By Kyveli Diener
Brisa Hennessy’s 16th year was more than sweet. She dominated in junior events worldwide, winning the Sunset Junior Pro in January and a gold medal at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championship, while also battling in Qualifying Series events. The Kailua native even competed in her first Championship Tour stop at Bells Beach.
Brisa is looking ahead with a sunny attitude, a clear and open mind, and grateful determination as she continues her climb to CT qualification one day. We caught up with one of the island’s most exciting up and comers as she prepared for yet another junior contest on the 7-mile-miracle.
What’s your first memory of surfing?
I grew up off the grid in Costa Rica where my Mom and Dad were both surf instructors, so I was kind of born in the water. I don’t actually remember my first wave…all my waves blur together since it’s always been a part of me. I just remember that I was just so addicted and I knew I wanted to be a surfer. I know I stood up when I was 3.
When did you first start competing in events?
I moved to Hawaii when I was 8-years-old, so I think I started when I was around 9 or 10. I got a lot of inspiration from my Uncle Greg Nakamura. He showed me all his trophies and I was like, ‘Oh my, I want to get trophies!’ That was actually my mentality about that.
What has been your most memorable competition this year?
All them were so special and unique…and I learned so much from all of them. Gosh, this is super hard! Probably the Bells competition since that was the most amazing experience. It was really good to be with Rip Curl and all those great surfers and the amazing break known as Bells. Being against Sally Fitzgibbons and Carissa Moore was incredible. I’ll never forget it.
Who do you count among your toughest competitors?
I think the next generation is really inspiring and I really look up to them all. I think when I go into a heat with anybody I’m going to surf my best and not really think about who I’m competing against.
What’s your pre-heat pump-up music?
ACDC, The Beatles, things like that. Hell’s Bells was played every morning at Bells Beach and it was so great, it pumped me up a bunch!
Can you give us your laundry list of sponsors?
Rip Curl, Makani Shapes, T&C Surf Shop, Prolite, Smith Optics, Vertra, Futures, and others. I ride Makani Shapes T&C 5’6 H-mod.
What inspires you the most?
I think the most inspiring thing is when a person doesn’t only surf incredibly in the water, but they’re also an amazing person. That’s what I want to be when I grow up. I think Carissa is a really good example of that. When I see people like that I go, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to be.’
What are your favorite surf spots on and off Oahu?
My favorite spots on Oahu would probably be Bowls, Kaiser’s, V-land, Sunset. And off Oahu: Lowers, Lakey Peak in Indonesia, and Bingin in Bali. Also swimming pools and Wilkes in Fiji.
What is your favorite non-surfing thing to do?
I love to cook any kind of food. My mom was a chef…I love eating, I consider that one of my hobbies. I think when I’m in the kitchen it’s my outlet. I pretty much cook like every meal for my parents for fun, just totally out of enjoyment. I think maybe after I have a surfing career I’d like to go to culinary school.
What’s the biggest wave you’ve ever paddled into?
I was 12 or 13 and I was at Sunset Beach with Kahea Hart. It was a pretty big day, I remember we were surfing West Bowl and there were some pretty big sets coming and Kahea said, ‘You need to go on this one, because the next one’s bigger.’ So I went…It was maybe 8 to 10 foot Hawaiian, or 7 to 8, but for how little I was I just remember going down the wave and it taking forever. I made the drop and paddled back out and everyone was like, “Thank goodness you weren’t on that next wave, we got so worked!’
Last words for the Freesurf audience?
Enjoy each moment, because we’re so lucky to be surfers.