A competitive surfer at 9, this Calusa fourth-grader will represent Palm Beach County at her sport’s national competition.
Appropriately named Summer, her mom Jennifer Bistyga is the city’s coastal program manager. That gave her a jump start on surfing.
Q: How old were you when you started and what were the circumstances?
A: I started surfing with my parents when I was 3. I went to Island Water Sports surf camp when I was 5.
Q: What made you want to continue?
A: This made me feel excited and pumped up. What made me want to continue was how awesome it felt riding my first wave. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Q: Do you take lessons?
A: In the beginning I did not take lessons, just surfed with my parents and competed. I started lessons less than a year ago when I wanted to get to the next level. I take lessons in Jupiter up to Fort Pierce, wherever the waves are.
Q: At what point did you become competitive?
A: When I was 6, I competed in my first surf contest. I did not get out of my first heat. But I still loved it and wanted to keep surfing. Competing became a passion right away.
Q: What’s the name of the team?
A: I compete on my own, but I am representing Eastern Surfing Association – Palm Beach. I am one of the youngest.
Q: What will you compete in?
A: I am competing in U12 girls shortboard. Everyone competes individually. We are not traveling as a team, but we represent Palm Beach County.
Q: Where are the nationals this year and how did you qualify for them?
A: Regionals were in Melbourne Beach, Fla. in April. This is my first time going to nationals and it was my first time going to regionals. They are in Nags Head, N.C. [The competition is on hold pending the outcome of possible Hurricane Humberto.]
Q: When is surfing season over? How will you practice?
A: Summer is the slow time for surfing down here. In the meantime, I will try to work out as much as I can. Paddle when there are no waves and do pushups.
Q: What kind of board do you use? Any other equipment you want to mention?
A: For ESA I use a shortboard that was made for me and has a smiley face and my name on it. I also compete in the longboard division and have a longboard.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m currently surfing in the U12 division for ESA. I have a few more years since I am only 9. I am also going to start surfing in the U14 and U16 divisions for ESA. I also surf other contest series including Gnarly Charley. I surf the U10, U15 and longboard divisions.
My goal is to make it back to regionals in Melbourne Beach next April and nationals. And to surf in as many competitions as possible.
Q: Do you have someone you admire in your sport?
A: My idol is Bethany Hamilton. When I first watched her movie, it inspired me because she never gave up. Even though she lost her arm surfing. Her new movie came out this summer and I loved it. It inspired me even more. Now I set an alarm every morning to wake up before school and exercise to get stronger.
Q: Do you have advice for other kids who want to try surfing?
A: I just want to say, keep doing what you love and don’t be afraid to wipe out because it’s not as scary as it seems. Start on small waves first, so you know how it feels to be on a board. Keep doing what you love. It will be worth it in the end.
By Marci Shatzman