OCEANSIDE — At only 16 years old, North County native Alyssa Spencer is on her way to becoming a world champion surfer.
Spencer is one of several women competing in the SuperGirl Surf Pro Festival, the only major all-women’s World Surf League event in North America. The festival runs from Friday, July 26 to Sunday, July 28 at the Oceanside Pier.
For Spencer, who was born and raised in Carlsbad but recently moved to Encinitas with her family, surfing is a daily activity.
“I definitely have to go surfing every day,” she said.
When she is home, Spencer typically hits up Ponto Beach in Carlsbad or Seaside Reef in Encinitas. She goes in the mornings or afternoons when it isn’t too windy, and her father is almost always out in the water with her.
Spencer’s father taught her how to surf at the age of 6.
“He’s been the biggest part of my surfing career, knowing which buttons to push and how far I can be pushed,” Spencer said. “He’s the one who shaped me into the surfer I am today.”
Spencer said her father taught her that she should always have fun when she is out in the water. If she isn’t enjoying herself, then there isn’t any point.
The professional surfer started competing when she about 9. Spencer has always been competitive, a trait she thinks she may have gained from surfing with mostly boys at a young age.
Though there were not many other girls in the water with Spencer growing up, she is part of a small group of five or six girls who have been competing against each other since they all started around the same, young age.
“Those girls have pushed me to be who I am,” Spencer said.
Spencer is currently ranked No. 4 in the World Qualifying Series, a series of surfing competitions held throughout the year. She explained that the top six at the end of the year make it into the World Championship Tour (WCT), pro surfing’s top tier competition series.
Right now, Spencer is in the running for the WCT, but there are still four big events left in this year’s series. SuperGirl Surf Pro is a QS6000 event, which means the winner will get 6,000 points.
“That’s a lot of points,” Spencer noted.
The next event is the US Open in Huntington Beach followed by another in Spain, both of which are 10,000-point events. The last event of the year is a 6,000-point competition in Australia.
According to JP Petrini, a spokeswoman for SuperGirl Pro, Spencer would be the very first San Diego native to win the “Super Girl Cape” if she reaches this year’s podium.
“It would be absolutely amazing if I could wear the SuperGirl Cape,” Spencer said.
Spencer also gets to compete with women she has looked up to throughout her surfing career, like Bethany Hamilton.
“Bethany Hamilton has definitely been such an inspiration to me,” she said. “Hopefully I’m in a heat with her.”
Last year’s winner, Carissa Moore, is another inspiration for Spencer along with Caroline Marks, who she grew up with surfing.
Spencer is feeling good about competing this year. Last year, she said she didn’t perform as well because she had just recovered from a fractured fibula injury in her leg. She learned a lot from that experience.
“I’ve definitely worked really hard to keep my body healthy,” she said.
For Spencer, Super Girl Surf Pro is one of her favorite events of the year. After all, it’s a surfing event meant to empower women that is held right in her backyard.
“I want to put on a good show for everyone and be an example for young girls to chase their dreams and to stay true to themselves while doing it,” Spencer said.
Top: Alyssa Spencer, 16, who lives in Encinitas, is shown competing in a previous year’s SuperGirl Surf Pro event. Photo courtesy of ASA/WSL/Steinmetz
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son