The Late Bloomer: How Brett Simpson became one of American surfing’s next hottest wonders

Simply put, Brett Simpson is motivated. By the age of fifteen, most American kids who show any sign of being rippers are entering mass amounts of contests, have sponsor logos covering their boards, and are known by the media.

Brett Simpson defies that whole stereotype. At the age of twelve he was learning to stand up. At fourteen, just two years later, he was entering contests. At seventeen he was suddenly one of the country’s hottest young surf commodities and one of the NSSA’s top competitors.

He got there through persistence. He drove to Huntington Beach every day, many times a day, from an inland Orange County suburb called Garden Grove where most kids grow up to become gangsters or jocks. Nothing came easy to Brett. In fact, things could’ve been much different, but his determination showed that anything is possible—even for an “older inlander.” In a world where surf prodigies are the norm, Brett breaks that stereotype—here’s to all the late bloomers trekking to the beach every day.—AC

[IMAGE 1]

TransWorld SURF: You were a bit of a late bloomer. Nobody started really noticing you until you were about sixteen, right?

Yeah, I first started when I was twelve and from there on I surfed every day, just locally at Seal Beach. Probably when I was fourteen is when I started doing my USSFs, and after that, probably sixteen or seventeen, I started to do more NSSAs—not every one—and more of the professional contests now.

Was it hard getting respect with people knowing you were from Garden Grove?

I don’t think so, because when I first started it seemed like everyone thought I was out of Huntington Beach—kind of more where I surfed. That’s how I got my name, I guess. I didn’t think it was hard at all—it just sort of worked out my way. I’m so thankful, because I surfed a lot and did everything, but it all came together.

[IMAGE 2]

At the last Nationals you were looked to as a favorite. Then you had a shocker in the second round. How bad did that hurt you?

I tried to get over it. I should’ve gotten waves, but the worst thing to do is look back at it, because with any contest or anything you do bad at, you just want to look ahead. It was my last amateur contest, but I know I’ll have more professional (ones) and hopefully do better. It would have been nice to have a result. The contests right now aren’t really going my way. It’s just the confidence level—I need to work on that. Surfing more professional contests, I think, will help me.

What’s been the toughest part of this whole surfing thing for you?

Pretty much just the pressure. There’s not a lot of pressure, but I think I mostly put it on myself. It’s how they hype different guys. Which I shouldn’t, because that makes it even worse, but there’re a lot of good guys, and if you want to be the best, there’re things you have to do. But Nationals-wise, I was lucky with my sponsors. They weren’t really pressuring me, but they would have liked me to have done better. They’re pretty laid-back.

[IMAGE 3]

Do you ever get jealous of all the other California guys getting so much attention? Does that drive you?

For sure, that’s something you look at, and you want the same thing, which makes you want to do better. But it just goes back and forth. It’s kind of a jealousy, but it pushes you, too. I think it’s good because America needs things to get going.

What do you think about the low numbers of Americans on the WQS (World Qualifying Series)? Do you think they stack up well against all the Australians?

It doesn’t matter about how many, but there will be more this year and next year. I think we just need to get together more. Our guys are all spread out doing their own thing. If you look at the Australians, they’re all together and the Brazilians are all together. We just need to be more focused. Every guy—(Chris) Wardo, Bobby (Martinez), Timmy (Reyes)—tthey have the talent. They just need to be more positive.

Earlier you talked about your dad wanting you to be a football player and more of a jock. Garden Grove is full of jocks, right?

That’s pretty much all there is—football, basketball.

[IMAGE 4]

Are your parents supportive of your surfing?

Yeah. My dad has helped me a lot. He does all the stuff that’s hard for me to do, financially. He’s been down there every time. At first he was kind of iffy about surfing. I was always good at sports, but after so many years I just got over it. I just got into surfing and couldn’t stop. It’s an addiction. Ever since then he’s been supportive. It kind of took him a while because he still wanted me to play (other sports).

[IMAGE 5]

What was your best sport?

I was good at baseball, pretty much everything. I never played tackle football, though. I went to a Catholic school for a couple years.

Did you ever get spanked by a nun?

No. They don’t allow that.