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Surfer Names Make Waves

July 14, 2020 Sophie Kihm
surfer baby names

When you think of surfer baby names, you might think of the Beach Boys-style picks popular in the 1960s — names such as Dawn and Kimmy, Ken and Vance. But these names are long past their prime, sounding more like mom and dad names (even grandparent names!) than those of a new little baby.

Instead, you may take surfer name inspiration from current stars of the sport, many of whom have uncommon, even one-of-a-kind names that are fresh and eminently usable on a 2020 baby.

Baby names inspired by surfers make for a surprisingly eclectic group, but the common thread is an edgy kind of energy. While many summer baby names are laid back and relaxed, this list is daring.

Of course, many a legend has answered to a nickname like Wingnut or the Daily Wavester, while others have been just plain Bob. But here are our picks for the most vibrant, interesting appellations to ever hang ten.

Surfer Names for Girls

Coco — You know her as a fashion icon, but Hawaii’s Coco Ho is a pro surfer currently on the tour. Coco Ho was born as such, but if you worry that Coco lacks enough substance for the birth certificate, names including Colette, Cordelia, or Nicola would work as full forms.

Brisa — 20-year-old Costa Rican surf star Brisa Hennessy is drawing attention to her beautiful, underused name. Brisa is the Spanish word for “breeze” and briefly ranked in the US Top 1000 from 2000-2012.

Bronte — Bronte Macaulay, daughter of Australian surfing legend Dave Macaulay, is on her way to becoming a surfing legend herself. She’s currently competing on the Women’s Surf League World Tour. Her name is commonly considered a literary surname, associated with novelist sisters Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë. Macaulay more likely got her name from Sydney’s Bronte Beach.

Gidget — Sally Field’s bubbly television character from the 1960s was based on a series of novels by Frederick Kohner. Kohner’s daughter Kathy surfed with the boys and earned the nickname Gidget, just like the fictional version. Gidget is rarely used as a given name, but it would be an apt nickname for the daughter of a surfer.

Isabel — Born in 1899, Isabel Letham was just 15 when surf evangelist Duke Kahanamoku chose her to take part in his Sydney surfing exhibition. This makes her the first Australian to catch a wave. Isabel is a classic girl name, but in the US, French variation Isabelle has superseded the original.

Jericho — Jericho Poppler was a pioneer in women’s surfing — she won the first World Pro tour in 1976 and is considered the First Lady of Profession Women’s Surfing. Jericho is a powerful place name with biblical significance, today located in Palestine’s West Bank. It currently ranks at number 959 on the official US popularity charts for boys but Jericho was only given to 13 baby girls in the last year on record.

Keala — Keala Kennelly surfed before she could walk and was one of the real-life surfers to appear in 2002’s Blue Crush. Pronounced ke AH lah, the Hawaiian name means “the path.”

Lakey — California-born Laura Louise Peterson learned to surf in Australia, where she was dubbed “Lakey Legend” by the locals at age 5. Her surfing nickname stuck, and now she competes under the name Lakey Peterson. Lakey could easily be a nickname for Lake, a water name that’s tied to actress Lake Bell.

Layne – This world champion has a very appropriate last name — Beachley. Layne Beachley became a professional surfer at age 16 and is the only surfer to win the World Championship six times in a row. The added Y gives unisex Lane a more feminine edge.

Malia Malia saw a popularity spike in 2009, no doubt thanks to First Daughter Malia Obama. She shares her name Hawaiian surfer Malia Manuel, who won the US Open of Surfing at age 14, making her the youngest winner ever.

Margo – From land-locked Pennsylvania to three-time world surf champion, today Margo Oberg runs a famous surfing school in Hawaii. She was the first woman in the world to become a professional surfer. Margot is the preferred form of her name today, ranking at number 358 to Margo’s 972. However, both are on the rise.

Rell — Rell Sunn was surfing at age 4 and competing by 14, before there was a separate women’s division.  Her Hawaiian middle name, Kapolioka’ehukai, means Heart of the Sea. Rell was her given name but today would be a one-of-a-kind choice. Rell would work as a unique nickname for names such as Estrella, Fiorella, or Mirella.

Sally — The top-ranked female surfer in the world, Sally Fitzgibbons has been winning surfing titles since she was 14 years old. The name Sally last peaked in 1939, meaning it’s almost ready for a full-on revival. It’ll be a few years before Sally breaks back into the Top 1000, but now’s the time to act if you’re looking to get in ahead of the curve.

