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by Tru Starling

With Mothers Day approaching we thought it would be a perfect time to look into the world of the ultimate surfing support person… A surfing Mum supporting a surfing girl.

There’s a lot of Mum’s we could go to and get an insight, from amazing women like our Mum (Megs), Mel Dart-Harrison, Sue Kelly, Mary Spencer, Kerry Lock and Pipa Leandro, however for this article we wanted to talk to an amazing mother we recently spent some time with…. Mother to CT surfer Brisa Hennessy, Katie Hennesy.


We spent some time with Katie during the North Narrabeen CT contest in April and we really loved Katie’s spirituality, kindness and outlook on life in general (not to mention her cooking).

Brisa and Katie are a tight family unit, they have each other’s back through the large amount of travelling they do for a busy QS and CT schedule and Katie has such a calming energy when you’re with her so we can definitely see why Brisa has chosen her as a travel companion.

So let’s ask Katie some questions on life as a travelling surfing Mum.

Hi Katie, it’s great to talk to you today, can you tell us a little about yourself.

I am Brisa’s mom, Katie Hennessy. I spent most of my life in California and Hawaii working primarily in the food industry as a restaurant owner, manager and chef.   I met my husband Mike who is a professional fisherman and waterman in Hawaii in 1993.  On our first date he told me his dream was to move to Costa Rica where there is incredible surf and fishing.  We sold everything in 1995 and decided to drive down to Costa Rica from California  on a crazy adventure to see if we could make a life there.  We were so lucky to find an oasis on the Osa Peninsula with 3 perfect right hand breaks and ending up staying there and living off the grid for 14 years.  I was able to work  as a chef and teacher at a luxury eco lodge that was up the hill from us and Mike did fishing charters and we also ran a surf school there.  We were so blessed with Brisa’s arrival in 1999 and she grew up without any technology in the jungle and ocean until she was 9 and where she fell in love with surfing.  We decided to move back to Hawaii as my parents were getting older and for school in 2009.  This is the part where I become a full time surf mom 😉  Hawai is where Brisa fell more in love with surfing and competing.  We stayed in Hawaii until 2017 when we moved to Fiji where we are based now.


Are you a surfer and how did Brisa come into surfing?

Yes I am so blessed to say that I am a surfer.  I surfed some when I was younger, but didn’t really get to enjoy surfing that much until I met Mike.  Being in Costa Rica with beautiful uncrowded waves and warm water and surfing every day I fell completely in love with it and the ocean.   When Brisa came along she didn’t really have a choice ;). Our dream was she would love it as much as we did and we could surf together as a family.  We ran a surf school in Costa Rica and we were constantly in the ocean and at the beach, fishing from the shore or swimming.  Brisa loved the water from very young. I remember before she could even walk or swim she would  just love hanging out below the surface of the water until I would bring her back up.   I think she stood up for the first time on a board when she was 2 during one of our lessons.  I remember she was instantly hooked and she just wanted to be constantly in the ocean.


At what age did you start to travel with Brisa for surfing competitions and free surfing?

Brisa got her first taste of a competition when she was 10 after we had moved back to Hawaii.  Her uncle Gregg Nakamura was a pro surfer and he happened to show her his trophies one day and said she should enter the upcoming Menehune contest for fun that was in Haleiwa.  Brisa was excited and from that first contest to our surprise she realised she loved to compete and that is how it all began…  From then on there were local contests every weekend and then came Nationals in California and then the qualifying series around the world and finally now the championship tour which is almost all year long.  It’s crazy to think we have been doing this together since she was 12years old and it has been close to 10 years now, and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. 


How many months a year do you travel with Brisa and do you have a recipe for travelling around the world with her?

Until Covid hit we were traveling pretty much non-stop around 10 to 11 months per year.  We would only have around a month or so at “home”.  I think having your mom with you on the road makes a big difference.  It’s like traveling with a little piece of “home”.   It helps keep you grounded.  You are going to places you have never been before and staying in airbnb to airbnb and living out of a suitcase.  Everything is quick and new and foreign.  It is exciting, but also can be scary and hard.   I am so blessed to be able to do this with her and that she wants me around!  We definitely know how much 50 lbs is for our suitcases without a scale haha. Life is pretty simple when you travel out of a suitcase.  I love being the travel agent/manager/assistant/driver/mom/cook.  Although Brisa does most of the cooking now.  I am so lucky.   We make a pretty awesome team and we have grown so much together throughout all of the travel and ups and downs. 

When Brisa is competing how do you two help / support each other?

We have a great rhythm together and have been with each other so much we can almost read each other without even talking most of the time!   Of course there are times we clash and disagree, but we are good about listening and being open to the other person and we have both grown tremendously from this journey together.  I think it is all about listening to each other better with an open heart and just being there for each other when the other one needs you and giving space when needed too.  

What are the highs and lows of being a travelling competitive support person with Brisa?

The biggest lows are definitely during the losses, but we have gotten better at that.  We remind ourselves of all the positives and the bigger picture in life and it isn’t all about winning.  We are so blessed to be on this journey and Brisa getting to do what she loves to do.  The highs are being able to be together and experience this amazing time and travel and mostly connecting with incredible people around the world.  Having this opportunity to see and meet people from so many different cultures and realise we are different, but quite the same. 


If you could give any advice to a surfing mother what would it be?

Oh it isn’t easy, but it is so wonderful and such a blessing to be a surfing mom.  I have been given this amazing gift to be on this journey with my daughter.  I would say, remember it’s all about the ride and enjoy and flow with each moment highs and lows as much as you can.  Know the path that you and your child are on is not going to be the same path as another child.  It is so important to not compare yourself to others around you and stay on your own path and be true to yourself.  Life is so short and that we are able to surf in this crazy world and to be in the ocean with our children is such a blessing!  

Thanks so much Katie for letting us know about your amazing life with your beautiful daughter Brisa who has been absolutely ripping on the CT this year.

For all the Mum’s out there (especially our beautiful Mum)… We wish you a Happy Mothers Day.


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