SUP Women | Emmy Merrill
A candid interview with the 22-year-old 2X ISA World champion SUP surfer
Emmy Merrill paddles to the beat of her own drum. The 22-year-old grew up in San Clemente, California where she embraced the beach culture, competing in shortboard surfing, outrigger, and eventually standup paddling. While the two-time ISA World champ is an extremely talented standup surfer, she is also focused on her education and career. Merrill has a bachelor’s degree from Point Loma Nazarene University and now works as a full-time nurse in Irvine. She gracefully juggles her busy schedule that consists of friends, family, work and of course, paddling. –Rebecca Parsons
How did you first get into SUP?
I first tried standup paddling when I was eleven over on Maui. I was small enough to standup paddle a long (surfboard) and my uncle would make paddles out of broken sailing masts and broken paddles. He’d use the blade from the paddle and screw it onto an old sailing shaft. Then standup paddling started to grow in California, but I didn’t really get into it until I was fourteen.
Why is San Clemente an ideal place for SUP?
Surfing is a huge part of the culture. Most people from here surf, even if it’s not competitively. You have breaks like San O that are perfect for learning and the (Dana Point) Harbor is really close by.
Favorite places to surf in San Clemente?
Every time I standup surf it’s down at Dog Patch at San O. If I shortboard I go to Riviera, which is a beach break, or I’ll ride my bike down to Middles at Trestles and surf there.
What did you study in college?
I went to Point Loma in San Diego and studied nursing. My first year of college I was able to do the ISA Worlds in Peru in 2012 and then again in 2014. My school was super supportive of me competing and I had a lot of time to surf. I don’t think I had time to train as much as I would have liked to because school was my focus, but I wasn’t training for a race so I wasn’t relying on my fitness as much as my surfing.
Did you ever consider putting off college to focus on competing?
I was considering it. I did surf team in high school for shortboarding, so I was pursuing that path for a while trying to be a professional shortboarder. It didn’t necessarily go the way I wanted. I’m okay with it though because I did want to go to college and have that experience and study nursing. I’ve thought about what my life would be like if I chose not to go to college, but I’m glad I did because I got to do both and have a pretty good balance.
Any plans to try and compete on the World Tour?
I would like to, but it’s tough with work to try and get time off. And if a contest doesn’t happen, it’s a little more of an issue if I were to have to fly somewhere. I’m still interested in competing, but I’m not going to stress about arranging my schedule to accommodate that. If big events come into town then I’ll try and do them, but it’s a little tougher to try and arrange my schedule with the national stuff.
You’ve won gold at the ISA Worlds twice now. Any plans to try and bring home win number three?
I wanted to go last year but the contest was the same week as my graduation and I didn’t want to miss it. This year they didn’t end up doing a contest to qualify for the team, but I think they’re planning on doing that in the future. I don’t think Fiji’s going to work out for me this year, but if they end up doing something next year I’ll definitely try and compete for a spot.
Check in with another female SUP surfing champ, Izzi Gomez.
More SUP Women.