OCEANSIDE — While many of us find ourselves bundled up in sweaters on a chilly late autumn day, young Caitlin “Caity” Simmers prefers hitting Oceanside’s waves on her trusted Borst Designs 5-foot surfboard.
At 13 years old, Caity — the daughter of an electrician and a hospice nurse — is making quite a name for herself in the surfing world.
In November, Caity was named as a finalist for Sports Illustrated Kids’ “SportsKid of the Year.” She was chosen along with five other young athletes by the Sports Illustrated Kids staff for its 11-year-old awards program.
The seventh-grader, who is homeschooled, said she tries to surf daily whether it’s warm or cold outside. Like a fish out of water, she mentioned she has an array of wetsuits she can pull on before hitting the waves in her hometown when the temps dip.
“It’s never really that cold,” she said after returning from surfing on a late November morning. “I try to surf at least once a day. I love surfing with my friends and family, I almost always surf Oceanside Harbor and pier.”
While she’s riding the waves, Caity also likes to perform cool aerial stunts on her surfboard perfected with the help of her skateboard.
“I don’t remember when I started skating. I just thought it would be cool if I took some of my skating technique and put it into my surfing,” she said. “I like to do both, but I like surfing more.”
Caity said she typically goes surfing with her dad, Jesse; however, you might see her take a wave or two with her mom, Ali, or younger brother, Timothy, 11.
Earlier this year, Caity ranked No. 1 in the girls’ Under-16 West Coast Prime Series and earned the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s 2018 Rookie of the Year after scoring three perfect 10s at NSSA nationals, a first in the event’s history.
And if that wasn’t enough, she also helped Team USA land a bronze at the International Surfing Association World Surfing Games in Japan and won gold in the under-16 girls division at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships.
“I started surfing when I was 6 or 7 years old in Oceanside, but I was actually Boogie boarding. I decided to stand up, but on a real surfboard; my dad taught me,” she said.
No holds barred
And if you thought being a girl stood in her way, think again.
“Being a girl does not make me feel like it is harder to excel,” she said.
She’s also humbled by all the contests and events she has participated in and won.
“I feel happy with my results at the recent contest, but I’m just trying to go one heat at a time, and just have fun,” she said.
Already a superstar among many of her surfing peers, Caity said her close friends don’t treat her differently.
“ … they know that I don’t want my surfing to define me, I just want them to see me as a normal, and I’m happy that they do that,” she said.
Caity said she prefers to “stay under the radar and just be me, I don’t want to act fake in front of a bunch of people.”
Icing on the cake
Of course, about being recognized by a national magazine, she said: “Sports Illustrated is a huge company, so it is an honor to be a finalist. If I won, it would just be the icing on the cake.”
But she’s also proud of Team USA.
“Yeah, I am really proud of Team USA and how well we did on that contest,” Caity said. “It was really surreal to find out that I was going to get to go to Japan with amazing people and compete for my country. I just go to each contest trying not to put that much pressure on myself, and having fun, and it seems to work.”
Caity said she’s been working on her “air-game” for a while and hopes to master it and take it to the contests.
Other things the teen enjoys include basketball, art and having fun.
As for what lies ahead, Caity said she hopes to be a professional surfer, “but mostly I just hope I am still having fun doing what I love.”
She said her personal favorite surfers are John John Florence and Dane Reynolds.
Her family is equally proud of her efforts: “My husband and I are so proud of Caity, she is so focused and determined on achieving her goals and we want her to continue to thrive doing what she loves,” Ali Simmers said.
The nominees for Sports Illustrated Kids come from submitted nominations, recommendations from Team USA coaches and from previous winners of the magazine’s “SportsKids of the Month” program.
For more information about the nominees, visit sikids.com.