Guest writer: Matthew Woodward.
For most people tuned into the surfing world, Cocoa Beach, Florida is permanently tied to one name: Slater. Yet, the small beach community has spawned another notable name in surfing: Savannah Bradley.
With an impressive array of competitive surfing wins and a host of sponsors, it might have been easy to predict Bradley’s path. Finding early competitive success within the East Coast contest circuit, she seemed destined for a ride on the same pro pipeline which propelled a rough and tumble Cocoa kid named Kelly to international stardom. A Florida contest kid with a few shop sponsors and free boards. A pre-teen with a trophy always in her hand. Endless travel up and down the East Coast. Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, driving, driving, and more driving. On the cusp of breaking into bigger contests in bigger waves. More sponsorships and more money. A path towards professional surfing. It seemed she had it figured out. Or had she?
Recounting that she “quite literally ran” off to University on a track and cross-country scholarship, Bradley walked (or ran) away from it all. Immersing herself in college life and education. Academics and experiences. Still, that Cocoa Beach grit refused to disappear.
With a background in the hyper-active world of day-long surf sessions, it should have been no surprise that Bradley would find a connection with the physical. The importance of body and health. Finding a health education program that suited her youthful spirit, Bradley had found another niche: bringing physical activity to special needs children. Undeniably, the positive spirit and zeal for an active life in the water was alive and well in Savannah. And, most importantly, it was keen to be passed on.
Four years go by in flash. College degree in hand. The stress of countless exams and projects behind her. The daunting face of medical school and further journeys into academia ahead of her. Bradley made another choice. Diving back into competitive surfing. The stressful world of heats and qualifiers which had prepared her for the challenges of life was, at least for now, welcoming her with open arms.
And welcome her it did. First, wins in big East Coast contests. The 2015 Governors Cup at Folly Beach. The Wrightsville Beach East Coast Wahine Classic. The Coastal Edge East Coast Surf Championships. More travel. More experiences. Finding herself on the women’s WSL tour, Bradley began to travel more extensively. No longer confined to the sandy backseats of parents and parents of friend’s cars, she set her sights on Australia, newly attuned to forging her own path and developing herself. And she did what knew how to do: surf well.
Now, in 2017, Savannah Bradley is ranked 166th on the women’s WSL rankings. Not bad for a surfer whose career has been anything but typical.
Still, true to form, the girl from “simple” Cocoa refuses to be defined. Slipping away again from the tethered hamster wheel of pro surfing, Savannah has set her sights on the new. With tentative plans to swap white sand beaches for the groomed white powder of snowboarding, Bradley is open to possibilities. But, more than anything, she is committed finding her own way, just like she’s always done.
She writes that in 2017 she is “…trusting the unknown; throwing one’s self at life with impeccable intentions. Loving every minute of it along the way.”
Wherever life takes her, Savannah Bradley is ready.
Written by: Matthew Woodward, a recent graduate of The College of Charleston.