Erin Brooks, freshly celebrated at 15, has just made history. Yesterday the Padang Padang Cup took place in typically heavy and cylindrical conditions. Of the 16 competitors, Erin was the only woman present, the youngest competitor ever – and fought her way to the final, placing fourth overall.
Not only that, but this is the first time a woman has participated in this event. In another first, a four-way Women’s Super Heat was also held, which Erin took home honors.
Live Camera: Padang Padang
Perhaps even more remarkable is that Erin has only been surfing for six years. The grom phenomenon was born in Boerne, Texas, a town in the county seat of Kendall, about 260 miles from the coast and roughly equidistant in the other direction from the wonder of Waco.
But it wasn’t until the family got up and moved to Maui, when Erin was nine, that surfing really took off. At the time, Erin was playing tennis when a friend asked if she wanted to join her for a surf lesson. “After the first wave, that’s when I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Erin said. “Always. It was so much fun. When we moved to Maui, neither of us really knew about surfing. We had seen it before, but none of us had done it.
After stepping onto the podium yesterday, our friend Nick Carroll caught up with Erin and asked her;
Surfing hasn’t always been a super open sport. Of course it changes but in the past there were a lot of closed doors – to beginners, to women, to all kinds of people who wanted to do it. Not just in competition but in surfing in general. But how is it for you? How open does the surf seem to you? When you’re surfing on a day like yesterday, or anytime really, does it feel like it’s all there for you, the whole experience? Do you have plenty of space? How was it for you yesterday surfing the heats with all those men twice your age?
“I’m the only one in my family who surfs and I didn’t grow up near the ocean, so early on the surfing world felt very intimidating and closed off. I was determined to learn though and found that other surfers were willing to help me if I was willing to work hard. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help I received from so many current and former professional surfers. One of them was Shane Dorian and he was in the contest with me, so that was really special.
“I think surfing is becoming more and more open to women every day and I have to thank all the women who have come before me for making these opportunities possible. I think anything is possible for women in surfing today. whether their goals are to compete in the water or in the board room, like WSL competition manager Jessi Miley-Dyer or Rip Curl CEO Brooke Farris, to name a few .
I’m the only one in my family who surfs and I didn’t grow up near the ocean
“Yesterday was crazy and I’m so grateful that Rip Curl gave me the opportunity to compete against some of my favorite surfers. Most days are definitely not that exciting. I feel like the whole experience surfing is open to everyone if they take the time to learn how to surf and also if they respect the line up. Surfing is my favorite activity and I always feel like I still have a lot to learn and enjoy. achieve so many goals.
“I woke up nervous because I really wanted to take this opportunity for myself and for other women who might want to ride this event in the future. Luckily, I snuck in at first light and got got a few good barrels, which calmed my nerves.
“The other competitors were all super nice and very supportive and the crowd energy was amazing. I really tried not to focus on who was up my sleeve and just focus on my surfing. This strategy worked for me and I felt more and more comfortable as the day went on. I kept thinking what an honor it was to be included in such an amazing team of surfers.
More from Erin: Training with Bethany Hamilton