Bred for big waves, professional surfer Jamie Sterling is known for the massive swells he chases across the globe, from Tahiti and Australia, to Ireland and Mexico. With his skill and humble spirit, Jamie conquers triple-overhead walls of water, knowing the ultimate risk of death is worth the feeling of absolute adrenaline. Despite broken ear-drums, two-wave hold downs and experiences of vertigo, Jamie eagerly charges the beastly swells of the ocean with joy.
Growing up on the North Shore of Oahu, Jamie “Sterls” Sterling was exposed to one of the heaviest waves on the planet. His love and respect for the ocean was instilled in him at an early age. By the fragile age of five, Sterling was competing in surf competitions and was recognized by the surf community in surf magazines for his natural talent.
Through his numerous surf endeavors in competition and traveling, Sterling has received solid recognition from the surfing world. Recently claimed the winner of the 2013 Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic in Oregon, Jamie also placed 3rd in at Mavericks for the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) in 2008. Not to mention, Sterling was also given the prestigious award of the Surfline Best Performance Award at the 2006 Billabong XXL Awards.
Jamie Sterling soakin’ up the California lifestyle for surf and snow at Red Bull Switchboard | Photo: Red Bull
A well-balanced waterman, Jamie Sterling has embraced all aspects of the ocean and adventure, including stand up paddleboarding (SUP), fishing, tow-in surfing, yoga, mountain biking and snowboarding. Sterling shares the surf stoke with everyone he encounters. In fact, he is a professional surf guide to help other adventurists- whether beginner or advanced- score some prime waves, good grub and have an overall amazing experience. Rather than facing aggressive surf locals, getting lost or sleeping on a bed of rocks, Jamie Sterling invites ocean enthusiasts to cruise with him as a personal tour/surf guide to dial them in the coveted local spots and secrets without the chaos.
Sterling embraces the “endless winter” in the ocean and on the mountains. His stoke for board sports is undeniable and his skill level proves his passion for the element of water. The Surf Channel was able to catch up with Jamie Sterling at the Red Bull Switchboard event which offered the opportunity of a lifetime for 500 college students to embrace the Southern California culture to surf and snowboard on the same day with Jamie Sterling and professional snowboarder John Jackson. Jamie Sterling was along for the ride at Red Bull Switchboard as he was showing support for the college crowd. It’s not hard to say that any college student that hangs out with Jamie Sterling for a day will definitely learn stuff that can never be taught in a classroom.
Jamie Sterling placed first in the 2013 Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic | Photo: Big Wave World Tour
Interview conducted by Shannon Quirk
The Surf Channel: What’s going on in Huntington Beach today?
Jamie Sterling: I’m down here for Red Bull Switchboard and it’s snowboarding and surfing all in the same day with colleges all over Southern California. And we’re here to have fun and embrace the Southern California surf and snow culture.
Have you ever snowboarded and surfed on the same day?
Sterling: No, but I’ve always wanted to. So I’m pretty amped to participate in both sports today.
Do you snowboard in California often?
Sterling: Yea, I come to California often but I don’t snowboard that regularly. I’m always surfing here, so I’m excited to get up to the mountains and have some fun. We’re going to Big Bear Mountain today, about a two hour drive from the beach, with 500 plus students going up there. We’re taking a big group of us in buses this morning and we’ll be shredding some liquid and shredding some more liquid in the mountains today. John Jackson will join us up there; he’s a really cool guy. I’m looking forward to just hanging out with him today.
Sterling: I’m a novice snowboarder; nowhere near my surfing level. It’s all about having fun and detaching from your regular schedule and grind in life to enjoy board sports.
Preferred style of snowboarding:
Sterling: I like the big mountain stuff, because I like surfing big waves. So, backcountry snowboarding appeals to me the most. The way they are pushing the limits on the mountains like we are in the ocean in where they are riding the unridden realm. It’s pretty similar to what I do in the ocean and they have a similar approach. It’s just steep and deep and you’ve gotta just go for it, get creative and carve your own line…and survive. (laughs)…so hang on.
- Jamie Sterling finished the Big Wave World Tour this season with an impressive runner-up result for 2012/2013. Photo: Surf Channel/ Shannon Quirk
Difference between snowboarding and surfing:
Sterling: The difference is you can’t get barreled while snowboarding. It’s obviously a little colder…well, I can’t say that because sometimes it’s really cold in the ocean, too. But there’s a lot of similarities, you know. You’re using your using your edge either surfing or snowboarding. You’re on a board of course, and you’re in the element of water; the snow and the ocean. And it’s all given from mother nature. They’re both rad sports. You really get detached from everything else and everything else becomes non-existent and it’s slow in the mode when you get in the groove and zenned out. It’s really good to be in that mind frame and feel that adrenaline rush to just have an awesome experience and enjoy it.
If you were a pro athlete in any sport besides surfing, what would it be?
Sterling: Probably a snowboarder. I’m right where I want to be.
Chatting about massive waves brings a smile to Sterling’s face. | Photo: Surf Channel/ Shannon Quirk
Do you like exploring?
Sterling: Yea, I really love getting off land and being away from society, and being on the ocean all meditative; backcountry would be the same. It’s a very nice experience.
Is it hard to be away from Hawaii?
Sterling: Yea, Hawaii is paradise where my home and family is. We’re just coming to the end of our winter, and there’s been lots of surf and lots of fun, but it is always nice to get away because I enjoy traveling and I really like the California culture. It’s always fun to get on the mainland and out of my daily schedule and join you guys here today. It’s just going to be a good day with Switchboard.
Can you handle the cold water?
Sterling: Yea, I travel all around the world. I go to some pretty cold places. I’ve actually gone to the Great Lakes in America during the winter. I’ve had icicles hanging off my hood. I’ve surfed Patagonia, Chile… I’ve been up to Alaska and surfed, so I’m accustomed to surfing cold waves. It’s not my favorite. I definitely prefer warm waters of Mexico, Hawai’i or somewhere like that, but it’s all good, you know. With the wetsuit technology these days, there are no worries.
How has Red Bull helped you out in your career?
Sterling: Red Bull has been huge with my career. I’ve been with Red Bull for 14 years so they’ve paid for my career. I’m fortunate and really thankful for Red Bull being so supportive all these years by inviting me to all of these awesome events like Switchboard and giving back to the surf and snow culture… and possibly inspiring some new kids today to become surfers or snowboarders. It’s awesome.
Does Red Bull give you wings?
Sterling: Red Bull has definitely given me wings to become who I am today.
What do you think of a television series dedicated to surfing?
Sterling: I think it’s rad to have The Surf Channel that is so dedicated to surfing and highlighting all the action the sport has to offer, so it’s really unique. I’m really thankful you guys are doing that. I’m very devoted to surfing… it’s my life.
For more about Sterls and info on surf trips with Jamie Sterling, visit: www.professionalsurfguide.com