Jamie Sterling's Oahu
Dotted with lush green rainforests, unspoiled beaches, and an endless coastline where surfers and humpback whales play, any tourist will attest that the seven-mile paradise known as Oahu’s North Shore is hard to leave. It’s no surprise that the locals, including our ambassador and surfer Jamie Sterling, feel the same way.
Sterling was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu with his parents, brother and sister in a two-bedroom beach house looking onto the legendary surf breaks of Sunset Beach. “It was mellow, country-style living surrounded by the beach and waves,” remembers Sterling. “Everyone surfs, it’s just part of the lifestyle.”
He rode his first wave when he was just two years old, straddling his father’s board while he held him, tandem style, dragging his little foot in the wake. It’s the same way he’s now teaching his four-year-old son, Cyrus.
Growing up, every day after school he spent hours at the beach with a close-knit group of friends, playing in the shore break, swimming and teaching each other how to surf. Those friends and that lifestyle, he says, were integral in his future career. “Kids adapt to things so quickly, and starting at such a young age is essential.”
He’s been rising to the top since his first surf competition at just five-years-old, constantly pushing himself to go bigger. “Every winter I’ve always tried to go up two feet in wave size,” he says. “What I always say is I’m going to push myself two more feet and that’s going to be my edge this year.”
With consistency, passion, drive, and support from his childhood friends (who he still surfs with regularly), Sterling has received solid recognition in the surfing world at home on the North Shore and across the globe, tackling waves from Puerto Escondito’s famous break (known as Mexico's version of Hawaii's famous Banzai Pipeline) to the Silver Dragon (a tidal bore on a river in Hangzhou, China).
His humble studio bungalow in Haleiwa, not far from his childhood home, is just across the street from the beach, the Rocky Point break, and is mere minutes from the Banzai Pipeline. “It’s one of the best waves in the world,” Sterling says. “It’s a barreling wave, which is the best thing you can do in surfing. You get the biggest barrel rides in the world out there.”
He’s spends six months of the year on the road living out of a suitcase, travelling the world according to the surf forecast. When he’s home on the North Shore, he never strays far from his little castle with its plumeria and passion fruit trees. If he does, it’s usually to take his electric skateboard for a rip in the morning to check out the swell on nearby beaches, or grab some organic produce from the farmer’s market in Waimea Valley. “Why would I leave,” he says, as every local does. “Everything I need is right here in my backyard.”
It really is. When the season’s right, the organic fruit and vegetables he uses in his breakfast smoothie (get the recipe here) grows right in his front yard, like the aforementioned passion fruit, papaya and some of the biggest avocados you’ve ever seen.
Walking into his studio, the first thing we spot is his quiver, arranged from shortest to longest—40 boards that take up a quarter of his living space. “That’s not even half of them,” he says as we take a closer look. “The long boards are in the garage.”
One that’s missing from his quiver is his very first board, which Sterling says was stolen from him when he was younger. “It was a recycled board,” he says. “My neighbour was a shaper, he took a broken long board and hand-shaped a little four foot board out of it for me. It was really cool.”
The juxtaposition of Jamie’s life is apparent, with a small Fisher-Price kitchen playset up against the wall opposite his boards. It belongs to Cyrus, who lives in San Clemente, California with his mother and comes to visit throughout the year. “He enjoys the beach as much as I did as a young kid. He’ll probably follow in my footsteps, if not he’ll be enjoying nature,” says Sterling. “He goes to the beach every day with his mom, plays in the water, feeds the seagulls and looks for shells. His mom designs shell jewelry, so she’s always scavenging, looking for shells and he accompanies her."
Sterling paddles out for Cyrus. “He pushes me to be more prepared, fit and do my best to support him financially,” he says. “He gives me a purpose in life here on earth.”
If Cyrus is the reason he surfs, yoga is one of the reasons he can do it so well. The more he stretches, the less he finds himself landlocked from injury, plus it means he can hold his breath a damn long time under water.
He practices traditional Vinyasa yoga as well as a strength and flexibility program called the De Rose Method, which originates in Brazil. “It’s almost like a Yang, strengthening practice, but you’re holding the poses like a Yin practice. There’s no flow and no repetition, we never repeat a posture except left and right, so we may only do 10 different poses throughout 90 minutes, but sometimes we’ll hold a pose for 10 minutes, on our fingertips.”
