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Emily Erickson and the Duality of Being a Legend’s Legendary Daughter

Emily Erickson Big Wave Surfer

The North Shore—and big wave surfing in general—has historically been a boys’ club. While there have been a handful of women who have made their presence felt over the years, the heavy water pursuit has largely been dominated by men, with very little room for women in the lineup. But over the past few years, there has been a major shift at Waimea Bay, Sunset, and the Outer Reefs on the North Shore as a new generation of women chargers has shifted the paradigm. These days, no matter where you surf big waves on the North Shore—or around the world, for that matter—women are getting after it.

One of the leaders of that movement is Sunset Beach’s favorite daughter, Emily Erickson. A fixture on the North Shore for most of her life, Emi has more big wave pedigree than just about anyone out there. Her father, Roger Erickson, was legendary on the North Shore in the 1970s and 1980s. He competed in the Eddie, was one of the first to surf Kaena Point, and charged every solid swell that swept through Waimea Bay.

 

 

A legacy like that can be both a blessing and a curse for a girl growing up on the North Shore. When Emi started paddling out at Sunset and Waimea, there was a certain expectation laid on her shoulders. Rather than simply seeing Emi, many people saw “Roger Erickson’s daughter”—and that’s not an easy thing for a young woman to carry. But at the same time, Emi had one of big wave surfing’s greats to take inspiration from. She drew on her father’s experience, adopted his love of single fin guns and critical, aesthetically pure lines, and got to work continuing his legacy while simultaneously digging herself out of his shadow.

 

 

A decade and a half later, it is clear that Emi is her daughter’s father. She charges with the same combination of knowledge and courage, drawing the same single fin-inspired lines that her father made famous years ago. But it’s also apparent that she’s also a lot more than Roger Erickson’s kid. Her achievements and accolades in big wave surfing stand on their own, both competitively and in free surfs. Emi has competed on the big wave world tour, catching the only successfully ridden wave in the women’s final at the world title event at Peahi. She’s surfed in events at Jaws, Maverick’s, Puerto Escondido, Nelscott Reef, and Punta Lobos, is a dominant force at Sunset Beach, and is widely considered to be the Queen of Waimea Bay. She even earned a spot in the historic Eddie event this year, leading a group of six women in the first mixed field at the biggest event in big wave surfing.

 

 

 

Emi has also come back from what should have been a career-ending injury during a contest at maxed-out, windy Jaws, where she tumbled down the face of a massive wave and destroyed every ligament in her knee. After years of rehabilitation, she eventually had to undergo surgery to stabilize the joint—and even then it took another two years before the knee was healthy enough to surf. Throughout it all, she kept her head up and remained focused on staying strong and getting herself back into the water and the lineups that she loves. While she will always feel remnants of the injury, she still sends it as hard as ever and has finally begun to receive the industry recognition she deserves. In addition to being a perennial invitee to virtually every big wave event that runs, she has featured on the cover of The Surfers Journal, picked up sponsorships from Yeti and Roark, and inspired a new generation of lady chargers who are following in her footsteps and making their presence felt when the buoys hit the XL range.

Equally impressive is the life that Emi has built outside of surfing. Rather than falling into the stereotypical “North Shore girl” trap, she has worked hard to create a future for herself. She manages properties on the North Shore, runs her own sports massage business, and recently married a kind Australian surfer who has been sharing set waves with her and making her smile for the past few years. When the waves aren’t pumping on the North Shore, she helps heal the various surfers and visitors on the North Shore, travels the world with her husband, chasing waves and other adventures, or holes up in her bungalow at Sunset Beach and reads the ever-growing stack of books on her kitchen table.

Emi knows that the pro surfing gig only lasts a few years, even in the best of scenarios. While she will always be one of the hardest charging surfers on the gnarliest days at Sunset and Waimea, she won’t get paid for doing so forever. But Emi has set herself up to live a bigger, fuller life than simply surfing could ever provide her—and, ironically, doing so has ensured that she’ll be a fixture on surfing’s biggest stage for years to come. In the meantime, she is happily ensconced on the North Shore, a stone’s throw from her beloved Sunset Beach and a quick drive from her father—the legendary daughter of a North Shore legend, living a life we can all aspire to.

To contact Emi about massage/sports massage work, please visit her Instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/noelanimassage/?hl=en or her website at https://brand.page/noelanimassage.

To see first-hand what a lifetime’s worth of big wave experience looks like, post up on the beach at Waimea Bay or Sunset on the next big northwest swell and look for the girl on the black-and-white striped single fin, taking off deepest and driving with style from behind the bowl.