Sierra Raequel found herself in her dark 20s, but surfing helped her find the light. Like many millennials, the transition from young adult to adult was not always smooth for her after she moved to Inglewood, California, in 2018. The West Coast move was a vast departure from her life growing up in Dallas, Georgia, in Paulding County. Raequel began to rely on what she viewed as unhealthy coping mechanisms.
During 2020, when society was under lockdown, Raequel turned back to her Southern roots, seeking hope and purpose from the Lord. This spiritual focus, coupled with therapy sessions and surf lessons, restored her sense of contentment. Now a participant in the 2023 A Great Day in the Stoke, America’s largest celebration of Black surfers, Raequel is eager to continue sharing her newfound talent with a community that has welcomed her warmly.
She recently spoke to rolling out about her experiences.
What’s going on at this year’s “A Great Day in the Stoke?”
[Yes,] A Great Day in the Stoke is a surf competition organized by Nathan Fluellen, who we call Nate… It’s in Huntington Beach on Sept. 16 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. [It’s an all-day thing.]
At what point in life did you think surfing was interesting enough to try?
I’m from Georgia, so […] I didn’t think surfing was possible for me… When I moved to California, I worked at a yogurt shop in Venice and there was a surf group selling lessons… [One-on-one lessons were around $150 for a session.]
In 2020, I had a lot of time on my hands, I was in a pretty dark place. I needed an activity, a sport or something because I was just smoking weed all the time, which is not healthy. I love Jesus, and I really had not been in touch with my spiritual side. So I started reading my Bible again first, going to church virtually and all of that led to me going to therapy. These events […] led me to try out surfing. I honestly thought I was going to drown, but when I stood up on my board for the first time, that was [something I’ve been looking for ever since].
When did you learn how to swim?
Around the age of 10. In the summertime, Turner Chapel AME Church took us to [a local] aquatic center and my mom told my brother and me we had to learn how to swim because my mom didn’t know how to swim. She made it her business for us to learn at a very young age.