It’s hard to find a picture of Mary Osborne where she’s not smiling ear to ear. Maybe it’s because she just got done with a great surf session or maybe it’s because she’s living her dreams. Probably, it’s a bit of both. Mary is that bright person in your life that sees life through the lens of their passion. That person who is always looking for the next ray of sunshine, the next adventure to unfold.
If you don’t have that kind of person in your life, then you need to get one. We suggest Mary be one of them. Her energy is contagious and her will is unbreakable. She will have success and she will have fun getting it. There’s always another wave, always another sunrise for Mary. Get to know her.
TDS: How has pursuing your dreams challenged and changed you?
OSBORNE: Pursuing my dreams shaped me entirely. I have learned so much about life and other cultures through surfing and traveling. Every adventure opens my eyes to new things. I am extremely grateful for what I have and don’t have. The challenges and risks I take have only made me a stronger, more educated and all around a better person. We all live on this planet together.
TDS: You dropped out of college to pursue surfing. Tell us about that decision?
OSBORNE: It wasn’t an easy decision for my family. My father and mother graduated from UCLA. My three older brothers all have college degrees. I didn’t enjoy school. I finished two years of college, received my A.A. degree, attempted UCSB (University of California Santa Barbara) and then dropped out.
I really wanted to try professional surfing. I dreamed of traveling the world and seeing other cultures. I was working late hours at night in restaurants, going to school fulltime while trying to juggle professional surfing. I was not focused; I was unhappy during classes and needed to make a change for myself.
I told my parents I was dropping out and they gave me two months to figure “it” out before they cut me off their dime. A week later I got a phone call to go film the MTV Surf Girls show for two months. I decided to go for it, try to pursue my dreams and see what happens.
Seven years later, I am still doing what I love (knock on wood). I have been very fortunate in all that I have done so far in life. I often think about going back to college—I can guarantee I will be much more interested in the classes I decide to take. Well, if I choose to.
TDS: Why longboard?
OSBORNE: I started out riding shorter boards then slowly started riding bigger boards. I realized I liked the way longboarding looked and felt. It was graceful, elegant, and I enjoyed the way the gliding felt under my feet when riding a wave. When I first started surfing I only rode bigger, heavy—more traditional longboards.
I eventually started traveling and quickly realized I had to learn to ride everything. Now I ride shortboards, fun boards, single-fin, twin-fin, tri-fin longboards, basically anything I can get my hands on.
TDS: You are competitive by nature. Originally you got into surfing because you wanted to be better than the boys. Now, as an adult, what is the most compelling aspect of the sport: competition, community, and spiritual/mental aspect?
OSBORNE: I used to love to compete. I wanted to be the best and as a teen I competed for many years. As I got older my competitive side started to slowly diminish. I don’t seem to get as much out of winning or losing anymore. Sometimes (yet very rarely) I still surprise myself while in a contest, when the horn blows I get jitters in my stomach and get that rush of adrenaline that turns me back into a competitor. I don’t think you really ever lose the feeling of being a competitor. It’s amazing to win and its even better to be humbled.
Now days, I just love the joy of surfing. It’s far more spiritual for me. I enjoy those gorgeous sunrises, beautiful sunsets, and fantastic memorable rides. I have met so many amazing people through the ocean. Being near or in the ocean clears my mind of the everyday distractions. It keeps me healthy, young, adventurous and, most importantly, thankful. I try to never take my time in the water for granted.
TDS: Describe your personality using only oceanic-surf terms.
OSBORNE: Flowing, mellow—this is tough. (laughs)
TDS: Former TDS interviewee Chris Malloy said, “Surfing has become Hollywood.” Do you agree with this statement?
OSBORNE: Yes, surfing has gone Hollywood. From a business standpoint it can be good. Mainstream can mean bringing in higher sales, a broader marketing audience and so on. For true surfers, it can be total nightmare. Crowds, kooks, wannabees and all that. Everyone wants to walk, talk, act and look like a surfer. It’s kind of funny. Lots of celebrities are now into surfing. It’s the new “hot” thing to do. I personally think the hype is kind of over by now. From another standpoint, surfing is amazing. You really can’t blame them for trying it right?
