Pensacola Beach might not have the most impressive and consistent waves, but local teens Taylor Green and Abigail Remke have made no excuses in their rise to becoming elite surfers with national exposure.
Though she first got up on a surfboard only four years ago, Green, 13, has skyrocketed up the charts and was chosen as one of 12 girls in the country to make the United States Olympic Development team. She also has a clothing sponsorship from Hurley.
The Milton native and her teammates will be coached by Joey Buran — 1984 Pipeline Masters winner and the founder of the Professional Surfing Association of America — and have their first team training session Tuesday in Huntington Beach, California.
“I was really excited when I found out … . I was nervous while I was waiting to see if I would make the team or not,” Green said. “I really like surfing. It’s really fun to be in the water with my friends and competing is really fun, too.”
Green said her first “big” win came in 2017 when she finished first at the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s regional finals in the Super Girls (12-under) Division. She followed that up with a win in April at the Eastern Surfing Association regional championship.
Now, she’s shifting her focus to training with her teammates on the Olympic developmental team as monthly practices will begin in September. For added motivation, she will hold on tightly to her goals to make the junior USA Olympic team in 2020 and qualify for the 2024 Olympics, with 2020 being the first time surfing will be an Olympic sport.
“I’ve been able to surf in a lot of places in California and on the East Coast from this,” Green said. “Every place is different and it’s a cool experience. Lower Trestles (California) has probably been my favorite. I like really long and mushy waves. That’s pretty much how it is there.”
In addition to learning from Buran, Green has been able to connect with multiple high-profile figures in the surfing community, including Filipe Toledo. Toledo is currently ranked second in the World Surf League tour and his best season finish was No. 4 in 2015.
Green has met former WSL competitor Shea Lopez, the brother of Cory Lopez. Shae Lopez designed a board for Green, which is now her favorite and she looks forward to using it during team training.
“It’s a 5-foot-6 and it’s a really good board,” Green said. “I’m working on being more consistent with my big, top-to-bottom turns.”
Green met Remke, 16, shortly after she first learned to surf and said the two are very close.
Like Green, Remke has made area history in her own way after winning a national championship for the NSSA in the Explorer Longboard Division on June 28 in Huntington Beach.
She is the first girl from the Florida Gulf Region of NSSA to win a national title.
“I went there and felt pretty prepared,” Remke said, who will be a junior at Pensacola Catholic this year. “I knew I was going to be competing against people from all over the country. It’s still setting in that I won. I didn’t feel real at the time and it still doesn’t feel real sometimes.”
Remke said she could hear from the commentator’s speakers that she was the event’s leader with 30 seconds remaining in the competition — while she was in the water surfing.
Though her nerves heightened at that point, she held on to be crowned national champion and intends to do her best to defend that title next year.
In addition, she has surfing at the collegiate level among her list of goals.
And while many local surfers may view the lack of consistent waves at Pensacola Beach as a curse, Remke has done the opposite and used it as a boost.
“I’ll go surf other places around the country, and when the waves are messy and big —or if it’s rainy — some people don’t want to go out and surf,” Remke said. “Us Gulf Coast kids are prepared for anything. Whenever it’s messy, we want to go out. It’s not as consistent, so we are happy to get anything we can to surf.
“I love this town. It might not have consistent waves, but whenever it does, the waves are really fun.”
Remke is an All-Star for the Eastern Surfing Association and is part of the Innerlight Surf Team.
As her national championship indicates, she specializes in long boards and her current favorite is a 9-footer designed by Savage Surfers.
Her next event will be in two weeks in Jacksonville at an ESA competition.
And while it’s quite likely Remke will be an elite competitor for a long time, it’s unlikely that her passion for the sport will fade when her days of competition are done.
“Surfing has always put me in a good mood,” Remke said. “It just helps me to enjoy what God has created. I feel like I am enjoying nature and the environment each time I go out. I just love surfing.”