Lifestyle

Pro surfer Erica Hosseini breaks the waves, dresses with style

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ERICA HOSSEINI is shy about showing off the surfing awards, trophies and oversized faux checks stashed all over her colorful bedroom. But she jumps at the chance to talk about her gadgets -- the desktop PC with a huge flat screen, the MacBook Pro laptop and iPod -- that crowd her neatly kept desk.

"I'm always sitting here," says Hosseini, who built her own website, www.ericahosseini.com, and lists "geeking out on my computer" as one of her favorite activities on the Vans surf team site.

Clearly there's more than meets the eye when it comes to Hosseini, a 21-year-old pro surfer who's considered one of the sport's most promising up-and-comers. She's ranked 15th in the World Qualifying Series -- which leads to the Super Bowl of surfing series, the World Championship Tournament -- and will compete in the Honda U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach this week.

Hosseini, who rides with her right foot front -- is known as a great all-around surfer. "Her strength is in everything," says friend and fellow pro rider Karina Petroni. "She's just really strong."

She's also the kind of person who throws her tennis racket into her board bag en route to international competitions -- in the event she can cajole a surfing buddy into a quick match when the waves are flat -- and is seriously interested in fashion, music, movies (she loves "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy") and, of course, anything digital. She's even become the resident Miss Fix-It on surfing tours.

"She's a walking RadioShack," says Petroni. "Any time you need any kind of weird charger for anything, she has it."

In many ways, Hosseini is an ordinary kid -- still living with her parents, a younger sister and an older brother in a Spanish-style house on the Newport peninsula, a few blocks from where she grew up.

But of course, Hosseini isn't exactly ordinary. Over the years, she's built up a respectable modeling career for sponsors, including Smith Optics, Sector 9 Skateboards, Sharp Eye Surfboards and Jack's Surf Shop. She's played the '60s mod -- with side-swept Twiggy hair and white-pink lipstick -- for Smith Optics, and the guitar-playing rocker chick for Vans.

As a player on the surfing scene, Hosseini has become part of the $7.5-billion surfing apparel industry -- dominated by brands such as Quiksilver, Roxy, Hurley and O'Neill -- which sells the lifestyle and vibe surrounding surfing just as aggressively as the sport itself. The appeal is based in no small part on women like Hosseini, who represent the fun, breezy and stylish aspects of the wave-riding lifestyle.

"I love modeling," Hosseini says. "My sponsors have been able to advertise me in not just a surf-action kind of way but also in a more all-around way," she says, "and I've benefited from that. I'm super grateful."

With her sun-bleached long blond hair, green eyes and subtle tan, Hosseini looks every bit the quintessential California girl -- especially when wrangling the family's floppy yellow lab, Chava. Stretched out in a lounge chair on her patio in Newport Beach, she's clad in a vintage Star Wars T-shirt, dark skinny jeans, a chunky silver Nixon watch she won in a contest "and never took off," and a slightly tattered woven bracelet she bought on the beach in Brazil ("I tried to singe the ends with a lighter so it wouldn't fray, but it didn't work"). Her feet, of course, are bare.

Hosseini spends most of her days dipping in and out of the water, usually hitting the waves in the morning, then again in the afternoon. "So I'm never in an actual decent outfit," she says. "I even put my PJs back on half the time."

But this athlete also likes getting dolled up on occasion -- donning dresses, lip gloss and the whole girly package for dinners and parties. And she's not the only one turning the stereotype of female surfers on its ear. "You would never know my friends surf outside of the water," she says. "The guys are in skinny jeans looking all emo, and the girls are in dresses."

Surfers weren't always keen to shed their sporty image on land. Hosseini's female predecessors had to fight for waves in a male-dominated sport and likely felt the need to downplay their femininity to fit in. Now females are integral to the sport, and surf brands have broadened to include dressy, lifestyle apparel -- so the clothes the girls model and are given for free include frilly dresses, skirts and fashion tops.

Hosseini isn't a big shopper but will occasionally drop into Urban Outfitters or a local vintage haunt called Swelligan's -- where she picks up funky T-shirts, jeans and jewelry.

"The girls in the past that are now retired were very casual and low-key and weren't really into the whole glamour scene," said Hosseini, "but the younger generation -- we put some mascara and lip gloss on instead of rocking wet hair all the time. Sometimes you gotta spruce it up a little."

emili.vesilind@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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