Milla Brown is Australia’s number one ranked surfer for girls. Editor in chief Michelle Giglio talks to the Newport local about the upcoming World Junior Surfing Championship in Brazil.

Skater, skier, surfer. Milla Brown just loves being airborne any way she can. But it is in surfing that the 15-year-old Newport local is making waves. Currently ranked number one in Australia in the under 18 age group – and NSW under 16 champion for the last three years – Milla this month will head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to fight it out with the world’s best juniors.

Milla made history in July as the first girl to win both the under 16 and 18 events at a World Surf League (WSL) event in Lennox Head. It was Milla’s maiden Pro Junior title, scoring 19.40 points out of a possible 20 in the under 16s, which she backed up in the under 18 Skullcandy Oz Grom Open. The competition was a junior qualifying series event, which helped to get her selected in the team which will fly to Rio this month.

There will be a lot of stiff competition at the International Surfing Association World Junior Surfing Championships, including from other Australian girls who have placed highly in WSL junior events, like Sierra Kerr.

For Milla, who started surfing when she was just two, it’s all good fun. Even when she is out every morning at 6am on Bungan Beach for her daily surf – rain, hail or shine. Then back again in the afternoon for another session.

Milla and sisters

“I might be working on a few different things, but am focusing on making sure that when I’m out in the surf I’m just enjoying it and having fun with my friends,” she says.

It is something her father, Nick, taught her and her two sisters – twin Jada and Lucy, 18 – from when they were very little, Milla says.

“I started surfing when I was two years old, but mainly because my older sister was doing it and I always wanted to be as good as her at everything.

“I had a little life jacket on and dad would push me into waves.

“All three of us girls were out there (with) pink surfboards and we were the only girls in a group of boys. So it was pretty cool.”

When Milla started competitions three years ago, she won the first event she entered. And it sparked something inside her.

“I started doing pretty good in comps and then started enjoying winning and then I was like, ‘oh, this is actually pretty fun’. And then it all got a bit serious (but) I just keep it as fun as possible.”

While Milla makes it all sound casual and easy, a lot of work goes into improving her performance, with strength and conditioning work, stretching and mental fitness a part of her routine.

She also travels regularly to northern NSW to attend the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre and does workshops with Australian surfing legend Layne Beachley.

Surfing Australia pushes the top eight girls in the country who are in its Talent ID program to expand their moves, using a jet ski to tow them out onto waves.

“It helps you get more repetition because the jet ski pulls you into a wave with as much speed as possible,” Milla explains. “Then you do a big aerial because you’ve got all this speed and then they pick you up and take you straight back out and onto another one. So you get 15 waves in five minutes. It’s lots of repetition, which makes it a higher strike rate of your landing.”

This generation of surfers are able to do more difficult tricks than their predecessors, with Surfing Australia providing ‘incredible opportunities’ to make their full rotations, aerials and reverses quite jaw-dropping.

“There’s like so many things that have never been seen before in this next generation doing all this new stuff,” Milla enthuses.

The Talent ID program also teaches the top groms a lot about mental toughness. “They help me be a better person in general and learn how to navigate different situations,” explains Milla.

“Like when someone snakes your paddles on your inside when it was actually your wave. Just how to handle all that and not get all angry and just hold yourself and always be positive no matter what.”

Positivity and determination are two traits the teenager takes with her into competitions, focusing on herself and not others.

“(I don’t) worry about what anyone else is doing or their scores or what waves they’re catching,” she explains.

“I try not to think ahead, because then it kind of stuffs up your wave. You just got to surf it as it comes and just keep a good mindset the whole time. If you’re losing, there could be five seconds left and you get the wave and you end up winning. You just never know so you can’t give up until the last second.”

Milla shows a maturity beyond her years with her approach. Being a good surfer is all about temperament, she says.

“A hundred per cent your attitude! You always have to have a good attitude going to comps and if you lose, always cheer on your friends. Because before you know it, it’s your turn and they’ll all return the favour to you.”

When Milla is not surfing, she’s skating at Mona Vale Skate Park.

“It’s hard to teach yourself to be a front foot surfer (and create more speed than off your back foot) if you don’t skate. So skating just helps everything in general to do with surfing, and even leg strength when you’re pumping around the skate bowl.”

Balancing school with the constant travelling for competitions is difficult, with Milla admitting she has not had a consecutive week at school for months. “As long you’re organised and just keep on top of it, that’s the main thing. I haven’t failed a test yet this year, which I’m pretty proud of!” she laughs.

Milla knows and appreciates the fact that female surfers these days get equal prize money to men, something that Layne Beachley was instrumental in fighting for.

“I’m really grateful for all the efforts they put in for our generation because it wasn’t going to happen in theirs, but they knew it would happen by ours,” she reflects. “All they wanted was for girls surfing to be this massive thing and they made it a massive thing.”

Even when she’s at school, Milla is wondering what the surf is doing. The unpredictability of the water is what attracts her to the ocean. “You can’t really get bored of it, because every surf is different no matter what. No wave will ever be the same. I’m always wanting to know what the next wave is going to be like.”

For Milla, who turns 16 on 7 November, learning about Brazilian surf will be her next big challenge. “It’s a tricky beach break location, so I will need to put some time in when we get there to get a good feel for the line up, sand banks and tides,” she reflects.

“It’s definitely going to be hard, but I’m just going to enjoy it and go explore a new place and have fun with my friends.”

This grom is certainly one to watch.