If you want to feel extremely inadequate about your own surfing abilities, watch one of North Carolina native Stevie Pittman’s web edits. What you’ll see is a 14-year-old man-child with style to burn, capable of threading deep Outer Banks barrels, punting high above the lip, and displacing more water than surfers twice his age.
Pittman first put feet to wax at 3 years old and developed a fiery competitive drive shortly thereafter. He’s making ripples in the surf world today thanks to a string of dominant performances, racking up a laundry list of big wins that includes titles in the U.S. Championships Under 16, NSSA Championships Explorer Boys, and NSSA Eastern Championships Explorer Boys divisions as well as the NSSA Championships Open Juniors Air Show.
When you look at the field of adolescent rippers, with the exception of maybe Barron Mamiya, Pittman quite literally stands above the rest. While most are still struggling to throw their weight around because, well, they have no weight
to throw, Pittman looks like Andre the Giant in comparison. He’s added more than 3 inches and 25 pounds to his frame in the last year, which is the difference between tiny tailslides and beastly hacks in the grom world.
“It made it difficult to get comfortable with a board because I was always needing to change the dimensions,” says Pittman. “But in the end, I think it really helped me.” But Pittman’s newfound power isn’t without its own pitfalls. He injured his knee in Barbados recently and spent months out of the water while rehabbing. While he wasn’t happy to lose his momentum, he’s optimistic about getting back in the water and continuing his progression.
“I’ve been working really hard and training,” says Pittman. “I’m focused on doing well in contests this year and getting some good footage on surf trips.” Pittman’s passport is already filled with the kind of destinations that most surfers salivate over. Four of his 14 winters were spent surfing in Puerto Rico, he’s journeyed to El Salvador, Ecuador, Samoa, and the North Shore, and he’s made it a goal to become comfortable in waves of consequence. As an East Coast kid, Pittman knows that he has to go the extra mile if he wants to stay sharp during the flat spells in his hometown.
“Maybe we have to work a little harder to get waves than the kids in California do,” says Pittman. “But that makes succeeding feel so good, and on the East Coast we take a lot of pride in that.” Pittman will be back to full health soon enough, and you’ll find him living up to his surname by locking in some tube time along the Outer Banks sandbars. He’ll return to competition and try to squeeze more trophies onto his parents’ already crowded mantle. But Pittman is still just a kid, and despite his drive to succeed in the water, he’s not trying to get too ahead of himself.
“I’m going to keep surfing and see where it takes me,” he says. “I want to make a career out of it, but it’s always good to have a backup plan and a good education.” —Brandt Hart