Sophia Culhane is on a mission to become the youngest-ever world champion

Sophia Culhane is doing her thing.


The sloth

Sophia Culhane grew up in a surfing family. Born on the Big Island of Hawaii, Culhane moved to Oahu when he was two and started surfing at Baby Queens in Waikiki when he was four. There she met friends who became like family, and she spent her formative years playing on the beach and surfing.

Culhane began competing when she was eight. She competed in both shortboarding and longboarding, but ultimately chose to make longboarding her main focus.

“Growing up in Waikiki, I feel like longboarding had such an impact,” says Culhane. “I’m the youngest of my friends and I grew up watching them – they really inspired me.”

Culhane competed in the 2020 WSL Longboarding Tour. This year, at the age of 16, she had her best year yet. She got off to a good start but was in full swing by the end of the season. In early October, she won the Surfing for Hope Longboard Classic in Pismo Beach alongside her Hawaiian Kai Sallas. A week later, she placed second in Malibu at the Cuervo Classic Longboard Championship, finishing the season third.

“Watch Kelis [Kaleopaa] Winning the US Open was a real eye opener because my friends were doing things, so I wanted to do it with them,” says Culhane.

Culhane regularly trains, travels, and competes against her Waikiki crew. A lot of people assume there’s rivalry between them, but Culhane says that’s not the case. During the competitions, Oahu’s surfers huddle under an umbrella on the beach, cheering and encouraging each other between heats. Though they all want to win, Culhane says they’re all friends again once the horn sounds. She is happy when she sees Hawaii on the podium, as are her friends.

“Travelling and staying at home are two very different things, and I’m experiencing all these cool new things with my friends and family,” says Culhane. “I am grateful to Waikiki for giving me what I have today.”

On a typical week at home, Culhane gets up around 7 a.m., works out, does homework, and then heads to the beach to surf. When she’s not surfing, she’s enjoying herself on one of the local boats or paddling a canoe with her friends. Recently she has learned to frustrate.

“We have such a close-knit family on the beach,” says Culhane. “There’s boats, canoes, foils, surfing, rock descents or running on the beach – there’s always something going on.”

Culhane credits much of her success this season to her aunt Megs aka Megan Godinez. Godinez helped coach Culhane through her heats, and Culhane appreciated having someone in her corner for encouragement and guidance. Despite having a strong season, Culhane fell short of her goal of winning a world title.

For years, Culhane’s dream has been to become the youngest world champion of all time. The record is currently held by Rachael Tilly, who won the 2015 WSL World Longboard Championship at the age of seventeen. Although Culhane narrowly missed out on the title this year, she is committed to winning it next year. If she does, she will break Tilly’s record.

Culhane is currently a junior in high school but will graduate in early May. She is considering getting her real estate license when she turns eighteen, but for now her full focus is surfing. She has a record to beat and time is ticking.

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