Silvana – Brazil’s Silvana Lima is one of several South American women currently making a mark in the sport. This silvery, sophisticated name has a natural touch, meaning “from the forest.” Cute nickname Silvie is a bonus.

Sofia – Peru’s most famous surfer, an International Hall of Fame inductee, and the first South American woman to make waves. The name Sofia is an international powerhouse, ranking within the Top 100 in over a dozen countries worldwide. In the US, Sofia is on the decline, along with former top girl name Sophia.

Surfer Names for Boys

Alejo – Brazilian-born surfer Alejo Muniz puts a fresh spin on Alex. Alejo is traditionally used as a nickname for Alejandro, the Spanish variation of Alexander. But it works just as well as an independent name, as it is for Muniz. We think Alejo is one of the most intriguing boy names that end in O.

Beau — Son of the legendary Nat Young — who tried to register surfing as a religion — Beau Young is a champion in his own right.  He appeared in The Endless Summer II, a remake of the 1966 classic road trip flick. Beau is currently on the rise in the US, ranking at number 151 and rising.

Bede — Bede Durbidge is an Australian pro surfer with the name of a venerable monk. Despite having a distinctive name, Durbidge also answers to nicknames, including Durbo and Bej. His first name, Bede, rhyme with “bead.” It was given to fewer than five baby boys in the last year on record.

Duke — He’s surfing royalty, but Duke is no title – he inherited his given name from his dad.  The senior Duke Kahanamoku was born in 1869 when Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was visiting Hawaii. Duke Jr. won Olympic gold medals in swimming, then used his fame to export surfing around the world. Coming in at number 531, Duke is currently at an all-time popularity high in the United States.

Italo — Brazilian pro surfer Italo Ferreira is one of the most famous bearers of his uncommon name, along with Italian writer Italo Calvino. Meaning “from Italy,” Italo would make a strong choice for a boy of Italian origin. Or not — if we all can embrace Roman, why not Italo?

Jadson — Jadson Andre is a Brazilian surfer currently competing internationally. His name, though rare in the US, is not unheard of in Brazil — he shares it with soccer star Jádson Rodrigues da Silva. Jadson would make an uncommon but on-trend alternative to Jackson.

Kai — Australia’s Kai Otton sports the kind of wild curling blonde hair that you’d imagine on a pro surfer. His name, too, is perfect for his profession, with its Hawaiian origins and “sea” meaning. The 2019 data is yet to be released, but Kai is poised to break into the Top 100.

Kanoa — Kanoa Igarashi is a young Japanese American who will be competing in next year’s Summer Olympics. His unisex Hawaiian name means “the free one” and could lead to the covetable nickname Noa.

Kelly — Arguably the best surfer competing today, Kelly Slater could encourage parents to reconsider Kelly for a son. Kelly dropped out of the Top 1000 for boys in 2002 and continues to fall in popularity for girls, currently ranking at number 618. His occupational surname, Slater, is another sporting option, one that is surprisingly even less common than Kelly for a boy.

Laird — Laird Hamilton is one of the best-known surfers of our time, thanks to movie appearances like 2002’s cameo in Die Another DayLaird’s name is a Scottish twist on Lord, and more common in the US as a surname than as a first name.

Maz — A four-time New Zealand champ, Maz Quinn comes from a family of surfers. His short and energetic name, with the zippy Z ending, makes an unexpected alternative to Max. It could work as a nickname for names such as Tomaz or Dalmazio.

Miki — Miki “Da Cat” Dora was born Miklos and made his mark back in the 1950s and 60s, appearing in 1966’s classic surf film The Endless Summer. Miki is traditionally a feminine Japanese name, but in this day and age, we see Miki working for a boy or a girl.

Owl – Shortboard innovator Craig Elmer Chapman is better known as Owl. If Fox and Finch are options, why not this wise choice?

Taj – Retired Australian surfer Taj Burrow has helped boost the name in his native country. Taj comes from an Arabic word for crown. Despite its sleekness and regality, Taj is a surprisingly rare choice in the US. Actor Jonathan Tucker and his wife Tara used it as a middle name for their son Hayes, twin to India Moss.

What are your favorite surf-inspired baby names?

About the author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top middle names of 2019, the top baby names in each state, and the hottest nickname names of 2018. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at sophie@nameberry.com. Sophie lives in Chicago.

View all of Sophie Kihm's articles

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