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OCEAN ISLE BEACH—Professional surfers be on the lookout: One young Ocean Isle Beach surfer has his sights on becoming the best in the sport.
Eight-year-old Cooper Kirkland has one thing on his mind—surfing. He wants to be in the water every day.
In the summer, Cooper wakes up, checks his surf cams and wakes his mother Amber Shreve by saying, “It’s a nice day to be on the beach.”
Most days that is where Cooper can be found. During the school year, he and his mother are on the beach a couple of hours each afternoon.
“It is lots of fun. I like getting wet and its fun to stand up,” Cooper said when asked about his favorite part of surfing.
He says he first taught himself how to surf on a boogie board at age 3. Now he can’t imagine a day without being in the water.
He has his favorite spots along Ocean Isle Beach depending on the day and the waves.
“I like small waves,” Cooper said. “The bigger ones close up on you when you get in the tube. With the smaller ones I can do more lines and tricks.”
Cooper dreams of one day becoming a professional surfer and has his plan already in place to make this dream come true.
“You have to practice every day and get better and better,” he said as he surveyed the waves near the Ocean Isle Beach pier on a recent afternoon.
Cooper turned 8 in June and received his dream gift—a surfboard custom made specifically for him by Jesse McCrery of OIB Surf & Java.
Even though he has been surfing for five years already, Cooper still has nerves he battles when it comes to competition surfing.
Earlier this month he competed in his second competition. It was the Oyster Festival Surf-Off Sept. 8-9. He almost didn’t make it in the water.
“I was scared at first. I just felt this in my body,” Cooper said. “I was really nervous.”
He was so nervous he didn’t join the other competitors when they ran for the water at the start of the heat. Each heat lasts 15 minutes.
“I wasn’t going to go, but Mom said it was just for fun and to go and do it,” Cooper said.
He did. Cooper hit the water with eight minutes remaining.
When Cooper finally hit the water, he had a large cheering section on the beach. He said there was a big group of friends and family standing and rooting for him.
He placed first in his heat and advanced to the finals. He went on to place third overall in the Menehune Short Board division.
It was a moment shared by more than Cooper and his family. Other surfers cheered him on for overcoming his nerves and hitting the water.
“It made me feel really proud,” Cooper said.
Cooper is determined the next time he enters a competition, he won’t be as nervous.
His mother says she will be right beside him to encourage him and to remind him it is all about having fun.
In the meantime, Cooper is busy hanging 10 all up and down the Ocean Isle Beach shoreline.
Rachel Johnsonis a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Facebook as Rachel Johnson Brunswick Beacon.