The Inertia Contributing Editor

Haley Otto at the Malibu Classic. Photo: Lodin//World Surf League 

The Inertia

When you watch Haley Otto surf, you’d think she was born in the sea. She rides with a style and grace that many spend a lifetime trying to achieve. Despite her ease in the water, Otto spent her early years in Chicago. It wasn’t until she was seven that her family relocated to Oahu and she learned to surf. But she was hooked on that first wave. Here, the high school senior tells us why she fell for longboarding, what a typical week in her life looks like, and her goals looking forward.

How did you get into surfing?

I was born in Chicago and I lived on a lake there, so I’ve always been around the water on boats and Jet Skis. My dad got a job opportunity which led us to Oahu and I began bodyboarding by the Wall. One day, I wanted to try surfing, so we rented 12-foot longboards and paddled out. I got so frustrated and couldn’t figure it out. I came in all upset and then I met this uncle on the beach. He took me out to baby Queens where I caught my first wave. I haven’t stopped since.

Why are you so passionate about longboarding?


I originally started on a shortboard and competed in shortboarding for a couple of years. I got a longboard for my eleventh birthday from an auntie and then I completely switched over to longboarding. I’d seen Kelia Moniz and Honolua Blomfield cross stepping and nose riding and I loved how it looked — it was graceful and super pretty. So, I just watched people around me and YouTube videos and I taught myself how to do it.

As I got older, I really feel in love with longboarding and everything that came along with it, just the whole style of longboard surfing. It’s really magical to me. When I’m longboarding it makes me feel like I’m flying — it’s really hard to describe the feeling of nose riding. It’s so amazing.

Logging at Pipeline. Photo: Rebecca Parsons

What does a typical week look like for you? 

I try and surf every day, either Ala Moana Bowls or Waikiki, even North shore, wherever there are waves. I at least try and get in the water somehow every day. I work three days a week at my dad’s gyms, just as a little side job to make some extra money and help out my dad. I also work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And I have a few Billabong shoots every week, I try and shoot the newest content that comes out, whether it’s surfing or lifestyle.

Is there a competition result you’re most proud of?

In 2018 I won the Longboard Championship in Oceanside, so I guess I was considered the longboard national champ. I was only 14 at the time and that was my first time competing in California as well. I was super grateful and excited to have the opportunity to even surf outside of Hawaii. It was really amazing.

How would you describe your style?

I feel like everyone has their own style and it’s hard for two people to have the same style. For me, maybe graceful. Sometimes. It’s definitely unique though. I try and switch it up, do some things that a lot of people don’t do, and try some new tricks.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to improve their longboarding?

Just go for it. Keep practicing. Of course, you’re going to fall and of course it may be frustrating, but don’t give up and eventually you’ll get it. It helps to watch YouTube videos and practice on land.

About to paddle out at one of her favorite waves. Photo: World Surf League/Lodin

What are some of your favorite waves in the world?

Definitely Malibu, California. It’s so fun and it’s one of my favorite places. I love how long you can ride a wave. I know it’s pretty crowded and it can get a little crazy but sometimes, if you’re in the right spot, you can score. Noosa in Australia is also really fun. It’s similar to Malibu, a really long break. And of course, Queens, my home break. And Ala Moana Bowls.

What are some of your bucket list spots?

I really want to go to Tahiti. I’m not sure what spots are actually there for longboarding, I need to do some research on that. And I think there’s this left in Portugal somewhere. It’s this insane, really long left. For non-surfing, I want to go to Paris and Greece.

What are your plans or goals looking forward?

I graduate in May this year. I’m really interested in real estate, so I’m going to look into that and hopefully get my real estate license. I’m also really interested in modeling so I might try and do that as well.

We aren’t too sure what’s going on with the WSL tour right now, so I’m just taking it as it comes and surfing for fun right now. I’d love to win a world title one day, but I guess it kind of all just depends on what happens with these events.


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