Izzi Gomez surfs a huge wave at Jaws, in Maui, Hawaii.
© Frederico Pompermayer
Surfing

Izzi Gomez is the SUP queen with her sights set on the big wave scene

From becoming SUP world champion to surfing the planet’s biggest waves, Izzi Gomez is just getting started – we caught up with her to learn about her latest career ambitions.
Written by Chris Binns
10 min readPublished on
Born and raised in Florida but representing Colombia and residing in California, 24-year-old Izzi Gomez's saltwater mastery is something to behold. A standup paddle world champion who claimed her first of five titles in 2014, aged just 14, five years later, Gomez decided it was time to broaden her horizons, look beyond the blade and start challenging herself in waves of consequence.
In 2019, the then 20-year-old decided to pursue a new passion: big wave surfing. She rode the biggest wave of her life at Jaws in January of 2021, matched it at Cortes Bank two years later and continues to go from strength to strength in heavy water all over the Pacific Ocean, with the rest of the seven seas squarely in her sights. Keen to know more? Dive in below to have Izzi Gomez fill in the blanks.
Izzi Gomez poses for a portrait at the opening ceremony of Red Bull Magnitude in Waimea Bay, Oahu, Hawaii USA on 6 January, 2024.

Izzi Gomez

© Christa Funk/Red Bull Content Pool

01

From the Sunshine State to the world stage

Gomez was born in Holmes Beach, Florida, and grew up just to the north on Anna Maria Island, a famed 10km finger of silver sand fronting the Gulf Coast. This is where Gomez's grandparents opened Florida's first surf shop in 1964, and you can still buy wax at the West Coast Surf Shop to this day. The shop's name is a conversation starter as Florida is, of course, on America's east coast, but the good folk of the Gulf Coast have always played by their own rules, and both the shop and Gomez's grandfather, 'Diamond' Jimmy Brady, are both legendary threads in the local surfing fabric.
Pro surfer Izzi Gomez at home in her garage.

Gomez's board collection reflects her abilities and interests in the water

© Steven Lippman

"My grandad is probably the funniest guy I know," says Gomez with a laugh. "East coasters are a different breed and Florida should probably be its own country again, so that's saying something."
“That’s where the surf heritage is in my family,” Gomez told the Red Bulletin, in 2021.
02

Standup gave Izzi Gomez her start, but big waves have her heart

"I'm very thankful for standup paddling," says Gomez. "If it weren't for SUP I wouldn't be where I am today, but one thing led to another and by 2018 or 2019 I was ready to make the change. I hadn't really proved myself in big waves to that point, and then I finally had a good season over at Jaws. It was like, all right, let's focus on big waves.
Izzi Gomez trains on the North Shore of Hawaii on February 3, 2016.

Izzi Gomez, standup paddle queen turned big wave charger

© Lucas Gilman/Red Bull Content Pool

03

What's on the horizon?

"When I was younger there was a full big wave tour," says Gomez. "On the men's side, at least. There was Chile, Puerto Escondido, Jaws, Mavericks and I was thinking, ‘okay, this is legit, you can actually be a competitive big wave surfer'. It was cool to see that there was a tour for it and people were making a living. There’s not as much of that these days, but that's fine.
"I've realised that while I'm competitive in some ways, I don’t really like contests, which actually means I can try and do the big wave thing as well as possible, but also be smart about it, stay injury free and have some fun."

1 min

Izzi Gomez sends a Red Bull Magnitude entry, this one airdropped from Jaws

"Now there are awesome concepts like Red Bull Magnitude, too, where your whole season counts, not just one day. I'm all for that because it really opens doors for girls to push it and be seen. Not everyone can be invited to the Jaws contest, but just because you are invited doesn't mean that there's no one out there better than you. I think the Red Bull Magnitude format is only going to push the sport and the surfers to get better and send it harder.
"I got invited to The Eddie Aikau Invitational this year as an alternate, which was really cool. My heart dropped when I saw the message come through. The Eddie is a dream, but it's also a nightmare because it'll likely be some of the biggest waves I’ve ever paddled. You have to be ready for that and you have to perform or else you won’t get invited back!"
04

