Surfer Laurie Varites smiles a gleaming white, toothy grin as she tells me that she really is only 5-foot-4. Don't believe her. Whether the Pipe Hanson winner is helped along by a pair of two-inch heeled boots or is riding a 10-foot-high wave, she is never just 5-foot-4.
The blonde 24-year-old began her life as a surfer at the age of 10 on the waves off of Wildwood, New Jersey, quickly finding a love of the sport that is shared by many members of her family. When asked if she is the best surfer in the family, she quickly replies that she's not.
"My Uncle Chris [is]," Varites says. "He lives out in Maui and surfs every day, all day."
It isn't just his abilities in the water that make Laurie sing his praises: "I really admire him because he is literally fearless. He has survived a shark bite and still swims with some of the biggest sharks in the ocean."
Still a resident of the Garden State, Laurie doesn't let the often-frigid winters keep her from the ocean. They have, however, given her the opportunity to explore the sport of snowboarding—though she is quick to point out the differences.
"[Snowboarding is] totally different—from the half pipe on the mountain to getting barreled in the ocean," Varites says. "Snowboarding forces you to use your legs; surfing, you use your entire body."
Laurie's body, no matter the weather, goes through a strict regimen each day. 50 sit-ups and push-ups greet her each morning, while another 50 of each wait for her at the end of each night. She runs five miles a day on trails, around her suburbs, or on her treadmill before she goes to work on her upper body with free weights and machines, with 30 minutes on her elliptical machine as the last stop.
Even with such a vigorous workout routine, injuries in the ocean can still occur.
"My worst accident was when I lost balance and cut my foot on reef, lucky enough to only get twenty-seven stitches in my foot," Varites says. While the injury kept Varites sidelined for two weeks, it did not dampen her spirits. "It wasn’t hard to come back from [the injury] at all. It made me work harder and be more aware of my surroundings"
Varites' awareness (and her Al Merrick Channel Islands "The Five" surfboard) have been superb as of late, garnering her wins in the V&R Pro-AM Event, Tort Freestyle, and the Sunshine Pro. The wins speak not only of her aptitude (and her ability to nail a layback), but to her mindset as well.
"As soon as I am on my board I am focused, nothing can distract me. I have never once let the pressure of money consume my mind when surfing," Varites says. "Regardless of how much money is on the line, I surf as if no one is watching and stay focused with the ocean."
While only 5-foot-4 in bare feet, Laurie Varites certainly stands much, much taller.