Riding the Wave of Victory

Soleil Errico

When Malibuite Soleil Errico claimed the 2018 World Surf League Women’s World Longboard Championship in Taiwan on Nov. 30, Malibu was on her mind. The teenager spoke about the November Woolsey Fire and its impact on the city. 

“My hometown of Malibu has had a tough time recently with the fires and everything,” Errico said during her acceptance speech. “I want to dedicate this to Malibu. I can’t wait to bring it home.”

Last week, the 17-year-old pro surfer announced she planned to donate some of the $15,000 prize money she received from winning the surfing title to her preschool teacher and family friend Kim LeDoux, the owner of The Wonder Years Preschool, who lost her home to the wildfire. 

“She has been a part of my whole life and is really important to our family,” Errico said. “She is close to my heart.” 

Errico was named the WSL Women’s World Longboard Champion after defeating fellow Californian Racheal Tilly in a thrilling final at Taiwan’s Jinzun Harbor. Tilly, the 2015 world champion, took an early lead in the 35-minute final by posting a two-wave combination of 14.27 in the first 10 minutes. Errico, a professional surfer of two years, steadily surfed her way back into the competition. In the final minutes of the heat, she netted an 8.23 on perfect wave and took a lead that she would never relinquish. 

Errico said being world champion is the result of a lot of time spent catching wave after wave and practicing maneuver after maneuver, attempting to master her craft.

“It feels really good,” she said. “It inspires me to keep working hard because I know it does pay off.”

Errico’s goal was to finish in the top three of the event. When she realized she was either going to finish in the top spot or as the runner-up, she decided just to have fun.

“I just let everything go and kind of don’t remember surfing my wave,” she said. “It’s a blur. I was so in it. It was incredible.” 

Errico was eight years old and living in Hawaii when her dad, Danny Errico, took her in the ocean and began to teach her how to surf. She began competing in youth surfing competitions two years later. Errico was mainly a shortboard surfer from ages 11 to 13, but then switched to the bigger surfboard.

“For some people, shortboard is more enjoyable; for me, longboarding is,” she said. “I like the flow of longboarding and being able to nose ride and do turns. It’s more calming for me.” 

The wave Errico rode to becoming one of the youngest ever WSL world champions features a lot of big wins, including the 2015 Miss Malibu Pro title, the WSA 2016 and 2017 Women’s Longboard California State Championships, plus the USA Longboard Pro 2016 National Championship and USA Surfing’s 2016 and 2017 Women’s Longboard National Champions. 

There have also been some tough defeats. The champion surfer mentioned her performance at a recent Relik Modern event, where she lost a semifinal matchup by one point to the event’s eventual champion. 

“It just didn’t go my way,” Errico said. “I hope to win Relik one day, as well. I know if I continue to work hard, I am going to get good results.”

She said the win in Taiwan has inspired her to keep surfing.

“I defiantly want to continue to do this,” Errico said.