By Andrea Swayne
We caught up with Sierra Downer, 10, of San Clemente, following her Girls U12 semifinal heat at the Western Surfing Association event No. 6, on Jan. 17 in Oceanside, where she battled through big waves and strong current to make it through to the semifinal round. Directly after her semi, the remainder of the event was postponed due to the conditions.
Her strength, bravery and confidence in the water are testament to the hard work she’s put into the sport since she first paddled out at the age of 6. Not from a surfing family, Sierra first took an interest in wave riding, thanks to her friends. Since then she’s practiced a minimum of two days a week, coached by Collin Crook and Neco Padaratz.
“I told my parents I like to try new things and I really want to learn to surf,” she said. “And they have always been super supportive.”
The highlight of her amateur career so far was taking a big win at last year’s Stoke-o-Rama at T Street.
“I want to thank my coaches, my parents and my friends for cheering me on and helping me be a better surfer,” Sierra said. “And l love living in San Clemente because the people are really nice and the whole town kind of supports us surfers.”
Although surfing is Sierra’s favorite sport, she also enjoys golfing, basketball, soccer and football.
“When I’m in a heat I’m so excited that I got the wave,” she said. “Competing isn’t easy at all but I like it because it helps me get better and it’s a challenge. I really just want to do my best in my heats and keep getting better.”
Her surfing goals include continuing to improve in the WSA, qualifying for Surfing America Prime, landing a spot on the USA Junior Surf Team and then continuing on to World Surf League Pro Junior and Qualifying Series events.
This studious Concordia Elementary fifth-grader enjoys going to school to be with her friends but also loves learning new things and takes her grades very seriously, earning top marks.
Along with her dream of becoming a professional surfer, Sierra is also passionate about art and would like a career in that field someday as well. She also practices her art as much as possible, lately concentrating on nature scenes including the beach and sunsets, because, “It’s my favorite place. I’m a surfer so it’s where I love to be,” she said.