The Meteoric Rise of a California Surfing Prodigy

Emma Stone surfing in Santa Cruz

Originally published in Santa Cruz Waves Magazine.

The treacherous waves of Ocean Beach aren’t exactly a mecca for learning to surf, but that’s where 17-year old Emma Stone cut her teeth. The 2018 Scholastic Surf Series (SSS) State Championship hails from San Francisco’s Outer Sunset, and has been surfing the notorious beach break with her father since grade school. When it comes to her favorite surf spots, “definitely Ocean Beach is No. 1,” she says. “No. 2 is probably Sunset.”

Growing up, Stone and her parents spent a week or two in Hawaii every summer. Her earliest surfing memory is of her dad pushing into a wave at Pinetrees on Kauai. “I pearled right into the sand,” she remembers. However, even as a 7-year-old, she enjoyed the resultant pounding. “I wanted to do it again, and again, and again. I thought it was really fun, going over the falls.”

Over the following years, Stone’s passion and resilience propelled her into the turbulent surf at Ocean Beach. At age 11, she began competing on the Santa Cruz Scholastic Surf League (SCSSL) representing Half Moon Bay. Proving to be an apt competitor, she added on the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA), SSS, USA Surfing Prime, and the World Surf League (WSL) Junior Tour, racking up numerous first place finishes. In 2018, she won the SSS California State Championship at Oceanside. And she completed the 2018-2019 season with three major wins: National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Women’s Open Division Champion, SCSSL Women’s Shortboard Champion, and SCSSL Longboard Champion.

Eric Arakawa designs most of her boards, and Stone takes a hands-on role developing shapes with him in his factory on the North Shore of Oahu. Though she can wield a shortboard or a longboard, Stone’s wave-slaying weapon of choice is a gun. “I really like big waves,” she admits. Bianca Valenti and Emi Erickson, both WSL Women’s Big Wave Tour contestants, are two of her most important mentors. “I look up to them,” she says.

Stone is among the first generation of surfers to have such role models. The inaugural WSL Women’s Big Wave Tour event took place in 2016, and this year is the first contest season in which the WSL will offer equal prize money for men and women. “Right at the age that I was old enough to understand it, they started talking about equal pay,” says Stone. She’s currently aiming for the WSL Championship Tour (CT), and though she’s quick to clarify that it wouldn’t be for big-wave surfing, she has plenty of time to change her mind.

Emma Stone surfing champion.

Photo by Adam Stone

According to Valenti, “Emma’s surfing is progressing at the speed of a rocket going to space.” She’s had her eye on the young prodigy for a few years now, and characterizes Stone’s style as out of this world high performance. “I feel honored and delighted that the teens are appreciative of the hard work we are putting in to create waves of opportunity and equity in surfing,” says Valenti. “I hope Emma and the other up and comers follow suit and use their talent in surfing as a platform to create positive change.”

Stone’s platform is growing, with more than 10,000 followers on Instagram @emmastone.415. Her joyful, energetic vibe is a reflection of her chief objective in life: “Have the most fun I can possibly have. That’s definitely one of my goals just overall, in surfing and outside of surfing.”

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