Sterling also practices Pranayama breath work, opening his daily practice with 10 minutes of it. “It has also helped me hold my breath underwater while surfing big waves,” says Sterling. “When you’re underwater you have to slow your heart rate down and go into another space, because you can’t worry about coming up for a breath until the ocean’s energy subsides. You just have to go with the flow, let you breath lead you, yoga and surfing kind of go hand in hand.”
Sterling knows he’s always at risk of injury in the water. And while yoga and strength training have increased the longevity of his career, he’s proactively planning for what he’ll do when his competitive career comes to an end.
He launched a surf school, Professional Surf Guide. “Right now I’m using my surfing and ocean knowledge to teach lessons. I have many years of experience and I’d like to pass that on to people who are willing to learn,” he says. That and if you need someone to travel with you anywhere in the world and show you the best surf spots, he’s your guy.
Don’t get the wrong idea; Sterling doesn’t have plans to retire from surfing, ever, he says. “I’ll surf until my body says I can’t. It’s the best lifestyle I know. There’s not going to be a better job than the one I have right now so I’m going to keep this career as long as I can.”
JAMIE'S NORTH SHORE:
1) When he isn’t practicing yoga at on his living room floor, Sterling hits Orchard Oasis Yoga for an 8am Flow class, or winds down after a day in the surf with a 5pm Yin class. Orchard Oasis is arguably one of the most peaceful spots on earth to practice, atop a deck with the sounds of birds singing and unparalleled views of Mount Ka’ala (Oahu’s tallest mountain). After class, pick some fresh fruit from their orchard—bananas, avocados, papayas, mangos, guavas, figs and more—and head to the outdoor kitchen to blend a fresh smoothie. Stay in one of their two outdoor tentalos (think glamping in 10’x12’ waterproof tent-like structures with locking front doors, windows that zip up for privacy and down for ventilation, solar-panel generated electricity and even Wi-Fi.) Also, you’ll need the directions and gate codes to access the property; this one’s a true local secret. (Call Shea at 1-631-275-4093) Waka Road, Haleiwa, HI
2) The Kahuku Superette (56-505 Kamehameha Hwy.) is nothing glamorous, but head to the back counter and you’ll find the freshest, most authentic poke bowls on the North Shore. (For the new-to-Hawaii crowd, poke is cubed 'ahi tuna sashimi marinated in a variety of spices.) Their secret is the five-generation-old family marinade. There are also a huge variety of sauces and toppings to choose from. Jamie’s favourite? Poke topped with a bit of avocado, limu seaweed, sea asparagus, sliced sweet Maui onions, and soy sauce atop steamed white rice.
3) Jamie hits the Haleiwa Farmer’s Market (59-864 Kamehameha Hwy.) in Waimea Valley once a week (open Thursdays 2-6pm). “The market is amongst the botanical gardens, with local vendors and farmers who grow organic greens and veggies. It’s where I do my local weekly produce stock up,” he says. “They also have people making great food there like crepes and poke bowls fresh-to-order and you can pick your own ingredients.”
4) The Ehukai Pillbox hike (59 Kamehameha Hwy.), up the Kai’wa Ridge in the Waianae Mountains, is part of Jamie’s morning routine a few times a week. At the top sit two World War II pillboxes (military guard posts) that offer up sweeping views of Haleiwa and the coast. It’s a quick 15-minute run from his house to the top of the mountain—if you’re fast, like Jamie. If you’re going at a leisurely pace, after passing through a bamboo forest and some steep uphill, you’ll reach the first military guard post in about 30 minutes, and the second just five minutes later. “It’s a nice easy hike along the ridge and looking off the pillboxes you get a view of the whole coast from up there,” Sterling says as he points up at the pillbox you can see from his front yard. Park at Sunset Beach Elementary School (where Jamie spent his formative years) and enter the hiking trail at the back left of the parking lot.
5) For breath-holding practice, Jamie heads to Pupukea Beach Park into Shark’s Cove (59-727 Kamehameha Hwy) or Three Tables to cave dive or snorkel. “It drops off and gets deep really fast so you can get down really quick and there’s a lot of coral life, sea caves and lava tubes you can swim through,” he says. “I free dive there in the summer without scuba, just a snorkel and a mask, and swim through the caves doing breath holding exercises.”
Originally published here on lululemon.