On Surfing

Leila Hurst

Illustration by Matt Titone

Leila Hurst is a professional surfer darting around the world as a freesurfer. She lives in California and grew up in Kauai. At 23 years old, she’s a bright flare in professional surfing, abstaining from the competitive bric-a-brac, although she laid claim to the 2011 World Junior Championships flexing her competitive prowess. This regular foot’s strengths really shine at groomed right points, arcs and wraps punctuated with poised head dips and sharp lines which have made her the only woman on the Vans surf team. Take a look at what she had to say about the pursuit that became a living.

Can you describe one of the most challenging aspects of surfing to you?

I think there is and will always be some challenge and fear when it comes to surfing scary conditions. I grew up in Hawaii, so I am pretty comfortable in difficult situations in the ocean, meaning if the waves are big and the current’s strong. But that’s really just what surfing is, and that’s what makes it fun. You get scared and doubt yourself, and then you catch one wave and it makes your day. It’s a good feeling.

What is one of the most redemptive or rewarding parts of surfing?

I would say the best feeling is traveling to a place that you’ve wanted to surf your whole life and scoring amazing waves. It feels like you did something right. Because trust me; you don’t always show up somewhere with good waves. You never know what you’re going to get.

What has surfing afforded you in your life?

Well, I’ve been able to live my dream because of surfing. I’ve been able to travel the world and meet some incredible people. And because of Vans, they’ve let me live my dream of being a professional surfer. I am very very grateful.

How long can you go without surfing?

I can go maybe two weeks and then I get a little crazy. If I’m in a cold place where I need a thick wetsuit, I have a harder time going surfing. When I’m in the tropics, I won’t miss a day of surfing.

How and when did you fall in love with surfing?

I grew up on Kauai so there isn’t much else to do other than surfing. My dad would take me and my friends everyday after school to surf when I was about 7. We all loved it. We would surf until dark, go to bed, wake up, go to school and then surf again. I’ve done that my entire life.


Order “On Surfing,” the book here:


On Surfing is generously supported by our friends at McTavish

Michael Adno

Michael is a writer and photographer born in Florida as a first-generation American to Austrian and South African parents. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Bitter Southerner, and The Surfer’s Journal among other magazines.

Indoek Promo Image

Order our “On Surfing” book today.
Buy Now