On the windy beach at Pleasure Point, Nic Hdez, 13, stands contemplating the waves. While all of his friends are at school taking notes, Hdez is deciding whether it is the right time to get into the water. He needs to practice those flips for next week’s competition, because he has made a promise to himself: He will continue to be the best amateur surfer in Northern California.
Hdez began his career as a competitive surfer at local surfing contests when he was eight years old. Last month, five years after his first surf, Hdez competed at the O’Neill Cold Water Classic at Santa Cruz’s Steamer Lane. The competition is one of the most important international surfing competitions in the area, attracting surfers from all around the world, most of them between 18 and 35 years old. Hdez was the youngest competitor.
One other Santa Cruz surfer, 17-year-old Nat Young, also took part in the competition. He advanced to the semi-finals but did not make it past that round.
“Other surfers got surprised that I got in, because you need a certain amount of points to get in and I didn’t have them,” Hdez said. “I got in as an alternate –— someone didn’t show up.”
Hdez lost in the first round of this competition, but for him it was a positive experience.
“It was hard to compete against [older surfers],” he said. “I only got to do one round ’cause I lost, but it was so fun — and hard to get waves against bigger guys.”
Although Hdez has been competing for more than four years in events around the California coast, his commitments have become more demanding with every year.
“This year, he’s starting to do some of the pro-junior events,” Anita Hdez, his mother, said. “We’ve already been to Florida, New York, New Jersey, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.”
But defending a title and becoming a professional hasn’t been without its downsides. For Hdez, becoming a competitive surfer has meant competing on weekends, and it required his missing classes on Mondays and Fridays in order to fulfill his sports commitments.
Four years ago, Hdez’s parents decided to pull him out of public school to continue to support his development in surfing.
“[The school] was giving us a hard time, so we decided to start home-schooling him,” Anita Hdez said.
Hanging out with his friends has become more difficult, Nic Hdez said, as he is only able to spend time with them after they get out of school.
Coming from Northern California has also proved to be a challenge.
“It’s really hard for Nic to compete with the Southern California crowd, because that is where the industry is all located,” Anita Hdez said. “Those kids always get a little more advantage when it comes to exposure and sponsorship.”
Nevertheless, Nic Hdez’s talent has been enough to capture the attention of many important surf companies. He received a sponsorship from Billabong at the age of 10 — and now, some of his other sponsors include Oakley, Nike 6.0 and O.A.M.
For Hdez, surfing may be a golden ticket to other opportunities as well.
“In the future, I would like to go out and surf good waves, go on surfing trips and check new places. I want to go to Indonesia,” Hdez said. “Once you start surfing and get the hang of it, you just can’t stop.”