Encinitas up-and-comer Alyssa Spencer surfs with her idols at Super Girl women’s tournament in Oceanside
This weekend’s free event is the largest women’s surfing tournament in the world
Alyssa Spencer was 9 years old the first time she came to watch women surfers compete at the 2012 Super Girl Surf Pro contest in Oceanside. Three years later, she joined the annual competition as a junior. At this year’s Nissan Super Girl Surf Pro, on Sept. 17-19, the now-professional 18-year-old Encinitas surfer faced off against some of the best women board-riders in the world.
The Surf Pro wrapped its 15th annual three-day festival event at Oceanside Pier on Sunday, crowning Team USA Olympian Caroline Marks with the coveted Super Girl cape.
Spencer made it to the semifinals against Marks by knocking off #2 ranked Tatiana
Spencer said that, from a young age, seeing her surfing idol Moore and many others compete at Super Girl “lit a fire” under her to reach for the top.
“I have pictures of me here when I was 9 or 10 posing with some of the same girls that I’m competing against now,” Spencer said Friday at the event’s opening day. “I love what Super Girl has done for women’s sports. It has shown that women can push it just as hard as the boys.”
That’s music to the ears of Rick Bratman, Super Girl founder and director. He said he’s felt like a proud stepdad watching the surfers who started at Super Girl years ago in their teens grow up to dominate the sport, including Moore, Lakey Peterson, Sage Erickson, Coco Ho and Sally Fitzgibbons.
“Super Girl is about seeding the next generation and inspiring them to become the next Carissa Moore,” Bratman said.
Recognizing the influence she has on young aspiring surfers, Moore collaborated with Bratman this year to host one of her Moore Aloha events for the first time at Super Girl. On Sept. 17, 24 young girls from all over the country joined Moore for an all-day surfing mentorship program. Bratman called it “a blessing” that the Hawaii native shares her time and talents with others so generously.
“I’ve been in the sports industry for 27 years and without a doubt she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said.
Spencer grew up in Carlsbad where she remembers climbing on her first surfboard around age 5 with the help of her dad, and now coach, Paul Spencer. At age 8, she started competing in “push-in” tournaments, where her dad pushed her board out to the wave break, as she wasn’t strong enough yet to paddle. By 11, she started competing solo. She said surfing appeals to her competitive nature and she feels at home in the water.
“The ocean is a place where I feel calm and peaceful and refreshed. I always return happier than when I started,” she said.
Her goal since age 12 has been to qualify for the World Surf League’s Women’s Championship Tour. Surfers compete year-round at qualifying series tournaments like Super Girl to amass the points needed to make the Championship Tour. A couple of years ago, Spencer finished out the year just one spot away from the cutoff for the tour. In retrospect, she said she realized that having that much responsibility at age 16 would have been too much for her. But it was still a major disappointment.
When the pandemic arrived and tournaments were canceled worldwide, Spencer said the pressure she put on herself to earn points evaporated. Instead, she could enjoy surfing purely as a recreational pleasure, which renewed her passion for the sport.
Except for taking remote classes at MiraCosta College, Spencer focuses her time on her surfing career. She’s in the water about four hours every day and balances that with fitness, yoga and strength training. She also travels the world with her family to surf in remote locations, including her favorite wave spot, Macaroni’s surf resort in Indonesia.
“Having that time off gave me the mental headspace I needed to bounce back from loss,” she said. “Instead, my goal was to just have fun and focus on doing it for myself and not worrying about anything else.”
When Spencer returned to competing this year, she was in top shape. On Sept. 5, she won her first-ever qualifying series tournament, the WRV Outer Banks Pro in North Carolina. After Super Girl finishes up, she’ll head to Huntington Beach next week for the U.S. Open challengers tournament, where she hopes to do well.
Super Girl Surf Pro’s central focus is surfing, but to broaden the event’s appeal over the years, Bratman said he’s created a lot of surround events over the years to expand its appeal to a wider audience. New this year is a women’s longboard tournament on Sunday, and returning today from past years is an adaptive event for women surfers with disabilities. Carlsbad resident Liv Stone, the 2020 gold medal winner at the AMPSurf Para Surfing World Championship, will compete with 19 other women.
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