Izzi Gomez looks to Kai Lenny, Ian Walsh and more for inspiration

"I definitely draw inspiration from guys like Kai Lenny," says Gomez. "Kai was a bit of a catalyst for me realising I could go from SUP to shortboarding, the way he went from windsurfing to big wave. I love seeing people take a path that's a little different, not the norm. That's cool. It's so important to follow your passion and do what you want to do.
Kai Lenny on the SUP

Kai Lenny on the SUP

© Brian Bielmann

"Ian Walsh is such a character, too," says Gomez of the big wave maestro from Maui. "I've always been around Ian, and he's got such a funny personality. Obviously, I was doing standup paddling for the first couple years I was with Red Bull, but when I transitioned over to big wave, I started spending more time on Maui and Ian is definitely one of the people that I would be around a lot because we were training in the same place. He's such an awesome person, a really nice guy."
05

How does Izzi Gomez tackle Jaws?

"I pretty much live at Paige Alms’s house on Maui over winter, so we're always communicating, and if there’s a swell, we make sure we’re on the same page. We're not on the same program like we used to be at first, when she was dragging me along and I was slowing her down a little bit. I have a bit more of a concrete plan now. My crew is Paige, Chuck Patterson (waterman and all-round legend) and my friend Steve Rice.
Colombian pro surfer Izzi Gomez pictured surfing at Jaws in Hawaii.

Izzi Gomez has found her groove in Hawaii's biggest waves

© Gabriela Aoun/Red Bull Content Pool

"Jaws is my favourite big wave, because I'm the most comfortable out there. It takes time to build a relationship with a wave, and I think I've been rewarded for the time that I've put in on Maui. It definitely wasn't easy, moving over there for half the year as a teenager, by myself with no family, no help.
"Everyone says they're going help you, but then when the time comes, everyone's out for themselves, which I totally understand. I've put my time in over there, whether people see it or not. It's been pretty gnarly and there's been so many times where I was ready to quit."

1 min

Izzi Gomez threads the tube on a Jaws juggernaut

1/23/2023

"I definitely think I've built a relationship with that wave. You can build that bond with a place the more you spend there, but just because you've done that, it doesn't mean you're going to get anything handed to you either. I think that's part of the initiation and how you build respect for the wave. I really do love Jaws, it's such a special place."
06

The final frontier

18 min

Twenty Foot Plus: North Pacific

The world’s best big wave surfers chase a cool new swell from Waimea to Jaws, Cortes Bank to Todos Santos.

English +1

You went to Cortes Bank with the 20-Foot-Plus crew last year. How did that happen?

Izzi Gomez: I was actually on my own program! They were baffled when they showed up on their jet skis and saw me out there first. I was at Jaws the day before and Chuck said, 'Hey, Cortes Bank might be on, are you down to go to the airport tonight to leave for Cortes tomorrow night? We'll have to leave by 7:00pm to get there in time'.

I said yes and we literally left Jaws, went home, washed the ski, threw the boards in a bag and went to the airport. We had half a day, because we landed in the morning, and then we were on the boat at 7:00pm and on our way out there. That was crazy, once in a lifetime. Never ever thought I would be able to go out there. It was really cool.

They were definitely some of the biggest waves I've ever seen. I've never seen a wave move that fast in my life, it was crazy. There's just such raw power. You’re out in the middle of nowhere and it's super eerie and weird. There’s just no other place I'd ever been to with an atmosphere like that.

I saw Justine Dupont's wave and it was sick. Justine is awesome.

Izzi Gomez rides a huge wave at Cortes Bank, off California.

The final frontier? Izzi Gomez on a Cortes Bank behemoth

© Frank Quirarte/Red Bull Content Pool

Jaws is my favourite big wave, because I'm the most comfortable out there
07

The voyage of a lifetime

"A few years ago Red Bull invited me on my dream trip," says Gomez. "I'd never been on a boat in Indonesia and I grew up watching (legendary surf movie) Young Guns! I was living out a childhood dream on that trip and we scored some awesome waves.
Izzi Gomez surfing in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia.

Izzi Gomez carving Indonesian sheet glass

© Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

"I had never seen waves that perfect before! Obviously, Jaws is perfect, but it's 50-foot, whereas this was fun and perfect, and really cool. Hopefully, I get to score it like that again sometime."
08

The future is now

Caitlin Simmers, Izzy Gomez presurf portrait at Teahupoo Tahiti, June 2 2022.

