PRINCEVILLE — Most 17-year-olds are enjoying a summer away from school. They may be preparing for the SATs, spending late nights with friends or just trying to find a way to navigate their final years of high school.
That isn’t the case of 17-year-old Tatiana Weston-Webb of Princeville. She will be spending the next two months traveling the globe from California to France competing on one of surfing’s largest stages, all while trying to remain a role model to others.
Despite having success at a young age, she remains honest and doesn’t let her winning ways go to her head.
“It’s really humbling,” Weston-Webb said. “All of the grommets (young surfers) look up to you, so you have to be a role model. At the same time, you are expected to live up to expectations, and you have to work really hard for it, but it’s worth it. It’s just exciting, you know?”
Her love affair with surfing began at the age of eight. Weston-Webb, who was heavily into soccer as a youngster, went to a swap meet and got a surf board.
Sure, her father would take her surfing as a toddler, but it didn’t stick.
When she got her surfboard at the swap meet, she started surfing again, and hasn’t stopped.
“I was really into soccer for about five years or so,” Weston-Webb said. “Once I started surfing again, I was hooked, I dropped soccer and dropped everything else and just wanted to surf.”
She may be just 17 years old now, but Weston-Webb has an impressive resume.
She is fresh off of a gold medal win in the Girls Under 18 division at the World Junior Surfing Championship, which is the newest piece of hardware she has brought home to Kauai.
Although she is an exceptional surfer, she is not completely void of teenage problems. She has to find a way to juggle traveling, competing, practicing and school — often at the same time.
“I do homeschooling and that is a real benefit for me,” Weston-Webb said. “When you are on the road, you rarely have time because you are always studying the waves, so it gets tough. But you have to in your free time, otherwise you will fall way behind.”
Weston-Webb has made it a priority to finish school, and because she is able to work at her own pace, she has gotten ahead of schedule and is close to graduating from high school.
Naturally, Weston-Webb has aspirations of one day joining the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour and competing on a professional level, however she understands that it is a process and she is still learning and gaining experience.
“It’s a matter of getting all of your practice in at your amateur and junior pro events and then moving on from level to level and gaining experience.” Weston-Webb said.
In addition to her surfing goals, Weston-Webb has begun to carve out a niche for herself in Hollywood.
She was a stunt-double for the movie ‘Soul Surfer’ in 2011, the story of another Kauai surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm due to a shark attack and her battle to surf again.
“I enjoyed doing that so much,” Weston-Webb said. “I am really good friends with Greg Barnett (second set director for “Soul Surfer”), so I have been talking with him a bunch about getting stunt doubling roles for things like ‘90210’ and that kind of stuff. I am trying to go down that road, but if it doesn’t work out, I am definitely keeping an open mind.”
Weston-Webb’s next goal is to perform well at the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, Calif., which will be held from July 20 to 28. She will compete amongst some of the best junior surfers in the world, with the aspiration of bringing hardware back to Kauai — which isn’t a foreign feat.
In addition to gold at the World Junior Surfing Championship, Weston-Webb was also the Rip Curl GromSearch champion in 2011 and 2012, Junior Pipe Pro winner, a U.S. National champion and 2013 Volcom VQS champion.
Weston-Webb said much of her inspiration is provided by her brother Troy, and her parents Doug and Tanira.
“Troy was the one who started surfing,” Weston-Webb said. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps, and I got super competitive, which really pushed me ahead. My whole family is really an inspiration to me, they are so passionate about everything they do and my mom and dad give so much to me and my brother. I really don’t know what I would do without them.”
• Rick Killeen, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.