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Surfer Mom Rides Waves Of Daughter's Surfing Career

We receive a lot of questions from parent's about so-called "'extreme sports" such as surfing.

I recently had a chance to talk to Julie Hurst about the surfing career of her daugher, Leila, who was featured in the premiere expisode of "New Pollution", a show highlighting young extreme athletes and their families on the Fuel TV channel.

Q. How did your daughter get into surfing?

A. Leila was born in Hawaii and her dad is an avid surfer, so she really had no choice. We spend a lot of time at the beach and there are a lot of Keiki contests so it was just what we did for fun.

Q. What did you first think when your daughter was surfing?
A. It made her so happy so that made me happy.

Q. How safe is the sport of surfing? How do you, or did you, keep your daughter safe? What are common injuries and ways to prevent them?
A. I’ve always thought that surfing was a lot safer than, say, motorcycles because the falls are in water and soft. The real risk is surfing with other people who don't know how to surf and run over you or loose their boards in the water. Also a lot of reef cuts. You never surf alone either so there are always a lot of people around you watching out for everyone.
Q. Shark attacks and drownings seem to deter a lot of people from the sport, are you worried about these things, or are they too rare?
A. Well, it does happen but it is pretty rare. We are good friends with Bethany Hamilton and when she was attacked it was really hard for a lot of the girls here to get back in the water for a while. We had some group counseling to help them out.  I guess it is something that I think about, but I would never make her stop surfing because I was afraid of sharks. It is something that we don't like to talk about in surfing.

Q. What kind of pressure does your daughter get from sponsors, how do they deal with it?

A. There is some pressure, and of course she wants to do well for them. We just recently signed with Vans as a total sponsor and they are really great because they don't put any pressure on her to win. They like her for her personality and want to put more focus on that.  There are other sponsors that only want you if you’re winning and there is always the fear of being dropped if you are in a slump.  I don't want Leila to ever feel bad about not doing well in a contest because most of the time she does great.  She puts enough pressure on herself without getting it from a sponsor.

Q. Will you ever be around the Boston area so we can do a video interview?

A. Well, we live in Hawaii so it's kind of far ... but, sure, if we were in the area.

Q. How have you supported your daughter’s involvement in surfing?

A. I drive her everywhere!!!!!! My husband handles most of the surfing and business stuff and put together photos and paperwork when it is needed.

Q. What is your advice for parents whose kids are just starting surfing?

A. Take them, watch them and cheer them on! It is a great sport and I believe if they are passionate about something you need to support it. It keeps them out of trouble because when they surf all day all they want to do is eat and go to sleep.

Q. What kind of time commitment is necessary to be an elite surfer?

A. We live close to great surf and the ocean here is warm so we surf everyday.  If there is no surf we drive for hours until we find it. It is a huge time commitment. When you start competing you have to travel a lot.  We already spend a lot of time away from home.
Q.How competitive is  surfing ? What are some rules/age requirements?
A. It is very competitive.  There are different age divisions and different boys and girls divisions.  The NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) is springboard for most professional surfers. You start at about age 8 and continue through age 18, which is when most surfers go pro, although some are even younger.  We have different regions (East Coast, West Coast, Hawaii) and after regionals in your area you qualify for Nationals which is held every year in California.  This year will be our 4th NSSA.

Q. How was your experience on the show?
A. The Fuel TV guys came here and spent about 5 days with Leila and her dad, Rick.  The weather was kind of bad and the surf not so great, but we still had a blast. The guys from Fuel TV, Sam Josh and Matt, were super fun to be around.
Q. How many days did they tape?
A. I think 5

Q. Was your daughter nervous about taping New Pollution? is this her first television appearance?
A.  I guess she was a little nervous, but once she got to know the guys she was fine. They were really professional and great getting her to forget about the camera.  Matt Beecham is amazing at putting the kids at ease and getting a good interview.  They seem to really relate to him. I think she ended up having a lot of fun, plus she got to miss a couple of days of school!
Q. Most athletes have strong siblings and parents for support, yet they oftentimes take a backseat to the young athlete in the limelight.  Did you like the attention your family received on New Pollution?
A. Totally! They included my husband, which was great, and they did not film me, which I was happy about!  It’s a sweet tribute to Leila and her dad, which is fitting.  I will happily sit in the backseat and go along for the ride.  It’s been a great ride so far.

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