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Written by Lottie Lewis
Our East Coast ambassador Autumn Kitchens caught the surfing bug from a young age, when she was given a surf lesson in New York for her birthday. Her love for the sport has only grown, as she now teaches surfing and plans to travel the world, board under arm. We caught up with our new team rider about her obsession with the sport, her home breaks and what the future holds…
How has surfing shaped your life?
I’ve been surfing since I was 15, which sometimes feels a bit late, but it very quickly gave me a community of water people that taught me patience, joy, and consistency, centred around the ocean. In these most recent years surfing has become pretty much the centre of my life. When I’m not surfing, I’m teaching surfing or working at a surf shop. I’m always trying to learn as much about the sport and the ocean as possible. It continues to teach me about myself and life in general.
Can you tell us a bit about the surf school you work at?
I’ve worked at New York Surf School for the past 7 summers. I learned how to surf there and was first introduced to what community centred around the ocean could look like. New York Surf School is one of the first surf schools in Rockaway started by Frank Cullen. I haven’t really been anywhere that encompasses the retro and “surfer” energy of surfing as much as New York Surf School. The school really takes on stoke and a passion to in-still that energy into the students.
I also teach with Laru Beya, a non-for-profit that provides surf lessons for students who wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford surf lessons. The organisation mentors students and provides a safe space for children. They aren’t only a student based organisation, they are a surf collective, and a family. I had a really horrible experience in the water and it was recommended that I surf with Laru Beya because they provide such a safe environment for their students and volunteers. I started working and volunteering with them after that incident. They completely took me in and although I took on a role as a mentor, they invested in me by really welcoming me into their family. My life and the lives of others are consistently better because of the work they’re doing.
What are the waves like in NYC?
The waves in NYC are interesting. They’re fun and fast. Sometimes it’s closing out. Sometimes there are consistent clean 2ft waves. Sometimes it’s completely flat, like this past summer. But if you can learn to surf really well in NYC, I think you have a slight advantage when you surf other breaks.
Where’s your favourite place to surf?
Rockaway has the number 1 spot in my heart but besides home, my favourite place to surf has probably been Nicaragua. I went on a surf retreat there and it completely changed my approach to surfing. There were so many different kinds of waves and I just had a blast. I’m really excited to spend this next year traveling for surf. I might have a different answer in a years time!
What are your travel plans for the future?
I’m planning to spend a month in Costa Rica and a month or two in Bali during the winter. I’m so excited. Costa Rica will be more of a solo trip and then Bali will be a trip with some epic surfers who are my friends, too.
Can you tell us about the wellness retreat you’d like to open?
Growing up, I was always dealing with ailments of the body. Seeing a myriad of specialists for my stomach, allergies, muscles and more. No one could really help make it better other than the holistic approaches that my mom was aware of. At a really young age, I learned the role and impact that stress could have on the body. I also learned that mindfulness and prioritising overall wellness could change your life. I want to create a place that takes on holistic health and wellness centred around the ocean. I’d like it to be a haven where people come to understand the way the systems in their body are connected and are impacting each other, then learn how they can positively impact these systems. Meditation, diet, exercise, and energy work are all things that have impacted my health positively. The water has a way of making people more still and in-tune with nature, which is why I’d like it to be ocean centred.
Why do you believe wellness is so important to humanity?
I feel like sometimes we are all on this hamster-wheel. Just making it through the day, not listening to our bodies, or overriding the messages it gives us. If we all gave more attention to our overall wellness, I don’t think people would be operating on such a deficit. Wellness prioritises self care and the only way you can give back to anyone is to be okay yourself. It’s like a cycle. If you look up wellness, you’ll see something about the balance of mental and physical health along with the importance of diet. You might also see the importance of the major parts of life like social, environmental, and even spiritual health. Wellness is self care which shouldn’t be a radical idea because it’s necessary.
Any other big dreams and plans for the future?
I really want to be the best surfer I can be in this lifetime. I want to see the world and impact it in a positive way.
Can you also tell us about the fundraising project you're working on to finance the surf school?
Laru Beya operates completely on donations, grant finances, and help from volunteers. To help provide equipment and transport for this growing organisation we put on a couple of events to help raise money. We are raffling some amazing items like boards that were made by one of our mentors who is a local shaper, who was also once a mentee within the organisation.
We’re so happy to be supporting Autumn on her journey to becoming the best surfer she can be, and watching her travel and grow. If you’d like to follow Autumn’s story too, you can click here to check out her Instagram.