Athlete Profile: Jamie Sterling World Champ, Surf Coach, and the Nicest Guy on the North Shore
Anyone who followed big wave surfing in the early 2000s and mid-2010s knows the name Jamie Sterling. One of the preeminent chargers of his generation, “Sterls,” as his friends know him, was equally adept at paddle and tow surfing. He whipped into some of the biggest wave ever surfed at Dungeons in South Africa, was a standout at the outer reefs on Oahu, competed in the Eddie, and won the second ever Big Wave World Championship in 2011, as well as Big Wave Tour events at Nelscott Reef (2013) and Pico Alto (2011) and the tuberiding contest at El Gringo in northern Chile.
While Jamie’s competitive career might have peaked in the early 2010s, anyone who is serious about big wave surfing in Hawaii knows that he is still charging as hard as ever. He paddles Waimea and the outer reefs as well as anyone, dominates on tow days, and still chase swells over to Nelscott,
Chile, and even XXL Fiji. But more importantly, he’s widely known as being the nicest guy on the North Shore—humble, friendly, and always sharing a smile with those around him. In a sport that is largely dominated by chest-thumping egomaniacs, Jamie is big wave surfing’s nice guy, and it’s always a pleasure to share a session with him.
Today, Jamie splits his time between training, surfing, spending time with his family, traveling with his son, and managing his various businesses. He teaches surf lessons whenever he is on the island and also provides elite coaching and mentoring with long-term clients who travel with him on surf trips to learn from a world champ and one of the best watermen on the planet. He also has his own CBD oil company, which provides products sourced from Oregon, right near to his beloved Nelscott Reef. Jamie is a big believer in the medicinal benefits of CBD and is stoked that he can share its healing power with others, especially in such a pure form, made from high-quality plants grown organically.
Ultimately, though, the best healing for Jamie has always come in the water, particularly at Sunset Beach, which is easily one of his favorite waves. Jamie is out there every time Sunset is firing, sitting out the back on his twin-fin guns and scooping into the biggest, heaviest sets before racing down the line and belting the Inside Bowl with his powerful backhand. After decades of riding the biggest waves in the world, he surfs Sunset like it’s a chest-high beach break, laughing and chatting with people while waiting for bombs to sweep through the lineup. But despite his nonchalant approach to the wave, he still respects it and considers it one of the best training grounds for big wave surfing. It certainly has played a big part in turning Jamie into the surfer and waterman he is today—and considering his accolades, that’s a big statement.
For those who are just getting into big wave surfing or wondering what is possible on the XL days, Jamie is a great example of what can be accomplished through a lifetime of work and dedication to the sport. But more importantly, he’s an example of how a person can be successful in the water (both as a freesurfer and competitive surfer) while still remaining respectful and kind. Next time you are up on the North Shore, keep an eye out for Jamie’s pink-and-blue gun as he drops in deepest out at Sunset. Chances are, he’ll have a lot to teach you in the water and a friendly smile for you in the parking lot.