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When you see someone surf the wake of a sternwheeler, you know they can pretty much do it all. Not too long ago, I took a trip with Izzi Gomez. We were trying to catch a magical Pacific Northwest double: surf the coast one day, get a day of wind in Hood River the next. When conditions are optimal, it’s like no other twofer in the world. But as planned surf trips often go, conditions didn’t cooperate.
On the coast, we scored thigh-high waves that were sort of lumpy. On little runners, Izzi still managed to manufacture her well-timed snaps and tight rail carves, all next to a picturesque rock cliff running up to beautiful Northwest pine forest. When we got to Hood River, the plan was to tow her into big windswell on her foil.
Big, it was not. We still managed to get Izzi some rides, in really tough conditions to keep momentum and link bumps if you know anything about foiling. But we refocused and used Jet Skis to pull her into those sternwheeler waves, the novelty surf formed by heavy tourist boats as they cross the Columbia River. She was down, casually carving back and forth on the glassy waves, making it look simple. We actually lost sight of her at one point as she rode into the distance – our drone had a mishap with the “Bridge of the Gods” that crosses the river nearby. A few months later, Izzi would win her first WSL Qualifying Series event at San Luis Obispo.
All this is to say that Izzi Gomez can ride any board. Any where. Any time. She’s won five world championships in SUP surfing. The last couple seasons have found her pushing herself in bigger waves in Hawaii, even trying her hand at Maverick’s.
She just turned 22. Unfortunately all that progress in her surfing, all that well-roundedness I referenced above that allows her to use any tool, any time, has taken a toll on her body. Last year she noticed a pinch in her hip that progressively got worse, eventually impacting her surfing. A torn labrum wasn’t allowing her to move properly. So she decided to have surgery and get it fixed. That can be a scary thing for a young, sponsored athlete trying to keep a career going. Someone who still has so much in front of them. It creates anxiety. You start doubting yourself.
But Izzi has good people around her – her surfing circle runs deep, so to say. Her family, her shaper, her sponsors, even other surfers, are all there to lift her up. Because I’m sure they see the same thing I do. An infinite amount of talent and an athlete willing to put the work in.
Editor’s Note: Cinematography by Ryan Trautwein, edited by Jordyn Romero, produced by Joe Carberry.