At 31 years of age, Emily Erickson is thoughtful, intuitive, and resilient. She grew up on the island of Oahu near Sunset Beach and has been riding big waves for over a decade now. I got the chance to sit down and talk to her about her journey, her passions, and why she started riding some of the biggest waves in the world.
Emily has made a name for herself in the Big Wave competitions. She has competed three different times at Peahi Jaws and in 2019, she won the Nelscott Reef Pro which took place in Lincoln City, Oregon. Emily has traveled all over the world to places like California, Mexico, and South Africa in pursuit of big waves.
WSL: We got some amazing shots of you at Waimea Bay on Super Saturday (January 16, 2021), tell us about the energy in the water out there.
Emily: You know, it was really an interesting one. I've been out at the Bay quite a lot over the last decade. I've spent a good amount of time there and I know the break well. The swell on Saturday was different in some ways. It was definitely the biggest waves I've ever surfed at Waimea Bay before. It was a very special day and better conditions than when I have surfed it in the past, with proper close outs on the very outside, which was really exciting. I felt really calm out there. When the waves get like that you just show up and do what you do.
WSL: How did you first get into big wave surfing?
Emily: I'm originally from Sunset Beach and I moved all around. I ended up coming back to Oahu for school and I started boogie boarding Sunset at eighteen. I boogie boarded all winter that year and was out on really big days. The next winter I took out a big board from under my dad's house and started just going.
The 9'11" board is responsible for the beginning of my journey and love of surfing big ocean energy. For many years, that's all I had, actually. I've had it since for twelve years now, and I like to use it on special days.
And it's accompanied me this whole way. It's been a huge inspiration throughout the years and most of my boards are actually based around that board.
WSL: So you mentioned how that first board has really influenced your quiver and I've heard you have an affinity for riding single fins, what is your favorite board right now?
Emily: I really love this 9'9" that my best friend Lyle Carlson shaped.
I usually have glass on fins like my go to 10'6", for the bay or outer reefs. But this one has a fin box and I put an old windsurfing fin in it.
I found this wind surf board at the dump about ten years ago. And it had one of those Wincer slot fins. I put that fin in the 9'9" and I've been surfing it at Sunset on huge days. The board just flies. That board and fin combo is insane. You can hold the face pretty high.
WSL: Do you have any advice to young girls that are thinking about getting into big wave surfing?
Emily: My advice for anyone younger, especially young girls looking into surfing big waves or seeing if they're interested, it's really important just to feel it out. If you try it and you like it, like you're basically in love, then cool. I say go for it. You have to listen to those feelings instead of just being laser focused on an outcome.
WSL: What are you looking forward to in 2021?
Emily: At this time in my life, there are certain things, certain aspects of myself and my mindset that are a lot stronger than they had been in the past.
I want to continue building on that momentum and not being stagnant, embracing change. I'm doing massage therapy now. I also cannot wait to travel internationally again and reunite with so many loved ones that don't live here.