tearing the arm off below the shoulder.
Despite losing over 60 percent of her blood, Hamilton recovered to win the 2004 Best Comeback Athlete ESPY Award. Even more remarkably, in 2005, she took first place in the NSSA National Championships: a goal she had been focusing on before the attack. In 2008, she started competing full-time in the ASP World Qualifying Series. In her first contest against many of the world’s top female surfers, Hamilton came in second.
This year, she won the Peter Whittaker Award, which recognizes traits that make someone more than just a good surfer. Besides passion for surfing, the prize recognizes integrity, respect, achievement and sportsmanship. But Hamilton’s strongest trait must be sheer bravery.
Despite the fact she is only 14 years old, athlete Frankie Harrer is one of America’s top female surfers. This year, she broke the record for the most wins in a single NSSA competition season, beating the previous record of 30 wins set by fellow Californian prodigy Kanoa Igarashi in 2009.
“I am really excited that I broke the record, because it was my goal for this year and it feels really good to have achieved it,” the tireless Harrer told Surfer Today, before flying to Hawaii for yet another contest. Widely seen as the top female surfer in California in her age group, Harrer can give many male pro surfers a run for their money.
Harrer was also one of the youngest girls to be featured in Surfer Magazine’s Hot 100 list of athletes.
When he was 11, epic teen surfer Kanoa Igarashi broke Cory Arrambide’s record for the most NSSA victories in a single season, racking up 30. Touted as a ferociously competitive possible successor to the pros of today, Igarashi claims he just keeps at it.
“I think it’s all the hard work — no matter how much talent you have, you always have to work hard to be on top,” Igarashi told Freaksurf Magazine.
Igarashi was born in Santa Monica, California to Japanese parents who taught him to surf when he was just three. The whizz kid of the waves now based at Huntington Beach, California, has traveled the world several times over and is fluent in both English and Japanese.
In Japan, he is a star — at the airport, fans take snaps and ask for his autograph. The teen celebrity looks likely to sustain his success because he loathes losing, he told the surfing hub Ocean & Earth.
“Whenever I don’t make a heat, I get really frustrated with myself, but then I try and learn from what I did wrong. I love surfing contests. I like everything about it. It’s fun and always challenges me,” he said.
Californian surfer Lakey Peterson learned to surf off Manly Beach near Sydney, Australia when she was five years old. Now she is ranked #3 in North America and #7 in the world by ASP. In 2009, she achieved the first-ever aerial in NSSA women’s competition history and won the title.
Surfing, Peterson reckons, is the best sport to compete in because it resembles going to a beach party with your friends.
But she works hard to live the dream. As she told Teen Vogue, she is in the gym with her trainer four days week building her balance, core strength and “explosiveness”, using Swiss balls and kettle bells. She also enjoys skating, paddling and swimming.
Like rival Carissa Moore, Peterson is a film star — appearing in the 2011 surfing movie, Leave A Message.