Surfer Makani Adric Is Going Big On Her Waves And Her Thrills
It’s always about hitting bigger and bigger waves.
In Elite Daily’s I Have The Job You Want series, we tell the stories of people working in the most ridiculous, unbelievable, and totally envy-inducing fields you never thought possible. In this piece, we talk to a big wave surfer who’s seeking out bigger and bigger thrills.
“You’re going to be in the sun, all day, for hours,” says Makani Adric, when I ask her what it’s really like to be a competitive surfer. “Make sure you have a good breakfast [and you’re] well hydrated,” she laughs. “Hydration is key.”
Adric, 25, is a big wave surfer, and the sport is as intense as its name implies: Competitors take on waves of around 20 feet or even more, with judges rating them on wave size, consistency, and commitment to their ride, among other criteria. It can also be dangerous — big heights can mean big falls, with the added danger that the wall of water you were just riding might fall on top of you. For Adric, the size of the wave is part of the thrill. “The thing that keeps me going is just the feeling of being out there. The excitement of surfing bigger and bigger waves,” she says.
Training for surfing competitions, she notes, “is quite different than a regular job.” When she’s getting ready to compete, she wakes up, warms up, and gets in a cardio routine (it helps with her breathing) before heading out to practice catching waves in the ocean off Oahu’s North Shore in Hawaii, where she lives. “It's a minimum of two hours every session, but I have sessions that I’ll be out there for six or seven hours straight.” How long she stays out ultimately depends on how long it takes for her to catch the big waves she needs in order to practice. “My last session wasn’t that great,” she notes. “I was out maybe for four or five hours, and it took me that long to catch three waves.”
Adric credits her family — she grew up in Haleiwa, Hawaii — for her passion for the sport. “Growing up, [surfing is] something that my dad taught me, my grandma [too]. My sister and brothers all surf as well. Being out in the water, hanging out with family and friends, that was something that really motivated me to keep doing it.”
But it was at age 11 that she got serious about it. “It was just fun, little local contests here and there,” she says. But it quickly expanded. “Eventually I got into traveling and surfing, [and] did different waves competing in competitions in the mainland.” In her teen years, she competed nearly every weekend, and she tries to take a surf trip once or twice a year in order to free surf around the world. But her heart and most of her competitions stay in Hawaii. “It’s nonstop and some of the best waves in the world,” she says.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it's such a chill job.’ Like you get to be out in the water, surf every day, hang out with your friends.” She notes that for some people, that’s true — but just as in any other sport, if you want to improve, you have to work. She says that any moment she’s not working her day job, she’s surfing or working out to stay in peak form. “The mental part of it is quite stressful and then moneywise — that’s another thing,” she admits.
If you're really passionate in what you do, that'll stick with you.
As in a lot of sports, if you’re not sponsored, making it a full-time job can be difficult. Adric, personally, is quick to note that she’s a competitive surfer, not a professional surfer. “There’s not a lot of money in the surf industry, unless you’re the top 10 [and] you have your sponsors,” Adric admits. “I’m going to be completely honest here: I do not have any sponsors. I do have a couple people who shape boards for me,” she laughs.
“It’s really hard to just have a professional surfing job. So a lot of the surfers have second jobs, [third] jobs,” Adric says. For her part, she’s had a lot of different gigs, including teaching jiu-jitsu, running a bikini line, and bartending. “Right now, I do assistant work,” she says. She also nannies.
Professional or not, there are plenty of opportunities to compete — in 2021 the World Surf League, the governing body for professional surfers, held around 50 competitions for both men and women around the world. That number doesn’t include competitions or circuits run by other organizations, like Red Bull, which welcome non-professionals. As we speak in late January, Adric is partway through the three-month-long Red Bull Magnitude competition, a women-only tournament that runs from December through February. Back in 2021, Adric was both the runner-up and the People’s Choice Winner for the competition. She walked away with $10,000 for her two achievements.
“It was so meaningful last year to win the People’s Choice award. Even though I got runner-up, I would say the People’s Choice award meant more for me,” Adric reflects. “You see how many people believed in you and followed your journey with surfing.”
“Being a surfer, it’s not just about winning,” she adds. “Everyone wants to win; we’re all going for the same thing, but if you’re really passionate in what you do, that’ll stick with you for a really long time. I try to focus on having fun more than thinking, ‘OK, I’m doing this for the competition.’” That said: “I would like to win the overall award,” she laughs.
The competition, which is in its second year, allows female surfers to choose when and where to surf in order to get the best possible conditions to show off their skills. The format means surfers aren’t restricted by what kind of waves show up on a given day, and the all-women environment allows the surfers to truly shine in a sport where only an estimated 20 to 30% of athletes are women. “It’s so cool to see all the other girls trying to compete for the same thing,” Adric says. “The girls, we all respect each other. It’s such a small community with surfing, especially being in Hawaii.”
People don’t win [by] mistake.
When Adric thinks of how surfing has changed in the 15-ish years since she started, she thinks of the girls who are just getting into the sport now. “That was me once,” she laughs. Some of the changes she’s seen in surfing are surface level — she’s pleased that it’s become more normalized to wear bikinis rather than wetsuits — and some are more structural. “This year, I got invited to the Eddie Aikau, and there [were] never women that were invited before,” she notes. The big-wave invitational competition, which is in its 34th year, only began inviting women in 2017.
Looking to the future, Adric is focused on continuing to find those bigger and bigger waves. But she also wants to inspire the next generation to achieve great things, whether that’s in the water or anywhere else in their lives. “Believe in yourself,” Adric advises young surfers. “Do something because you want to do it; [it] doesn't matter what other people are doing.” Much like hydration, commitment is key. “People don’t win [by] mistake; it takes a lot of hard work, responsibilities, respect, loyalty, discipline,” she says. “So, you throw that all in — that’s what’s going to get you to the top.”