The Light-Speed Rise of Erin Brooks
Experts say that kids pick up things quicker than adults. Start them on an instrument young, they say. Or teach them a second language as early as possible, and they’ll become fluent way quicker.
But even they wouldn’t know what to make of an outlier like Erin Brooks — an exceptional youth who not only proves that theory, but progresses it.
The 14-year-old just won gold in the Girls U-16 division at the ISA World Junior Championship in El Salvador, the first Junior medal ever for Canada. The thing is: Erin just learned to surf five years ago. Hadn’t even touched a surfboard before she was nine. While this might be hard to believe for, well, anyone familiar with the often fruitless challenges of leveling up, Erin’s father Jeff has witnessed every step of his daughter’s journey. And at this point, Erin’s light-speed rise doesn’t surprise him.
Surfline spoke with Erin and Jeff while they were visiting Red Bull’s HQ in California for training. Erin was bubbly and forthcoming, despite being a little tired from all the intense training and, according to her, a cooking class (which will go a long way with her touring future on the road).
Erin was born and raised in Boerne, Texas, until the age of nine when her family up and moved to Maui. Shortly after the move, Erin was taking a tennis lesson when a friend asked if she wanted to join her in a surf lesson.
“After the first wave, that’s when I knew it’s what I wanted to do,” said Erin. “Forever. It was so fun. When we moved to Maui, none of us really knew anything about surfing. We’d seen it before, but none of us had done it.”
“She didn’t skate, so this was actually her first boardsport,” added Jeff. “She played tennis. And she was a gymnast in the past, and I think that really helped with her strength and balance.”
Not one to shy away from a challenge (and the probability of defeat), Erin quickly learned to catch a wave on her own and subsequently duck-dive. She immediately entered contests around Maui and lost in the first round of every event. “So, I decided to work my butt off,” Erin explained. “I’d surf at dawn every day before school, paddling out at dark, and then I’d surf after school, as well.”
Within a year, Erin was on her way to the North Shore of Oahu to train with Kahea Hart, a heavy-water king/queen-maker if there ever was one.
“When Erin began to compete, we looked at how the pros trained and what waves they surfed, and decided we were going to have her do those things, too,” said Jeff. “She embraced every challenge that she faced, took every opportunity, and her surfing kept improving. For someone so young, she’s so committed and focused on chasing her dreams.”
The family ended up moving to the North Shore just before Erin’s 11th birthday, and by that time the preteen was already getting shacked at Kanduis (see above.) Subsequent summers in Indonesia with Shane and Jackson Dorian helped her surfing, particularly her air game, and in 2019 Erin stomped an air-reverse at Waco that went viral. After only surfing a couple years, Erin had arrived.
She won the Stab High event in 2021, became the Rip Curl GromSearch National Champion that same year, got shacked all over the Indonesian archipelago, and consistently landed airs deemed best one ever by a female.
“I like airs because they’re super rewarding, they take so many tries to finally land one,” she said. “But also because you get to fly in the sky.”
Which brings us to the present and Erin’s ISA gold medal… for Canada. About that: most of Erin’s family on her dad’s side are Canadian citizens, and when the head of Surf Canada caught a whiff of that a couple years ago, he courted Erin hard to join their team. A very hopeful Olympic prospect for Canada, should she qualify, Erin will officially compete under the Maple Leaf flag.
As for what’s next, besides a newly inked deal with Red Bull, Erin will be on the road eight months of the year now, as pro surfers do. And if her light-speed pace continues like it has… Paris (Teahupo’o) 2024? A spot on the World Tour? A World Title? One could say the sky’s the limit, but she’s obviously pretty comfy up there.
“To this day she still doesn’t know how to bodysurf or bodyboard,” Jeff laughed. “She didn’t grow up around the ocean or even play in it like most surfers did. Growing up in middle of Texas, she kind of doesn’t know enough about the ocean to be super afraid. I honestly think that’s helped her progression, surfing heavier waves like Bank Vaults, Pipeline and Kanduis. She just doesn’t know enough to be afraid of it.”