Mia’s Making Waves In The World Of Surfing
WORDS: John McJannett PHOTOGRAPHY John McJannett
At only eighteen years of age, Gold Coaster Mia Huppatz is taking the surfing world by storm.
As the eldest of three very talented and competitive teenage surfing sisters, Mia Huppatz has taken it upon her young shoulders to set the standard for her younger siblings to aspire to. And at the moment, that bar is raised extremely high!
The eighteen-year-old Gold Coaster is one of an elite group of potential international female surfers competing in the World Qualifying Series of events, earning points towards eligibility to compete in the Challenger Series, and ultimately, the World Surf League.
And how does Mia handle the inevitable family comparisons? “We do have a little bit of friendly banter and keen rivalry in the family and it’s not a bad thing. It’s cool to have two sisters pushing you all the way and as long as the results go in age order then it’s okay!”
Behind the appearance of this quietly spoken and somewhat modest, engaging and athletic teenager lies a burning desire to take her athletic prowess in the world of competition surfing to the highest possible level. At the moment, she mixes her sporting career with the completion of her QCE studies at St. Andrews Lutheran College in Tallebudgera, where she is completing a Diploma in Sports Management and Development. Because much of her study is completed online, she can mix this with travelling to compete overseas and this is something that Mia freely admits that she enjoys more than being stuck in a classroom five days a week! No easy task, but this is one busy and dedicated teenager determined to achieve success in both.
Mia is the eldest daughter of Marcus and Kelly Huppatz, who themselves are both lifelong lovers of surfing, beach culture and the lifestyle that comes hand-in-hand with it. In keeping with the family tradition, Mia’s two younger sisters, Isla and Anna, are both paddling in her wake and doing everything within their powers to ensure that she maintains her extremely high level of performance in the water.
Mia can’t exactly remember when her surfing dad first pushed her onto a wave in the chilly waters around Jan Juc Beach in Victoria. But she can remember the thrill and excitement of the occasion and the ensuing fun times learning to ride a board “on the knee-high little sand break that ran for hundreds of metres.”
Marcus recalls that Mia was gifted a foamy for her third birthday and that it had a huge Dora the Explorer decal on it. “Mia just loved Dora and from that day onwards surfing on the ‘Dora Board’ became a regular occurrence for her.” It was a given that Mia would graduate to a fibreglass board, and she was but six years old when this happened.
According to Mia, “There were a lot of girls around that area who were good surfers and who made it look fun to be out there in the water, and I just wanted to be out there with them!”
It takes a real level of dedication to commit to surfing all year round, often clad in full-length wetsuits and booties in the chilly waters of Victoria, but for a young Mia, this became the norm in those early years of honing her skills in the water.
“When I look back at it, some of those winter surfs were far from pleasant. I can remember coming up the stairs crying and crawling up on my elbows and knees because it was too cold to walk on my feet. But there was a pretty determined group of about twelve girls who were there most of the time both before and after school.”
Mia soon joined her dad Marcus as a member of the Torquay Boardriders Club where she gained tremendous support from the other members of the club, and together with the constant coaching and encouragement that she received from her dad, she was soon spotted by talent scouts from Surfing Victoria who chipped in with additional levels of surfing expertise.
“I learnt nearly everything from my dad early on, and as I got older I had the benefit of working with lots of other professional coaches.”
“I then started contest surfing at a pretty early age in Victoria and made lots of State Rounds. I had a good rivalry with a girl called Ellie Harrison who was also in the Torquay Boardriders and we nearly always finished first or second in contests.”
“Dad was then transferred to the Gold Coast with his work. It was a big move and whilst it was a bit sad at first to leave all my friends in Victoria, it didn’t take long to get used to the Gold Coast weather, the choices of great surf breaks and of course, the warmer water all year round. The move has definitely been good for us.”
“We joined the Burleigh Boardriders Club straight after we came to the Coast and we are lucky that this is such a great club. Mum and Dad grew up with Liam O’Brien’s parents in Portland, Victoria, so we had a connection as Liam is with the club and is currently ranked number 17 in the world. The friendships I have formed so quickly and the level of support I have received since we moved has been amazing.”
There has been a huge growth in people of all ages taking up surfing over the last few years. As one of the Gold Coast’s most promising up-and-coming female surfers, Mia is very conscious of her profile as a role model for younger girls. “I always try to be respectful and set an example for the younger girls in the club. At the same time, I have heaps of respect for the older female surfers who have set the example for us to follow and made women’s surfing the great sport that it has become.”
Mia has not reached anywhere near her full potential in the water, and in her search for excellence, she has been working with Brad Gerlach and his Wave KI program for the last four years. Brad is an ex-professional surfer himself and has developed a unique land-based program that places a focus on slow, precise movements that develop a style and pattern from within for each individual surfer.
According to Mia, Brad’s program “has been a great thing for me. I love that it is land-based and it’s kind of like Martial Arts for surfing. We do all the movements on land and then translate the movements into the water.”
Brad’s coaching techniques have obviously resonated strongly with Mia. She has had three Qualifying Series fifth-place finishes, one third-place finish and she won the Australian Macro Mike Open held on the Sunshine Coast. In 2022, she finished sixth on the Australian Regional Qualifying leg and missed out by one place, going on to the full Challenger Series.
“However I was able to compete in the Australian leg of the Challenger Series earlier this year and I got to surf against eight times World Champion, Stephanie Gilmour. That was a great experience for me and for the rest of this year I will be competing to try and get in the Challenger Series in 2024.”
Mia is motivated by competition surfing because it gives her something to work towards. Whilst she doesn’t have a set training routine, she tries to surf every day and has been able to combine this with some assistance from a personal trainer, some yoga and stretching sessions and coaching sessions with Brad. It is a display of a level of commitment destined to take this young lady way up the scale of world surf rankings.
Mia just loves the travel associated with global surfing competitions. “The travel associated with surfing is really cool. I have had the opportunity to surf in Indonesia, Taiwan, Fiji and France. I have made friends with people from so many different countries and that in itself has been amazing.”
“One of the things that has come to my mind after travelling overseas is how much work we have to do to keep the ocean and its environment clean and healthy. In some places, I have surfed I have seen a lot of pollution in the water and really dirty beaches. We have some work to do in Australia to keep our oceans and beaches clean and I have been involved in raising funds for this cause.”
Mia’s outstanding talent and enormous potential have seen sponsors knocking on her door and her current sponsors are Roxy, Boost Mobile and Chilli Surfboards. “I receive tremendous support from my sponsors, and their commitment to me enables me to compete locally and internationally and I can’t thank them enough for their backing.”
Success for Mia in such a competitive environment has not come without utmost dedication, endless hours of hard work and unwavering support from proud parents Marcus and Kelly. But, as they explain, “Mia has always had that spirit of adventure, a self-drive and willingness to push herself beyond her comfort zone. She is a great role model for her younger sisters and we are extremely proud of the young woman that she has grown into.”
It is immediately obvious that surfing is a hugely important part of Mia Huppatz’s psyche. It’s in her DNA and at eighteen she has a world of opportunity, adventure and development ahead of her. She exudes a maturity beyond her years and her thirst for success and willingness to work towards achieving her goals is ever present as she strives to reach her full potential in the world of waves.
Whether it is travelling the world to surf new waves or competing for a world title, only time will tell. Mia’s two younger sisters have a challenge ahead of them!
Author’s Bio: After a career of over 30 years in senior management in the Australian Hospitality Industry John McJannett has returned to where it all started on the Gold Coast. In semi-retirement, he now has the time to pursue his interest in photography and writing. View his website at www.twohandsphotography.com.au or Instagram @johnomcj