Making Waves: Miss Jr. Flagler County uses surfing to connect with community
At first, her mother didn’t want her to go.
But the 9-year-old little girl was persistent.
So — crying, upset and an hour late to the North Beach Surf Camp — they went.
Hannah Blevins had never been on a surfboard before. Her greatest athletic endeavor so far was classical ballet.
She'd never felt the burning sensation of paddling out to reach the perfect wave. She'd never tried to stand up with violent water attempting to knock her down. And she'd certainly never felt the joy of gliding across a disturbed sea.
But that didn’t stop her.
When Blevins left the sand, paddled out and prepared to take her first-ever wave, she didn’t fall.
She took off.
“I felt like I was a mermaid,” Blevins said. “When I jumped off my board, I just had the biggest smile on my face.”
And from that moment, she was hooked.
Blevins, who was recently named 2017’s Miss Junior Flagler County, has come a long way since her first wave nearly six years ago.
The 15-year-old professional surfer — who has lived in Palm Coast with her mother, Sherry, her whole life — will be one of 24 girls nationwide to compete in the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing competition in Huntington Beach, California, on July 29 through Aug. 6.
It’s the culmination of many hours spent in the water and at the gym.
“It’s basically my life,” said Blevins, who is currently ranked No. 18 in North America in the Junior Girls league and top three on the East Coast. “I surf twice a day. I’m training twice a week at the gym. And I compete in contests all over the country.
“There are some off days, though.”
So far, Blevins’ surfing career has taken her to all different kinds of waters, including the shores of Barbados, Hawaii, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.
Even when she’s home in Palm Coast, Blevins and her mother will often drive hours to find the best swells, sometimes even as far down as South Florida.
“You’ve definitely got to put your time into it,” Blevins said.
And although the extensive travel has proved difficult at times, the opportunity to experience different people and different cultures has given Blevins a whole new perspective on her life back home.
“When you travel and see how children and people are really living, and then you come back here, it makes you appreciate what you have,” Sherry said.
For Blevins, surfing has become more than about her. It’s now about giving back.
“I want to help people with my surfing,” she said. “That’s how I want to use it. … When I travel, it’s not just about getting waves for myself.
“I want to help people with it, too.”