Jamilah Star Profile
By Dusty Middleton
7:00 a.m. The morning of the Eddie
“Maybe sixty guys out. Guys ditching their boards. You know, at Waimea you can sense the fear in people. And it’s really hard for me to be around that fear, because I’m not afraid… When you’re out there, it should be like your whole life leads up to that point.”
In the last few years Jamilah Star has chiseled out her own place in the surfing world. She’s become a regular out at the Bay on big days. More of a regular than quite a few people on the Eddie list. And like many Waimea surfers, she left the water frustrated on December 15th. The contest started and she hadn’t gotten a big one. But she knew there would be plenty of days this winter, and that the Bay would break again.
Jamilah has spent the last few years traveling between California, Central America and Hawaii. This winter her home-base is up in the hills of Pupukea, on the North Shore.
Growing up in the cold heavy waves of Santa Cruz, Jamilah aimed from an early age to be a serious force in the water. She worked with the Junior Lifeguards for 15 years, she’s been an intense athlete since the sixth grade (playing football, water polo, baseball, basketball, wrestling), and she’s battled her way through the heavy crowd of Steamer Lane since she was eleven.
“There is no positive motivation for women’s surfing there,” says Jamilah of Santa Cruz. “It’s like they want to kick your ass, so you have to fight.”
With a solid build from years of rigorous training and a background in jiu jistu, Jamilah can easily hold her ground.
“I used to wrestle Flea all the time, and they’d video tape it. And when I started winning they’d start giving me waves. It was up to the point where I’d have to physically beat them for them to respect me at all as a person.”
The Jamilah-Flea wrestling matches are currently tied. She says that Flea’s gained about thirty pounds, and that the last time they battled she broke her finger in his belt buckle.
She fell in love with Hawaii at an early age, surfing the North Shore for the first time when she was six. Later on in life, traveling the world in search of bigger waves, she made it to Kauai at 17.
After surfing Tunnels one afternoon with some friends, she found herself watching early footage of Mavericks. “I remember thinking: It’s unbelievable that that place is near my home,” says Jamilah. “And then that was just all I ever wanted to do. That became my life. Up until I surfed Mavericks, my goal in life was surfing Mavericks. And I changed everything to do that.”
Watching footage of Half Moon Bay with Jamilah is an interesting experience. The 20-footers that go un-ridden, the ones that dredge and barrel and look the most intimidating are the ones that pull a response from her, “Look how beautiful that is,” she says. Her ability to find the splendor in nature is balanced by focus and respect. She points out a wave on the video where the rider holds a high line through the first bowl and drops into the end section riding another fifty yards before pulling off the shoulder. She tells us that the Mavericks crew doesn’t consider you to have gotten a wave until you’ve ridden one through that inside bowl and made the final section.
Her friend Jenny sits on the couch next to her, asking questions and listening closely to the answers. Jamilah has become a mentor, helping her friend prepare for big days; already Jennifer’s surfed heavy Sunset, had three sessions at Waimea, and a tow-in session at Phantoms.
Mentoring has become an important part of Jamilah’s life. She’s organized a group of surfers from around the world, mostly girls, who have a passion and a desire to surf big waves. Focusing time, energy, and money towards pushing her friends to excel beyond expectations has become one of Jamilah’s main priorities. The JamStar team is an ongoing project that should have an interesting influence on the next generation of surfers around the globe.
“People had to open the door for me,” says Jamilah. “If Jeff Clark never gave me a gun, I don’t know if I’d be here today. If Garrett never took me towing in, I don’t know if I could be training for Jaws. Somebody had to let me into the circle of big-wave riding, and I don’t mind letting people in. As long as they know the consequences.”
Helping to train others has been good for Jamilah. Being responsible for preparing her friends for dangerous situations has improved her own training.
The anticipation for bigger and better swells can be overwhelming. Confidence at Waimea, and a growing love for tow-in sessions have created an eagerness to ride the biggest waves possible.
“Now I can’t wait for the next level, whatever that may be. If that’s Jaws, I can’t wait. If that’s outside Mavericks, I can not wait,” says Jamilah. “I feel like a volcano ready to explode.”
Jamilah’s goal over the last couple of years has been to go bigger. Five feet bigger every year. She wants to surf perfect Jaws and perfect Pipe. But she found that having that passion as the only focus in her life was frustrating, even unhealthy.
“I realized I was only happy if the waves were over 20 feet,” says Jamilah. “Which is so rare that you can’t live that way. You have to be able to survive on any given day, on any swell size, or maybe if you’re not surfing at all.”
“With faith there is no limit”.