CATCHING WAVES WITH MAILE

December 12, 2020 6 min read

CATCHING WAVES WITH MAILE

Meet Maile, a talented surfer, travel enthusiast and marine science student who grew up with the ocean as her backyard. Read on to hear her inspiring story told in her own words of how she developed a deep and meaningful connection with the ocean and how it shaped her into the young woman she is today.

I am from the small southern California beach town of Solana Beach. I grew up, and am still growing up, in a house my parents bought in 1996 only about two blocks from the beach. Surfboards now fill the garage, sand accumulates in the driveway, and wetsuits and towels and bikinis hang from the white picket fence. My mom spent her youth on the white sand beaches of Diamond Head, O’ahu while my father grew up in the San Fernando Valley in California. They met while studying at the University of California San Diego and haven’t left since.

When I was a kid I was kind of a tomboy, I guess that’s what you get when you have two older brothers. I surfed tons, played Playmobil, and followed my brothers around. I also followed in my mom’s footsteps and danced ballet until the age of twelve. I also competitively danced for two years. I have always enjoyed snorkeling and kayaking. In general I loved being outside and loved more than anything spending time at the beach with my family.

Before I could walk, I could swim, and before I can remember I have loved the ocean. My mom as mentioned earlier grew up a block from the beaches of Waikiki. The ocean always played an important role in her life and she strived to make it a pillar of her children’s lives. This among the desire to learn, and the extremely close bond I have with my brothers, is the greatest gift she could have ever given. She made the ocean my second home.

Growing up with two brothers, five and seven years older, I was always trying to keep up. Whatever they did I wanted to do. They would go surf together and I didn’t want to miss out. I started on a soft top in the white water when I was five, while they surfed on their sleek fiberglass boards on the big blue face waves. I surfed all the time to try to get to their level. My grandpa upgraded me from the waterlogged foam board to my first ever shortboard when I was nine. Countless wipeouts, tears while struggling to paddle out, and bruises later I am the surfer I am today.

I started competitively surfing when I was twelve years old. I continued through high school and my first year of University. In high school I made it into the finals every contest and competed each year in the State Championships for both long and shortboarding. Now with Covid-19 the scholastic competitions are on hold. I love competing because I have a competitive nature and it also motivates me to see other girls surfing and inspires me to try my best to improve my ability.

My favorite place to surf is 15th street reef in Del Mar, California. In no way is it the best wave, but it is like home to me. I grew up riding that wave and with the locals who surf it. I paddle out there almost every day and am greeted by the same faces I saw on the 1st day I made it to the outside, only they are slightly more weathered now. I know the wave and the people like the back of my hand. It’s not so much the wave, but all the memories I have at this break that make it my favorite. Whenever I get home from school or a trip I immediately go to my house and after a few minutes at home, I paddle out at 15th St.

The ocean has humbled me time and time again. Its power can never be conquered.

This past summer we experienced a month-long red tide, or a large algae bloom that gives the water a reddish-brown tint in the daytime. The exciting thing about red tide is that these algae are actually bioluminescent meaning they glow in the dark. I night-surfed and every time I paddled, turned, or a wave broke the water all around me lit up and turned bright blue. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. It did not even seem real.

Along with surfing I love to sail. It is the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair, the nervous rush of energy as the boat keels too far to one side, and the freedom to explore anywhere that keeps me hooked on it. 

I have been a Del Mar City Ocean Lifeguard for the past five years. I have logged over one hundred ocean rescues and responded to countless medical aids in my career thus far. It is a rewarding job not just when you save someone’s life or bandage them up, but also how you become a role model to young kids and witnessing someone’s first ever glimpse at the ocean. 

I spent the years before I lifeguarded working as a camp counselor at a local beach camp. I taught kids about the local wildlife, how to enjoy and have fun at the beach safely, and how to always take care of the ocean.

I am scuba certified and find the ability to spend long periods of time underwater freeing. I jump at any opportunity to scuba dive. And finally, I may or may not have an addiction to bikinis.

Maile wears Daughters of Summer Mica top and Ava bikini bottoms in Fire Coral

I have been lucky enough to travel to Hawaii twice a year since I was born, and I recently travelled to Bora Bora with my brother. While all these trips were exciting and eye opening, I would have to say one of my favorite trips was going to the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most diverse wildlife in the world and I got to see and interact with the species that helped shape the theory of evolution. The best part of this trip was snorkeling in the pristine water. We were snorkeling around one of the many desert islands and a group of hammerheads swam right up to us. In the Galapagos the hammerheads swim in pods much like dolphins, so in a matter of seconds I found myself surrounded by eleven foot hammerheads. They were so docile and I stayed with the group diving down and swimming alongside them. It was a humbling experience and one I will never forget.

I attend the University of California Berkeley. I am currently a Sophomore studying marine science.  I am a member of the Surf Team and have enjoyed my time trying out new and often big waves. I do like the power, size, and ferocity of the waves, but I am not the biggest fan of sporting a 4/3 wetsuit, a hood, and booties.

Following graduation, I hope to continue on in the field of marine science/biology. I want to go to grad school and possibly get my PhD. Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated by great white sharks. In the last two years my favorite surf spot has become a rookery for these majestic animals. Now a rare surf session goes by that I do not see a great white, and my mind fills with wonder and awe. I hope to study Great White sharks and hopefully one day be able to answer at least one of the mysteries surrounding them. 

I don’t necessarily have a specific personal motto, but I will try something over and over. I do not give up easily. Giving up is only giving up on yourself. If you don’t think you can get to the outside paddle a little harder, if you lose just try again, and if you can’t figure out a question just ask and it will work out. I think it is especially important for young girls to not give up or give in. We are capable of achieving great things, we just can’t psych ourselves out. Be humble and persevere.

Follow Maile on Instagram here


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