Erin Brooks, freshly turned 15-years-old has just made history. Yesterday, the Padang Padang Cup went off in characteristically heavy, cylindrical conditions. Out of the 16 competitors, Erin was the only female out there, the youngest ever competitor – and crushed her way to the final, placing fourth overall.
Not only that, but this marks the first time ever a woman has competed in this event. In another first, a four-person Women's Super Heat was put on too, of which, Erin took the top honours.
Live cam: Padang Padang
What's perhaps even more remarkable, is that, Erin's only been surfing for six years. The grom phenom was born in Boerne, Texas, a city in the county seat of Kendall County, some 160-odd miles from the coast, and about equal distance in the other direction to the Waco wonder tub.
But it wasn't until the family upped and moved to Maui, when Erin turned nine-years-old, that the surf big hit. Back then, 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 it’s what I wanted to do,” said Erin. “Forever. It was so fun. When we moved to Maui, none of us really knew anything about surfing. We’d seen it before, but none of us had done it.”
After placing on the podium yesterday, our pal Nick Carroll caught up with Erin and asked;
Surfing hasn’t always been a super open sport. It’s for sure changing but in the past there’s been a lot of doors held closed – to beginners, to women, to all sorts of people who’ve wanted to do it. Not just in competition but surfing in general. But how is that for you? How open does surfing feel to you? When you surf on a day like yesterday, or anytime really, do you feel like it’s all there for you, the whole experience? Do you get plenty of space? How did it all flow for you yesterday, surfing in heats with all these 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 however and I found out 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 females everyday and I have all the women who came before me to thank 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 Head of Competition 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 insane and I am so thankful that Rip Curl gave me the opportunity to compete against some of my favourite surfers. Most days are certainly not that exciting. I feel like the whole surfing experience 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 favourite thing to do and I still feel like I have so much more to learn and so many goals I want to achieve.
“I woke up feeling nervous because I really wanted to make the most of this opportunity for myself and for other women who may want to surf this event in the future. Thankfully I snuck out at first light and got a couple good barrels so that settled my nerves.
“The other competitors were all super nice and very supportive and the energy from the crowd was incredible. I really tried to not focus on who was in my heats and instead just focus on my surfing. That strategy worked for me and I felt more and more comfortable as the day went on. I just kept thinking what an honour it was to be included in such an incredible line up of surfers.”
More from Erin: Training with Bethany Hamilton