Sunset Pro Junior

Meet Brisa Hennessy, Hawaii's Latest Threat

Anna Dimond

Hennessy's Surf Style
With three-time World Champion Carissa Moore as her inspiration, Hennessy has her sights set high. But with promising talent, she just might get there.

Raised off the grid in Costa Rica until she was eight, Brisa Hennessy was surfing practically before she could walk. Now 16 and an Oahu local, that experience is starting to play out competitively: In January alone, she won the women's Sunset Pro Junior, which put her at the top of the Junior Tour rankings for Hawaii, and finished in ninth place at the Women's Ericeira World Junior Championships, which pitted her against surfing's best up-and-comers.

From her surprising fashion icon to her personal superpower, Hennessy is poised for success.

Hennessy, in her element. Photo courtesy Brisa Hennessy. Hennessy has been at home in the water almost since before she could walk. She has said that she feels she was born to be a surfer, and considers Honolulu's Ala Moana Bowls and Kewalos two of her favorite home breaks. Photo courtesy Brisa Hennessy. - WSL / Courtesy Brisa Hennessy

WSL: What is your first memory of surfing?
BH: My mom took me out to the break in front of our house in Costa Rica when I was five years old. It was really small when we went out and I couldn't paddle into the waves myself yet. All of a sudden a big set came and my mom was calling for me to paddle hard to get over the waves. I went up and over the wave, but felt myself gradually going backwards and was sucked into the pit and over the falls!

My mom and friends were so worried about me and about ruining my love for surfing that when I finally popped up, they were all clapping and cheering saying how good I did just like in the movie Lilo and Stitch.

My uncle showed me all his trophies. I remember thinking, I want those!

WSL: When did you know you wanted to go pro, and why?
Hennessy: When we moved back to Hawaii my uncle, Gregg Nakamura, showed me all his trophies. I remember thinking, "I want those!," haha. But that isn't the only reason. There are so many reasons that developed over time. I loved competing, which I didn't know would happen, and I am completely addicted to the ocean. I also am so inspired and look up to so many women pro surfers, especially Carissa Moore.

Hennessy Scores in Portugal
At the World Junior Championships earlier this year, Hennessy made a strong showing among her peers.

WSL: What is the most challenging thing about being a pro surfer, that most people wouldn't know?
BH: I don't really call myself a pro surfer yet. Right now school is a challenge for me since I am starting to travel so much. I am the type of person that has to do well in my classes and basically I need to have straight A's! This can be tough, but I'm getting through it and getting the most I can out of it as I know a good education is super important for my future also.

WSL: What's your personal superpower?
BH: My superpower would have to be cooking. I love cooking for people and making their bellies happy.

Hennessy wins the Sunset Pro Junior Womens in 6-8-foot surf. Hennessy, at home in solid surf at Sunset. - WSL / Freesurf/Heff

WSL: If you could sit and interview any five people, dead or alive, who would you pick?
Julia Child
Duke Kahanamoku
Amy Poehler
My great grandma Mary Shikao and grandpa Toraichi

I hope I can dress as half as well as my grandma when I am 88.

WSL: Who is your fashion icon?
BH: My grandma Tomi. You wouldn't ever think a grandma could be a fashion icon, but mine is! She is an incredible artist too and just is so hip in so many ways. I hope I can dress as half as well as she does when I am 88.

WSL: If you were a song, which one would you be and why?
BH: "To The Sky" by Owl City because I try to be a free spirit. My dream is flying and I'm always in a world of belief and imagination.

WSL: What is your idea of perfect happiness? What does that look, feel, sound, taste, or smell like?
BH: Being totally present in the moment. Tastes like chocolate, sounds like the ocean, smells like gardenias and feels like home.