It is clear today that women surfing is about to reach another (crazy) level. Surfers like Bettylou Sakura Johnson, Molly Picklum, Caity Simmers, Erin Brooks and Sophia Medina are all raising the bar. High. Sierra Kerr is one of them.
Being the daughter of ex-pro surfer Josh, she’s been following in her father’s footsteps since she was five years old. And if her dad spent almost 10 years on the World Tour, we believe that Sierra has the potential to take it a few steps further and win a world title, if not a few. Interview with the 14-year old rising star who spent the last few months in Australia scoring epic waves and hanging out with some of the best surfers.
First of all, what does a day in the life of Sierra Kerr look like?
I wake up every morning excited for the day to come. I get out of bed, eat breakfast, and quickly jump on my bike to check the surf. I always try to get a surf in before school. Then, I usually study for 4 hours, eat lunch, and study a bit more until about 3pm. After school, I surf or play golf or skate, depending on the waves. Sometimes I’ll do a training session, but I usually try the other sports first. My family has dinner together, then I get ready for bed and read for 30 minutes before I sleep. I also do school work on the weekend when I’m not with my friends, so I’m always ahead.
What happens if the waves are pumping? Is school cancelled?
School is always my number #1 priority. There is a rule in my house that I need to stay always ahead so I can miss a morning or even a day if the waves are pumping.
“If I had to choose a country to represent right now, it would be Australia.”
Your dad Josh is Australian, but your mum Nikki is American. So where is home?
My dad is from Coolangatta; he’s a Snapper Rocks local. I was born in Tugun, in Australia, and lived there until I was 3. After that, we started living in both countries. I would still spend at least six months home in Australia, but it became easier for my family to live part-time in the US. This way, we could be close to my mum’s family while my dad was on the World Tour and gone all the time. These days though, we are spending more time back here in Australia, and I’m really happy about that. Australia has my heart!
Does it mean you will represent Australia like your dad?
Right now, I’m training with the Australian team, with Surfing Australia that has taken me under its wing. They have an amazing program for their athletes and I’m so thankful to be a part of it. So if I had to choose a country to represent right now, it would be Australia.
We’ve seen a few waves you scored this year making the buzz on social media. In particular, there was that one crazy barrel in May, and then this stalefish air reverse in June. It looks like you’ve had some great sessions…
I feel like I’ve been really lucky to surf some amazing waves in the past few years, not just this year, and I thank my parents for that. My favourite wave ever was actually in Indo last year. It was just my dad and me out. My dad caught the first wave of a set, and then I paddled for the second one. It was the best wave I’ve ever had. It was a day my dad and I will never forget.
The barrel you are talking about happened while doing step-offs with my dad. Now that I can surf bigger waves, he lets me go with him on his ski days. He has always loved taking the jetski out and doing step-offs. Plus, now that I have my jetski and boat license, I can drive it for my dad as well. We read that a big swell was coming, so we decided to go chase some fun waves. You can’t paddle where we ended up surfing, so my dad dropped me off on what seemed to look like an amazing wave, and it was. It kept going and spitting before I’d even come out. It was really cool.
The stalefish air reverse happened during the air (Limitless) camp, a camp designed for the best up and comers that can do airs. My dad has been working with Surfing Australia on organising it. I really wanted to try a stalefish air reverse and that day I was stoked to get a section to try a few until I finally got one.
Your air game seems to have reached another level this year, making you one of the best female aerialists in the world. How do you work on this particular area of your surfing?
I think I got comfortable doing airs from skateboarding. I started when I was five because I wanted to hang out with my brother, and I ended up loving it. There’s no doubt that it helped me build my confidence and just improved my surfing altogether. I don’t really skate anymore, but today we have the wave pools. Being able to hit the same perfect section to try airs again and again clearly helps too. Of course, it isn’t nearly the same as the ocean, but it is still super fun to try new airs in the pool and then take them to the ocean. My dad also sometimes gives me little tips, but he’s actually happy to let me figure it out on my own.
“My parents want my surfing and style to progress naturally for now, and that suits me too.”
He’s well-known for being one of the best air specialists. Does it automatically make him your coach?
No, and he tries not to coach me. He only shares his little tips when I ask for them. He really wants to make sure we keep surfing together fun. He doesn’t want it to become serious. I watch a lot of his videos and learn from that, though. His surfing is my favourite, and he inspires me just to have fun no matter what.
So, do you work with any coaches?
I don’t work with any yet unless I’m at a camp. My parents want my surfing and style to progress naturally for now, and that suits me too.
You participated in your first big competition earlier this year, the Billabong Oz Grom Cup in Coffs Harbour, and won the U14 girls division. How was the whole experience?
Before this comp, I had only done a few surf events for charity or a good cause. This year though, I wanted to try and do a few comps to learn how to surf a heat and simply get a feel for it. A friend told us about the Billabong Oz Grom Cup, and I was lucky to get a spot in the U14 girls.
I was super excited to be in it but hurt my hip a few days before. I was initially told by my PT that I needed to stay off of it, not to surf, and of course, not to do the contest. So I called the day we were meant to leave and very nicely asked if I could go and just surf my heats. He agreed, probably because he could tell I was bummed, but only as long as I would do my stretching, workouts for it, and really only surfed my heats.
When I won, it felt even more amazing to me than I thought it would. Especially after the rollercoaster of emotions I had been through, from getting excited to being bummed to experiencing the feeling of winning heats. I was stoked. It was a great contest and super fun to be around the event with everyone.
Is it something that you are now planning to do more, competing?
I’m hoping and planning to do a few more comps this year. I want to keep learning and get more experience. I’m doing them for fun, and I’ll be happy whether I win or lose. For now, I just want to try my best and have fun.
You seem to take things as they come, but how far do you dream or want to go?
I want to win world titles; that’s my goal for now. I’m not in any hurry, though. I hope to be on the World Tour around the age of 18 or 19 so in about four years or so. But first, I want to graduate high school and hope to keep doing what I’m doing until then.
With where women surfing is heading today, do you think becoming a world champion will be hard if not impossible without airs in your skillset?
I think it’s good to have airs in your repertoire, but I also believe that having a good style and being able to surf well in any condition is super important. In my opinion, this is the number 1 skill if you are aiming for a world title.