The big-wave threat and the next big thing, Izzi Gomez and Caitlin Simmers

© Domenic Mosqueira/Red Bull Content Pool

Talk to us about Caity Simmers and her peers?

Izzi Gomez: I don't even know how to describe Caity. It's really cool to see how her success hasn't changed her. She's still just a grom, still just wants to do stupid stuff with her friends and have fun, you know? She's still just surfing Oceanside every day, but I don't know if she goes to the skate park anymore because she probably can't afford to get hurt. There’s not gonna be another Caity, she's just a very special person.

She's a really nice girl from a good family, with an incredible style and approach to surfing. She's just awesome! Caity’s a funny person, I really love watching her surf and I think she has a huge career ahead of her. It might look like she's super cruisy, but I know she is very competitive and doesn't want to lose. You don't qualify and win CTs by not caring.

Caity's on the CT, which speaks for itself, but with each one of those girls it's cool to see their different approach to surfing. Caity’s more like Dane and then Erin Brooks almost reminds me a bit of Mick Fanning, super quick, very athletic, kinda like a gymnast, you know?

And then Sierra Kerr just does it all; she's skating; she's on Nike for golf. Sierra's path was not really competing, she just wanted to get good at surfing and that's worked out really well, because her surfing is so good now. She has such a nice style and her airs are incredible. Clearly there's a good balance there of what you like to do outside of surfing and the competition stuff. It’s really cool to see each one of these girls, the paths they're on and their approaches to surfing.

09

Teahupo'o with the Next Generation

Izzy Gomes surfing Teahupoo Tahiti, May 30, 2022.

Izzi Gomez looking right at home in the eye of the Teahupo'o storm

© Domenic Mosqueira/Red Bull Content Pool

"I went to Tahiti a couple of years ago with Caity Simmers and Molly Picklum," says Gomez. "They hadn't qualified yet. Well, actually Caity had, but she turned it down 'cos she's a boss. We had a really great crew and got plenty of fun ones, but Caity and Molly were just balls to the wall sending it. They put in the hard yards over there. It's inspiring to me, for sure."
10

Where to from here?

What does the future hold for Izzi Gomez?

Izzi Gomez: I've been really trying to sit and think and prioritise what's important to me, as far as family and career go, and trying to make time for everything. Over the next 10 years I want to take advantage of big wave surfing while I physically still can. I think it'd be best just to send it while you're young and try to get that done and accomplish what you want.

Listening to myself and what's important to me is a big goal, because the last few years I've been that type of person who lets my sponsors or the competition schedule dictate what my year's going to look like. I definitely want to make sure I stick to what I'm passionate about, whatever that may be, because as long as you're happy it's all good.

Izzi Gomez in San Francisco.

Izzi Gomez, not quite wearing some flowers in her hair, in San Francisco

© Cori Stephens/Red Bull Content Pool

Surfing-wise, any goals?

Izzi Gomez: I really want to do a season where I'm based on the east coast, because I've never done hurricane season or winter there before. I'd love to score New York, Jersey, the Outer Banks and a few other mysto waves, and make a film of it all. That’s a bucket list kind of thing.

I would love to win the Jaws contest, that's a huge goal for me. Even just a couple more really nice barrels at Jaws would be great. The whole world record thing would be really awesome, but to have that Jaws trophy would be incredible. Or, maybe if they have a women's division, it'd be really cool to win The Eddie one day.

Part of this story

Izzi Gomez

The sky is the limit for stand-up paddleboarding world champ turned big-wave wizard Izzi Gomez.

United StatesUnited States

Kai Lenny

Kiteboarder, windsurfer, wing foiler and so much more – even his name means 'sea' in Hawaiian. Kai was destined to become the world's greatest-ever waterman.

United StatesUnited States

Ian Walsh

American Ian Walsh is a man who has tackled all sorts in the sea and knows that it’s all about keeping things interesting.

United StatesUnited States

Caitlin Simmers

After being named the 2023 WSL Championship Tour Rookie Of The Year, US surfer Caitlin Simmers is on a collision course with greatness.

United StatesUnited States

Twenty Foot Plus

Follow the world’s best big wave surfers as they travel the globe in search of the ultimate big wave ride.

1 Season · 2 episodes