By Kaitlyn Chock
Noah Johnson is a professional surfer, a full time student at UH Manoa majoring in political science with a minor in art, and a valet for the Indigo Restaurant. He won the Eddie Aikau Surfing Tournament and competed in the XXL Biggest Wave of the Year event, coming in second place twice and third place once. He says the Mavericks Invitational was probably the most memorable because he got a concussion and wasn’t able to finish the competition. To prepare for his professional surfing career, Noah surfed everyday and trained and traveled to competitions on Oahu and California. He says that being with nature is the best part of surfing. “Not that I don’t like people, but being alone in the ocean is pretty nice.” Many surfers describe surfing as a religious experience, to which Noah says “Surfing makes me feel like a tiny part of a huge whole. This relaxes me.”
Noah’s father inspired him to become a surfer. He says “My father is a surfer, so no doubt I was just trying to follow him when I became a surfer.” He actually learned to surf as a seven year old. By the time he was eleven, surfing really caught on with him. He entered his first contest at age 13. To become a professional surfer he worked really hard to improve what came naturally. He says “It definitely took me a while to get good at surfing; a long time.”
While surfing, Noah’s mind normally wanders, unless the surf is really good or if he’s surfing in a contest. While in ‘contest mode’ he tries to calm his mind by thinking of the ‘bigger picture.’ “I try to look at the larger picture and realize that each event is not that important. That has the effect of making it easier to stay calm and perform well. When you’re surfing for fun, there is usually no pressure, so being in a competition all can throw you way off. Focus only on finding good waves and riding them how you want to. I try to avoid thinking about the result of what I am doing and just focus on doing it.”
Surfing is a very dangerous sport and Noah has had his share of injuries: a severed Achilles tendon while surfing in France; broken ribs about ten times at Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Tahiti; concussions, a broken T12 vertebrae in his back, and the usual cuts and scrapes.
Besides surfing, Noah also enjoys body surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding. He was even thinking of moving to the mountains for a whole winter to snowboard. He actually used to skateboard more than he surfed, and was a sponsored skateboarder at one time. But, after he broke his wrist skateboarding and couldn’t surf for a whole summer, he became so desperate to get in the water that he limited his skateboarding. While traveling for surfing, he’d ‘bomb’ hills and skate around San Francisco. He claims that all three sports are similar in the way that they all share the ‘board on your feet thing’ and “are a lot more exciting than baseball or golf!!” Noah also enjoys traveling, photography, politics, history, and sailing his boat around the world. He is friends with a lot of boogie-boarders and still body surfs. “Bodyboarding can be too easy and puts people in the lineup competing for waves that they shouldn’t be, but the guys who are good are pretty amazing at times. Bodysurfing rules!!”
When asked about high school, Noah recalls, “I had a lot of fun and think I learned quite a bit at Waiakea High. I think the general education I got at Waiakea High prepared me for dealing with situations I encountered while traveling in the real world. The more you know, the better off you’ll be when you’re far away from home and alone. He says, “It really helps to know history and geography. People will help you much more willingly if you know a little about their world and history. My French classes at Waiakea High have been one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
The advice he has for aspiring surfers, is to “Always enjoy yourself. If you want to turn pro you have to work hard but remember that you can surf forever and it will always give you enjoyment, so do it with a smile.” And the last wish he has for you, “Good luck in whatever path you chose to follow in life and remember that it’s never too late or too hard to try something new.”