Photo by Milton Morris
HOMETOWN: Originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida; now lives in Folly Beach
OCCUPATION: Competitive surfer; instructor at Charleston Surf Lessons
LATEST ACHIEVEMENT: Won her second consecutive women’s championship title in Governor’s Cup of Surfing at Folly Beach, August 2016
WHEN SHE’S NOT SURFING: Listens to audiobooks on psychology and is learning to speak Portuguese; “I have this concept that we always need to be stretching our brains”
Go ahead and memorize the name Savannah Bradley now. If all goes to plan, you may see her in the 2020 Olympics.
The addition of surfing to the upcoming Tokyo Games was well timed for the Folly Beach surfer, coinciding with her rediscovery of the sport she loved as a kid.
Bradley took to the waves naturally during a surfing camp at age 9 and quickly became a phenomenon, competing around the world before she was 14. By age 15, she says, “I absolutely hated it.” Surfing had become a chore, so she gave it up.
She went mainstream—attended college on a cross-country/track scholarship, earned a degree in exercise physiology and found a job as a holistic pediatrics medical assistant.
And then came the epiphany: wrong life plan. “I decided to drop everything,” Bradley says. “I threw caution to the wind and said, ‘God, take it.’” In May 2015, she quit her job and called her childhood coach, Josh Wilson, in Folly Beach, who immediately hired her to teach surf lessons.
“I saw so much passion for the sport among everyone I was teaching that summer,” she says. “I fell in love again.”
Bradley channeled her pediatrics training into creating a surfing clinic for kids with autism. The sport creates “white noise” that heightens their sense of calm, body awareness and verbal skills, she says.
Just for fun, she started entering competitions again last summer—and winning. Now, her new life plan centers on competing globally to earn a spot in the 2020 Games.
“It’s kind of the big, blinking red dot in the middle of my radar,” she says.