ERIN BROOKS AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

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Point One:
At just15 years old, Erin Brooks is charging headlong into the surfing world, carving out her notoriety one wave at a time. Brooks is the youngest competitor to ever compete in the Rip Curl Cup at Padang Padang and the first woman to make it to the final. Chronicling in real-time the evolution of our sport. She took on men twice her age and size, and advanced beyond some of the world’s most recognizable surfers, many on which were competing on their own turf.

Point Two:
When asked how old she was when she turned pro she answered “Um…hmmm…I think I was 12?”. Becoming a professional athlete at age 12 is not exactly a common playground conversation.

Point Three:
Brooks is from Texas and started surfing at age nine in Hawaii, turning professional just three years later. “Right when I first started surfing there was this little contest and a lot of kids from my school were doing it. I just thought it would be something fun to do. But I discovered I was a very competitive person”.

Point Four:
“At first I was playing tennis. Then a girl from the tennis team invited me to go surf, and on my first wave I realized I wanted to surf forever.”

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Point Five:
“I mean it’s crazy being able to travel the world and being able to go in the ocean everyday as your job. Is such a thing possible?”

Point Six:
Erin’s Dad, a retired Marine, moved his family from Texas to Maui when Erin was 9 years old. After seeing her surf so well, Erin’s first surf instructor asked how long she had been surfing and she told him three days. The instructor said he knew she’d been surfing in Hawaii for three days, but how long had she been surfing in total? Erin had to explain to him that three days was her total days surfing.

Point Seven:
“I would just work twice as hard to get as good as the other kids, so now I’m better, which is cool.”

Point Eight:
Erin is competing with surfers who have been in the profession longer than she’s been alive.

Point Nine:
“Everytime I go out there I just want to show everyone that I can do it even though I’m small. My Dad always says that little people can do big things”.

Point Ten:
“I love when I go surfing and people think I’m just a little girl and then I bust it out there, and get barrelled and they’re like ‘oh that was so cool’.”

Point Eleven:
Surfing remains one of the only professional sports where physical size isn’t a prominent success factor. The only thing that distinguishes athletes is the amount of hard work and dedication they put into their sport. Erin Brooks is putting in the work. Her daily schedule includes surfing at twice a day for a minimum of four hours per day, with an additional back-breaking workout in between.

Point Twelve:
Erin’s close relationship with her older brother, nine years her senior, inspired her work ethic. She watched him get up every day at the crack of dawn working for the Coast Guard. With her Father also a retired Marine, the military approach to self-discipline became obvious. This dedication and determination has led to Brooks having a shot at an Olympic Qualifier, with her sights set on winning a Gold medal before her eighteenth birthday.

Point Thirteen:
Being so young in a dangerous sport, pushing yourself to your absolute physical limits, does take a toll on the nerves. “Sometimes there is this pressure and I can get real nervous. But, then I just take a deep breath and remember all the work that I’ve done to get to that point and I just paddle out and get it done”.

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Point fourteen:
With so much of her professional career yet to come, there is power and gravitas in the success Erin has already achieved. It is worth a lot of money to sponsors and will remain that way for her entire career. If Erin Brooks sticks to her current program, she will be financially set for life before she is 20 years old.

Point Fifteen:
With her life revolving around the ocean and the subsequent extensive travel it was decided that it was best to move her schooling online, “Each school year is different because different surfing opportunities come along all the time. So whatever comes my way, that’s where we go and school follows”.

Point Sixteen:
“I never really take breaks from surfing because I can’t stay too far away from the ocean. I love it too much. I went on a snowboarding trip and I thought it would be fun to take a little break because we had just got back from three months of surfing all day, every day in the Mentawai. But after the third day of snowboarding I was like ‘I wanna go back to the Mentawai.”

Point Seventeen:
Indonesia holds a special place in Erin’s heart, having spent a significant amount of time residing in Bali during the COVID pandemic, creating a make-shift base of operations far different from her home in Hawaii. Indonesia being a very eye-opening island culture of a different stripe.

Point Eighteen:
Learning to surf and compete in Hawaii was a baptism by fire. Erin stayed afloat and built her career in the toughest, most competitive surf conditions in the world. “When I first started it was definitely intimidating but we lived on Maui so it wasn’t too bad. But then we moved to the North Shore and it became another level. I mean you have to be respectful there and brave in everything you say and do”.

Point Nineteen:
Brooks has fostered friendships and mentorships with some of the world’s best, including a close relationship with Bethany Hamilton, who helped guide Erin through her quick rise in the industry. Both Bethany and Erin, pioneering female surfers a generation apart, openly share their devout Christian faith, adding to their bond and distinct similarities. Hamilton’s inspiration actually led Erin to signing with Ripcurl.

Point Twenty:
It’s clear that Brooks has a massive circle of icons to draw both inspiration and advice from. “I feel like people are really supportive and the older guys are just helping me push. One of my mentors is Shane Dorian. I’ve gone on trips with him and we’ve done some coaching. He’s always super nice and telling me to do my best. I listen to every word he says”.

Point Twenty one:
Erin is thankful that the sport has come a long way in the past decade, carving out space for women to compete shoulder to shoulder with the men both physically and financially. Erin Brooks is a new kind of female trailblazer, already paving the way for a younger generation by displaying a drive and a dedication that matches the most well trained surfers on the planet. Imagine a career day at a High School when Erin takes the stage.

Point Twenty Two:
“I just want to push women’s surfing, that’s all I wanna do. Just try to be the best surfer that I can be. And just show everyone that girls can do it better than guys. It’s possible. With faith, anything is”.

By Isis Flack

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