Nicole Grodesky – Riding her own wave


Born in Tampa, Nicole moved back and forth between Ohio and Florida until she was eleven and moved into a duplex that was a couple blocks from the beach. She fell in love with surfing and the rest is history. At the age of fourteen Nicole began competing, placing 3rd in her first national competition. Nicole traveled out to California for nationals and knew that one day she would live here. At the tender age of eighteen, Nicole packed her bags and made the drive across the country with a good buddy. Since that time she has traveled to many countries as pro surfer. The last five years has seen Nicole in college, planning to graduate next spring. She is competing again and training a young female for competition. Nicole is a published surf photographer and writer, and on the dean’s list at California State University, but mainly she enjoys sharing experiences and knowledge with others.

Nicole, you are currently known in the surf world for your journalism and photography but recently decided to return to competition and take part in the pro contest this spring. What inspired that decision?

I was known in surfing first as a pro surfer and have worked really hard to recieve recognition for my photography. Most of the girls remember me, but some of the new girls don’t. I think it will be fun to surf a contest with them and see how they react. The main reason I entered the event is because I am taking ‘gender issues’ in sport class. This class talks about the history of women in sport. In the past women weren’t allowed to compete. I am totally inspired to compete again. It’s women’s history month so why not celebrate and exercise my right to sport!

Very empowering of you Grodesky! While we are on this slightly political note, I once read a very inspiring article, which I am now going to misquote terribly, about how surfers are interesting global citizens. Drawn to travel the world’s oceans in search of extreme waves, surfers live in the ‘in between spaces’ of continents, choosing to be untouched by politics that land ownership and borders impose on us. Do you feel that there is truth in this?

Yes very much so. When the Europeans came over to North America and asked if they could buy the land, the natives response was, no one can own the land. This is a similar thought to your question. There are many examples where private property stood in the middle of a perfect unridden wave and a terribly anxious surfer. There are instances where private communities are built on the cliff above world class waves and surfers are denied access. I don’t feel that is fair at all. No one likes a wave hog. Another prime example would be when Trestles, a world class break right here in Southern California, was owned by the military. Surfers were chased out of the water with machine guns and sometimes thrown in the brig.

Surfers do have a unique bond that transcends language and culture. Surfing is a culture itself and no matter where you come from, it’s surfing that creates lifelong bonds. Not politics.

What is important to you about surf culture?

One of the most important benefits in the surf culture is how surfing connects people. People from all different backgrounds can come together and bond. Wherever you travel in the world people will take you in to their homes and take you around to their favorite spots. You “dial in” to the local line. You eat at their favorite spots, shop at their favorite markets and drink at their favorite bars. You meet their friends, their enemies and you embrace an entire new you in them. Then you leave and take with you what you’ve learned and the memories you’ve shared.

Then there’s the little things like, the smell of fresh surf wax, neoprene (wetsuits), sunscreen and the fresh salt air. Those smells always remind me of good times in the past and yet to come. I love everything to the fresh ocean water on my skin to the soft sand on my feet. I love riding a new surfboard for the first time or taking some one surfing for their first time. I love checking the waves in the morning while drinking my coffee, I love watching the sunset while other surfers get their last rides of the day. I love being on the outside and watching a wave break in silence, then slowly hear the water crack against the base of the wave.

This is fulfilling, this is what is important.

What experience and learnings have you taken from your surfing culture into other areas of your life?

What I love about the culture of surfing is that it’s centered around freedom of expression. The wave is an empty canvas, the surfboard is your paintbrush, and you are the artist. You can draw your own lines and those lines are yours, an expression short lived in time.

The freedom of expression in the water often spills over to inspire art on land as well. The inspiration manifested from surfing comes in all forms of mediums including: fashion, music, painting, drawing, graphic arts, writing, and photography. What is life without art? Every culture has an era of art that leaves a mark on the world. If you really want to understand the culture of surfing, just look at the many forms of art in the surf community. I recommend watching surf documentary films like: One California Day, Thicker Than Water, September Sessions, and Sipping Jet Streams. Also, have you been to the Surf Gallery in Laguna Beach?

No but I will now! Thanks so much for the insight.
If you want to tap into a bit of surf cuture you can support Nicole in the upcoming contest to be held at Huntington beach on Saturday 29th March. Alternatively check out her photography on (tip – make sure you have your sound on)

Photo credit: Chris Grant/
© The Red Barn Cooperative

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