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Fluid Dynamics

Pro surfer Mary Osborne goes above and beyond the board.

By Amelia Fleetwood

Photo by T Christian Gapen

Mary Osborne heads out to catch some waves off Solimar Beach.

‘‘I fell in love with surfing the second I caught my first wave,” said 35-year-old professional surfer and long board champion Mary Osborne. “I always thought that I would end up on a tropical island, but I’m still here!” she laughed. The indomitable powerhouse finds amusement in being born and bred and still living in her beloved Ventura.

Osborne literally grew up in the water, living at Solimar Beach with her parents and three older brothers, all of them phenomenal surfers. Osborne, quite naturally, followed them into the ocean. She remembered the moment her path became clear, when she saw the powerful image of a woman on a surfboard in a magazine. Osborne was so inspired by that image, she made it her goal to be just like the woman in the magazine. Osborne began winning local competitions up and down the coast of California, and by the time she was 17 she was competing internationally, making a name for herself.

Osborne credits her sponsor, Patagonia, with setting her apart from the mainstream surfers. “Patagonia was a huge influence on me. It helped shape me from my early teens,” she said. Patagonia’s environmental ethos schooled her in the importance of ecological awareness, the necessity of caring about our oceans and our food supply.

Now Osborne aligns herself only with companies that share her philosophy. 

“During the time I was coming up in the sport there weren’t many females,” Osborne said. “I was competing primarily against boys and doing well, and winning.” Still, she does not consider herself a trailblazer. From her perspective, it was the women surfers in the generation before hers that broke into the male-dominated sport, paving the way. 

Not content to be the typical pro surfer who got paid to surf, and then go home, Osborne took her career outside of the box, throwing herself into everything from hosting TV shows and travel documentaries, to writing, being an environmentalist and becoming an advocate for women in sports. She has been ambassador to the United Nations Environmental Safe Campaign, worked with the 5 Gyres Institute and Project Save Our Surf, and acted as “surf ambassador” for Patagonia. In 2010, Osborne became the first woman to ride China’s Qiantang River tidal bore, the world’s largest and fastest bore, a roaring river-wave with recorded heights nearing 30 feet. She followed that up by riding the bore again in each of the subsequent four years.

Osborne may be a very accomplished surfer, but it is her buoyant energy and her motto, “Live, love, inspire,” that drives her work. She heads her own company, “Mary Osborne Surf,” where she teaches surfing to kids, teen girls and women of all ages. She also hosts local surf camps and international escapes, and specializes in custom event planning.

“The first kids camp began by happy accident,” Osborne said. “People asked me to teach their kids when I was in town, and it quickly snowballed. I now teach about 30 children a week, for 10 weeks every summer.”

Osborne never stops. “I have a crazy amount of energy because I really enjoy what I do. Being outdoors and active just keeps me going.” Having gone through certain difficulties in her own life, it has become Osborne’s passion to help women of all ages to actualize their potential. She takes special pride in her camp’s Teen Overnight Surfari — for girls ages 12 through 15 — a personal favorite. “I love teenage girls. It’s such a crazy age, and these days, with the added pressures brought on by the presence of the media, it’s even more important to instill a sense of empowerment in these young women.” Osborne created a seven-day trip that combines a surf camp with key speakers, such as professional athletes and life coaches, who teach self-confidence and the basics of healthy living.

“I have seen the teens completely transform and learn so much by the end of the week! We visit local businesses for education (Patagonia, Betty Belts, Channel Islands Surf Shops), we go on Island Packers educational day trips, go horseback riding in Ojai, and visit local farms to learn about produce. It’s a lot packed into one week.” A multitasker with a seemingly endless supply of energy, Osborn also designs custom Weekend Women Surf Clinics for all levels of expertise, targeting women between the ages of 40 and 60 who want to try something new, complete with wine tasting, yoga and great food.

“I notice that women often hold on to a lot more fears than men do,” Osborne said. “I spend a lot of time with each person before we get out in the ocean. Many have some past fear of the water. But once they catch a wave and stand, it’s incredible! A person can carry that wherever they go.

“When learning to surf, people are not just dealing with Mother Nature, but also with the rigorous physical and mental challenges that come up,” Osborne shared. “It’s not just about learning to surf; it’s much more therapeutic. It’s really about figuring out what your fears are and approaching them, and getting that confidence out in the water. It can be scary for people. I tell everyone, ‘This is your hour, this is your day! Make it what you want.” 

Learn more about Mary Osborne, including her classes and trips, at maryosbornesurf.com, or call 805.973.7263.

Mary Osborne heads out to catch some waves off Solimar Beach.

From professional surfing to environmental activism to empowering women, Osborne dives head-first into the causes she’s most passionate about..

06-01-2017

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