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It’s time for some mathematics of the surfing variety. When you add the strength of the ocean to a coral reef and shallow water, the result is the infamous Pipeline, a monstrous and ridiculously hollow break off Ehukai Beach on Oahu’s North Shore. Enter 22-year-old and Kauai-born professional surfer Alana Blanchard, who first conquered the break at 15. The golden-haired, well-respected surfer embodies equal parts beauty and skill, and possesses a fearless, unwavering approach to her sport. It’s an infallible equation in the surfing world, to say the least.
When I ask Blanchard about her initial reaction to Pipeline, she lets out a lighthearted laugh. “I was stoked. When I was 15, I went to Pipeline because I had never surfed there before. I didn’t have any expectations. I just told myself, ‘Okay! I’m doing this,’” explains the regular foot who, despite the disadvantage of being a first timer, placed first surfing backside (that’s having your back to the wave, for you non-surfers) at the 2005 T&C Women’s Pipeline Championships, the first stand-alone Pipe competition for women. Blanchard ripped that day, essentially wiping out the myth that women couldn’t handle Pipe. That same year, her polished, progressive style led her to the coveted title of Triple Crown Rookie Of The Year. She then turned pro at the ripe age of 16, garnering the attention of sponsors like Rip Curl, Reef, Spy, Sticky Bumps, Vertra, and Channel Islands Surfboards. Then, in her second pro season in 2008, she placed in the World Qualifying Series, launching her on the ASP Women’s World Tour. An impressive showing at the 2010 Cholo’s Hawaiian Pro qualified her for an ASP seat for the second time in 2011. Blanchard is currently touring for Rip Curl, heading off to the Swatch Girls Pro in France the day following our conversation.
As is the case with many accomplished athletes, the skillset seems to be in the genes. For Blanchard, surfing trickled down from her father, Holt. Over the phone, she reminisces about a youth spent paddling out and riding waves. “My dad began pushing me in when I was four. When I got older, he let me skip school to go surfing. My brothers and I would get dropped off at the beach and surf all day. We didn’t care about food; we didn’t care about anything, only surfing.” This sand and saltwater diet, controversial as it may seem to most parents, paid dividends. “My mom and dad wanted me to do something that I would be passionate about in the long run. They encouraged me to succeed in something, not just academics.”
Story by Chloe Nguyen | Photography by Brian BielmannTo read more become a subscriber or purchase the digital edition here.