Tyler Gunter had no fear and felt little pressure while competing in the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. National Championships this past weekend at Huntington Beach. It was just another day at the beach for Tyler.
The Newport Beach resident is only 11 years old, but he has been surfing for the past eight years. That's right, he began surfing when he was only 3.
"My dad taught me," said Tyler, a Newport Elementary student. "I don't remember, but I think I was a little scared."
He might've shown fear in his first lessons, but there was no hesitation in the NSSA National Championships. Tyler won the title in the Open Mini Groms (ages 10 and under) division (Tyler turned 11 in January), scoring 8.80 against mostly small waves.
After his victory, a couple of his buddies lifted him on their shoulders. Tyler smiled while stretching out the California flag. This just might be the new California Kid.
He ended the NSSA season with two west coast titles and the national championship. Steve Pittman of Newport, N.C. (7.65), Eithan Osbourne of Ventura (7.50) and Barron Mamiya of Waialua, Hawaii (5.35) fell behind Tyler.
"The waves were really small," Tyler said, noting that was one of the reasons he had no fear. "I just try to go out there and get two good waves just in case there are no more good waves."
The NSSA season will start up again in September. Until then, Tyler plans to surf on the East Coast, where he expects to take on some waves in a few contests. His younger sister, Sierra, 9, is also going.
"She's learning how to surf," he said.
Tyler is learning too, but he has been showing great potential in the process. His father, Larry, has seen that and has supported him. Tyler has his own website, tylergunter.com, and he plans to add more big-time news as the months and years go by.
"I want to do this the rest of my life," Tyler said. "I would love to be a professional surfer."
Tyler, who enjoys to snowboard too, said he looks up to Andrew Doheny, Mick Fanning and Bobby Martinez.
Doheny was recently ranked No. 18 in Surfer Magazine's "Hot 100." He won last year's Oakley Pro Junior at Lower Trestles. He is No. 30 in the Assn. of Surfing Professionals Junior Men's World Rankings.
Tyler knows Doheny well. The Newport Beach phenom has also taught Tyler to surf, Larry Gunter said.
"I barely surf," Larry Gunter said. "I go out with [Tyler] sometimes. He might give me a wave or two."
Time will tell if Tyler ends up at Newport Harbor High, a school that has seen its fair share of success in the NSSA. Newport Harbor earned third place at the NSSA National Interscholastic Championships at Salt Creek June 18.
Blake Davis grabbed second place overall in the high school varsity division. He finished ahead of standout Ezekiel Lau and Derek Peter, a member on the PacSun USA Surf Team.
Shelby Detmers took second overall by beating out some of the top female surfers in the nation.
Zach Porteous, Jake Caughill, Colin Moran, Will Laidlaw, Ryan Croteau, Ryan Cervantes and Ali Hayes also contributed to Newport's third-place finish.
Moran has also proven to be a standout surfer. He was recently named to the PacSun USA Surf Team.
Surfing America is responsible for holding the USA Surfing Championships event each year and for selecting the official USA Surf Team to compete internationally.