A young man's tenacious goal to win a national competitive surfing championship
by Jessica Williams
Hernando Sun Reporter
At seven years old, Nick Ferry-Lee stepped foot onto his very first surfboard. He was on a unique vacation with his family in Costa Rica. It was important to his mother Thresia that he and his twin brother Vincent be introduced to new places and activities. So, Thresia showed her sons what a surfboard was and how to ride one. As she, herself, spent many days as a young girl riding the waves.
This was an introduction to a water sport that would influence Nick's life, beyond what he (or anyone, for that matter) could imagine. "Life is an adventure," as they say. Nick's mother truly believes it. Something tells me, so does Nick.
Growing up in Spring Hill, Florida, Nick attended public school and grew up just like many other kids.
Nick’s twin brother Vincent was diagnosed with Autism at an early age. This presented some challenges, yet it didn't stop him from enjoying and learning the concepts of surfing alongside his brother, Nick. For several years, they surfed the waves together.
For Nick, surfing developed into something more than a hobby, he wanted to compete. At age 14, Nick Ferry-Lee would set in motion his first life-long goal. He told himself he was going to win a national competitive surfing championship. Three years later (in 2019), that's exactly what he did.
At the point he decided to surf competitively, he purchased his very first longboard (a $700 purchase), using his own money saved up for this purpose.
For the next two years, with the help of his parents and his coach, Ami Berg, and a few other dedicated surfing experts, they all helped Nick develop a rigorous training schedule to perfect his craft and give him a competitive edge. It didn’t take him long to win his first Eastern Surfing Association (ESA) Southeast Regional Longboard Championship, which he won at age 14. But it wasn't a national title championship. So, he worked harder.
Last year at age 16, Nick won the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) East Coast Open Longboard Championship. He also won the NSSA East Coast High School Longboard Championship.
In 2019 at age 17, he won the NSSA East Coast High School Longboard Championship again. This put him in position to compete for a national title. Nick won the 2019 NSSA National Explorer Longboard Championship in July, achieving the goal he set for himself three years earlier.
It seems unbelievable that a kid from Spring Hill could win a national surfing title. To surf at all, there have to be waves. Here, on the west coast of Florida waves are few and far between. But that did not stop Nick. It just meant he needed to travel to Florida's East Coast, specifically, Cocoa Beach. He joined the Cocoa Beach High School Surfing Team (while also maintaining his full-time enrollment at Weeki Wachee High School and dual enrollment at Pasco-Hernando State College). This, in itself, would require strong discipline as attendance to weekly surf practices are required. In addition, Nick also volunteered with Special Olympics of Hernando, Surfers for Autism, Oak Hill Hospital and is a member of the National Honors Society. He also is employed as a lifeguard at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and spends time as a surf camp counselor at Ohana Surf School in Cocoa Beach.
To say that Nick stays busy is likely an understatement. His dedication and perseverance are a product of his passion for the sport of surfing. During an interview with Nick and his mother, I asked him about the most inspiring moment of his competitive surfing life, thus far.
He replied: "Meeting my idol, C.J. Nelson and spending quality time with him."
C.J. Nelson is a professional longboarder who starred in the surfer film, Sprout (1994). The film was co-produced by Jack Johnson (an all-time American singer/songwriter/musician, and also a former professional surfer). Although Mr. Nelson faced many challenges in his life. He overcame them and continues to devote his time to surfing in California. Specifically, guiding young surfers like Nick and ensuring they reach their potential. He also designs the best of the best in longboards.
How did Nick meet C.J. Nelson? Nick remarked, "I spent an entire month in California this past summer (2019) after school was out. I met C.J. Nelson after winning the National Title.” Nick won the National Title while surfing on ‘The Sprout’ - a surf-board he had purchased, designed by Nelson. Nick continued, “It caught me completely off-guard. C.J.’s Management Team arranged for me to meet him following the win. It was something that I will definitely treasure for the rest of my life. That type of stuff doesn't just happen all the time. It's very rare."
Diving head-first into his Senior year at Weeki Wachee High School this year, I asked Nick if he had any plans after graduation. Nick explained, "I want to attend UNF (University of North Florida in Jacksonville)... I want to enroll in the Nurse Anesthetists Program there, and they also have a (collegiate) surfing team. My next goal is to become a National Collegiate Longboard Champion.
As they say, ‘Adventures don't come calling, you have to go looking for them.’ There are likely many more adventures on the horizon for Nick Ferry-Lee.