Raised on the shores of south Florida, Zoe Benedetto was destined for a life centered around the sea. As an infant, Benedetto spent her days playing at the beach, while her mom and friends ran a surf camp. When she was a toddler, her mom taught her to surf and when her older brother started doing local surf comps, Benedetto followed in his footsteps, adding her name to the roster.
Now, at seventeen Benedetto has a couple of QS event wins under her belt and is currently competing on the Challenger Series, with the hope of someday qualifying for the CT. The grom has a good head on her shoulders and is passionate about pursuing her education in tandem with her surfing. We caught up with Benedetto and asked where she typically surfs, who she trains with, and the life lessons surfing has taught her.
Where was your homebreak growing up?
My homebreak was Fort Pierce Inlet. It’s a pretty solid beach break for Florida. I know the further north you go to New Smyrna and Palm [Beach] there are better waves, but it’s my homebreak and I love it. It definitely prepares you for the grovel and challenging aspect of surfing where it’s not perfect all the time.
When did you first start competing?
I started with NSSA juniors when I was nine or 10. Then, I started doing USA primes and stuff like that. After a while, I got into doing QSs. Now I’m so competition obsessed; I never thought that would happen.
What have been some of your best or proudest results so far?
I would say winning the 5000 in Barbados was definitely my biggest win so far. And then making Challenger this year and last year. I haven’t had my strongest results and haven’t really gotten my footing on Challenger yet, but qualifying for it was a big accomplishment. I also won Santa Cruz on the QS but since Barbados was a 5000 and it’s in the Caribbean, which is kind of where I’m from, I feel like that’s my strongest result.
What does a typical week look like for you?
I’m a senior and I’m homeschooled. So, I usually wake up, check the waves, and decide if I’m going to surf right then or wait and do school and then go surf, and then make dinner with my family. Throughout the week, I have gym that I have to go to and a couple random errands at home. Surf, break, school, train, and repeat—it’s pretty simple.
Do you have anyone that you regularly surf and train with?
80% of the time I go to the beach with my mom; she likes to film and I’m not going to turn away free filming. I also surf with Shea Lopez a lot when I go up north to Daytona area, which is two hours north of me. I’ve known Shea since I was seven or eight—he really guided me and became my mentor, helping me through every step of the way. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.
What life lessons has surfing taught you?
If you want something, you have to work really hard to get it — it’s not just handed to you. You can be really good, but there are a thousand other people that are just as good as you and want it just as much, so you really have to work hard.
Also, morals. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to be respectful and appreciate the people around me. When you’re surfing, it’s an individual thing. You’re by yourself and it’s between you and the ocean, but you get to experience so many things in different places and with different people. I want to be present and understand that I’m lucky: I don’t have to do this, I get to do this. Of course I want to surf good, but at the end of the day I want to make sure I’m being a good person.
What are your goals looking forward?
Short term, I would love to win a Challenger Series event. I’ve had a couple weird events, so I just want to get my footing and know that I deserve to be there. Finishing top 10 in Challenger this year would be amazing. And qualify for the tour — that’s a big one.
I’d really like to put out a movie for younger girls or an edit that people can watch with girls surfing. I feel like with girls surfing there’s not a lot of edits and there’s a very specific style of surfing, so maybe put something out that’s different that nobody’s seen before.
But more than anything, I want to be successful, in my eyes. Which means being happy with what I’m doing and if competing’s making me happy, I want to keep doing that but if it’s not, then I’ll stop. But whatever truly makes me happy, I want to do that.
Any college plans?
I definitely want to go to college either in campus or online and get a degree in something that I’m passionate about. I want to continue my education because some careers, like surfing, aren’t forever and I want to have an education that I’m proud of.
You dabble in fashion. Is that a hobby or something you’d like to pursue as a career?
It’s more of hobby. Clothing lines are so hard to start, but I’d like to collaborate with someone for clothing. I’m really into jewelry too. My grandma is from Nicaragua, and she has the most insane jewelry collection of really special and crazy and classy pieces. I’ve always been obsessed with jewelry, so I’d love to mess around with jewelry and start a jewelry line for fun.