TDS: As a girl, how did surfing shape you? How can it shape younger girls growing up?
OSBORNE: I started surfing when I was about 15 years old. It’s that point in a teenagers life when you start to notice boys and drugs, and you begin to grow into an adult. I used surfing as an outlet for many things. The best part was that it kept me on track. I quickly fell in love with surfing, so the things that can easily interfere with a teenager’s life and get them off track never did for me.
I was motivated to become a better surfer. I loved everything the ocean embodied and how it made me feel when I was in and near it. The ocean gave me a sense of confidence, independence and adventure. I played a lot of team sports, like volleyball and basketball—I was even a cheerleader.
But the of biggest allure of surfing was the independence—the one-on-one of the sport. No one was ever telling me what to do in the water. If I felt like riding a wave, I could. If I felt like not riding a wave I could do that as well. There were no coaches or parents in the lineup. The only people yelling at me were maybe my three older brothers; that helped me become a better surfer.
For young girls it’s an amazing sport. The amount of courage and confidence that is gained just off catching one wave is truly amazing. I teach surfing to a lot of young girls (as well as adult women) and it’s truly amazing to see their attitude and confidence significantly increase after riding their very first wave.
As I continue to grow as a woman, surfing plays a huge part in my life, my outlook and beliefs. I continue to be shaped by what I do in the water. Surfing not only makes me a more confident woman, it makes me a stronger person.
TDS: What is the number one thing that builds a person’s confidence?
OSBORNE: There are so many elements in life that build a person’s confidence. For me, it’s when I overcome a challenge or succeed when taking a risk. I’ve found that believing in my ability allows me to gain more mental toughness—which is key to succeeding on the waves and in life.
TDS: You’ve said that when surfing, “You can stop, take a deep breath and pay attention to the moment. You’re alone with your thoughts, focusing on the elements.” Do you think that people in our culture have forgotten how to be quiet and focus on beautiful things in life?
OSBORNE: Our society is so caught up with the everyday chaos that it can be very hard to stop and take a breath. It’s almost as if many of us have forgotten how to do so. We live in a face-paced environment with technology that is ever changing. It can be very hard to put down the cell phone, take time off work or go completely off the grid on a vacation.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but I think it’s truly important for a person’s soul, mind and body to stop, take a breath and appreciate life. Sometimes slowing down just a small amount during the frenzy can be rewarding.
TDS: You have travelled the world and seen amazing places and met countless people. What one thing is constant everywhere you go?
OSBORNE: We are all living under the same stars. It may be different time zones and completely foreign cultures but when it comes down to it we are all looking at the exact same stars. (Yes, there are some places where you can see more stars than others.)
TDS: What continues to amaze you every time you see it?
OSBORNE: So many things! I am easily amazed! Perfect waves in warm water. Islanders waving hello and goodbye as I peer at them from a dingy offshore. Foreign children with huge grins and innocent eyes. Remote islands with small villages on them. A beautiful sunset and sunrise. Snow falling. Kangaroos. A successful, happy marriage. Falling in love. History. Birth. Life. Death.
Raised by Solimar Beach in Ventura, Calif., Mary Osborne picked up her first board at the age of 14. Mary is a classic triple threat. Most widely known for winning the longboard division of MTV’s “Surf Girls,” the pro surfer and surf model is also making her mark as a host and personality. Mary began promoting herself as a surf competitor while working with pro surfer and photographer David Pu’u to create beautiful modeling and surf images. The combination paid off when Mary became the first woman to grace the cover of The Surfer’s Path (a popular European Surf magazine). In 2003, she was nominated for a Teen Choice Award as “Best Female Athlete,” and was named the first “Action Girl of the Year” by Action Girl, Inc. Mary is also a surf ambassador for Patagonia.