Surfing with a Smile: Autumn Hays

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By Neal Kearney

Up-and-comer Autumn Hays carves out her place with notable skills and a killer attitude

Surfing can be a very selfish sport. Good waves come only in sets, and with alpha males pounding their chests like gorillas in the mist, average Joes, groms and gals can sometimes only hope to get the scraps. With all of the frustrations of being at the bottom of the food chain, you would think many would give up trying altogether.

For 14-year-old Steamer Lane local Autumn Hays, however, forfeit is not an option. In fact, there seems to be little to keep this ripping wahine from wiping the smile off her face. This perseverance hasn’t been overlooked by the Lane’s top dogs. World-renowned big-wave rider and upstanding citizen Ken “Skindog” Collins, for one, is impressed.

Photo: Kookson

Photo: Kookson

“Autumn is an amazing kid—super positive and supportive of the younger surfers,” Collins says of the good-natured grommette. “Her surfing has been progressing a lot over the last couple years. Her family is awesome and very supportive of her surfing, so there is a lot of potential for her to keep [growing].”

The praise doesn’t stop there. Savannah Shaughnessy, Lane local and one of the world’s most talented female big-wave riders, has also taken note of Hays’ surfing savvy.

“I’ve been watching her surf for the last two years, mostly while judging the [Santa Cruz Scholastic Surf League] contests,” says Shaughnessy. “She is very sweet and bubbly. Whenever I see her she has a smile on her face. She stands out from her peers because even though she is very competitive, she is a really positive person. Whether she wins or not, she still looks just as happy and congratulates those who have placed above her.”

It’s refreshing to see a glimmer of goodness and selflessness in the often-hostile waters of Santa Cruz. To be this upbeat and still rip is even more impressive, and it seems that Hays will continue to spread spray and stoke for many years to come.

Photo: Kenan Chan

Photo: Kenan Chan

In Her Own Words:

Age/DOB: 14 years old/Aug. 14, 1999

Stance: Regular

Sponsors: O’Neill Surf Shop, Smith Optics

Education: Entering 10th grade at Santa Cruz High School.

Favorite move: Power carves

Favorite surfer: Nat Young

Inspiration: All of the amazing surfers at The Lane inspire me in the water.

Favorite person to surf with: Any of my friends.

Best contest result: First Place in the Surfing America Prime Contest at Uppers, and First Place overall in the county for High School Girls Short Boarding during my freshman year.

If you could go anywhere to surf, where would it be? Pavones, in Costa Rica.

Goals: To keep improving my surfing.


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