He’s a big wave hit man. A madman with a passport inked up with five-star surf locales like Tasmania, Tahiti, Puerto Escondido, Europe, Chile, South Africa, Samoa, Australia, Indo and Ireland. For Jamie Sterling, it’s all about paying that extra thousand dollars on a last minute plane ticket and knowing that he’s going to get 25-foot surf.
“When I leave Honolulu Airport, I already have that anxiety,” Sterls says, his hazel eyes shining. “I already know I’m going to score. It’s a great feeling knowing that before you get there.”
Jamie lives now, in an endless winter, traveling the world year-round in search and score of the biggest waves Mother Nature has to offer. “Every time I travel, it’s another new wave I get to surf. It’s fun to think about how many new waves I’ve surfed in the last five years or so.”
Until recently, Jamie had never actually won anything in his life;never won a pro surf contest, or even an amateur one. But this year, at 25-years-old, he received two prestigious awards for his hard-charging prowess and won his first surf competition ever at the Maestro del Gringo Tube Riding Contest. He is also breaking into the business side of things.
As an owner of a piece of the Pipeline Posse pie, Sterls and the boys are elevating what used to be an underground crew into a corporate surf company. Home on the North Shore of O‘ahu for about six months out of the year, Jamie has just enough days to enjoy the winter season and tend to business. Schooled from boyhood by some of North Shore’s most core surfers and coming of age to make his own course, Jamie Sterling is a truly unique surf story. There is nothing traditional about the path Jamie is pursuing, but his pure stoke for surf is classic.
We know your roots are on the North Shore, but you were also educated by some legendary watermen growing up. Who were some of your early influences in surfing?
Gary Linden came into my life when I was about 12. He was my first sponsor, and he shaped boards for me. He still charges really big waves on the biggest days. It was really cool that someone with that much knowledge could pass it on to me and teach me a lot of things about surfing and life in general.
The late Ronnie Burns?
He was my mom’s fianc, and it was rad just being around his energy. He taught me a lot when I was starting to surf on my own. He would take me to spots like Goat Island and Monster Mush. It was rad to just be enlightened by someone like that at such a young age, when you’re like a sponge and everything you learn, you really pick up quickly. I was pretty blessed he came into my life when he did and I think my surfing talent attributes to him. As I got older, I kept his vision— his energy— in me, and sometimes it feels like he kinda surfs through me in a way.
What’s the most important thing he taught you?
Just to be humble. Let your surfing do the talking. That’s what he did and everyone respected him for that. Just keep your cool and follow your dreams. When he rode for Billabong, they were starting to make adventure surf film—no contests. He was making a name for himself riding at G-Land all summer and not really following the contest circuit. Before he passed away, he really concentrated more on editorial surfing and it opened the door for guys like me today to be able to make a living outside of the contest route.
Do you like to compete?
I like competing in surf contests if the waves are good. The reason I don’t like competing is there’s so much luck involved. It seems like it’s so political. But when the waves are really good it’s really easy to say who won. You can see the guy who is riding the best biggest waves. At Pipe, it’s in your face. You can’t deny what guy rode a deeper barrel than the other guy. So when it’s real evident and the waves are good, I don’t mind it because the surfing does the talking and it doesn’t matter who you’re sponsored by or who you know.