Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest countries in the world. Rich in culture, wildlife and stunning beaches, it's also home to one of the best surfers in the world, World Surf League star Brisa Hennessy.
As a child, Hennessy's parents ran a surf school and had a vision of surfing as a family. After the birth of Brisa, it wasn't long before she was introduced to the sea and a board. Even now, at 22, she treasures the moments in the water with mom and dad.
"Being able to connect with the people you love makes you happy from within and strengthens your soul," Hennessy said. “The elements of water and sport are more than just therapeutic. In general, water has negative ions, which is kind of ironic because it actually boosts your mood, energy, and mood. I truly believe that everyone who steps into the sea is a better and happier person.”
In just three years as part of the world's greatest surfing circuit, Hennessy has risen to the top and is inspiring the next generation of girls in Central America. With all that she has experienced in such a short time, she is learning to embrace and enjoy every experience without being overwhelmed by the pressures that come with her talent.
Brisa Hennessy spoke about the misconceptions surrounding the sport, how she's slowed things down for herself, the mindset of being who everyone is aiming for and some of the dishes she loves to cook up for herself and her family.
Test the surf with Brisa Hennessy
I think the biggest misconception is how we are as athletes and that surfing is a lazy lifestyle sport. I know that's changing completely and I know I can see with my own eyes how seriously people take us. We are athletes who train really hard and we put our hearts into everything we do. It's definitely a different sport. It's not like basketball where there's a defined line or basket that we have to shoot into. We always have to test ourselves. I really feel like we're constantly redefining ourselves as real athletes and pushing the boundaries of our sport in our own ways.
I'd say when we're tested in bigger, scarier, more complicated conditions. I think if you really have to not only face these big waves, but also face what's inside and your fear in some way, and adjust to your emotions in some way -- it's a scary thing. We see these conditions often and they are constantly changing. I think that uncertainty of not only the conditions but also the uncertainty of who we're going to surf or heat next or if we're going to do well in a contest? This uncertainty of surfing is a very scary but beautiful component.
Brisa Hennessy is at the forefront of the wave
I'm in this position now where I'm at the top. Sometimes I don't believe that, and I've never really been in a position to be hunted down. It's a little easier if you come from behind. You know what you need to do and achieve. I would say you need to stay on that leveled wavelength. For me, I have to fully adjust to an emotion. I can't be scattered with my feelings. I need to fully emerge in the moment when I feel happiness, anger, or calm. When I'm fully in that emotion, I can let go and tune in to the task at hand. Surfing is like competing against yourself in a way because things are out of your control all the time. The only thing you can control is yourself and preparing for the task at hand.
This year I've really focused on breathing. I do it every morning and I think it sets the pace for my day and not to get too anxious, overthinking or insecure. I think that's something I've struggled with, and also with expectation. I tried to ground myself and be in the present. I live slower and easier now, but in the back of my mind I have all the goals I have.
Brisa Hennessy's training tips
I don't have a set routine that I go to. I have to keep redefining myself in the gym and in the water and strengthening my weaknesses. Whether it's the timing of my speed and agility, smaller waves, or my explosive power maneuvers, it kind of varies. If you can find the time to get everything together and tune into your body, I have a feeling surfers already have a knack for listening to their instincts. When I used to go to the gym, I honestly didn't really have a goal. I just went to training. But now I'm trying to go there with the intention of strengthening my legs or whatever. I now know that I need my big thighs for those big waves. I need my big arms and shoulders and it's all about strengthening and maintaining them while still being flexible and fast. It changes all the time.
Courtesy of Brisa Hennessy
Knowing how to properly fuel your body
My mother was a chef, so you could say I was inspired by my parents. I come from a large family of chefs and cooks and grew up around the kitchen. I can't remember a time when I wasn't in the kitchen with my mom and now I'm the one who prepares all the meals. I'll be right off the surf and I'll go to the kitchen first. It's a way for me to get creative, let go and make food for the people I love. I find the most therapeutic thing for me is to make people's tummies happy. I've always been mostly vegetarian and sometimes eat fish because my father is a professional fisherman. I've always believed that fruits, veggies, and plant-based protein are the best fuel for my body, especially lately. I just feel best and free when I know what I'm putting into my body. I also believe in moderation and balance. If we can do a little to help the planet, save animals, and fuel our bodies, I think making or incorporating one plant-based meal a day is a great change for everyone.
I make pretty good gluten free sweet potato gnocchi. I'm making a basil cream sauce with tomato bruschetta garnish and crispy kale. Making sushi with my mom because she's like a walking weapon when it comes to sushi. We're doing some vegan tomato tuna sushi and there's fried oyster mushroom rolls. We make our own spicy mayo.
Brisa Hennessy starts the day off right
The moment I wake up I have to drink a tall glass of water with lemon just to clear my stomach. I do some yoga, breathing and visualization, and it goes straight to the kitchen. I usually start my day with a big smoothie bowl with mocha powder and Natreve protein powder. I make either a tropical one or one with berries. I'll top it with coconut, granola and some fruit. I drink a large cup of coffee or tea with it. After that I do a stretch and then I'm straight into the water. I usually surf for about two to three hours. I'm going to do some drills so I can do some runs with my trainer just to have fun. I'll come home and I'll either read or work on my Spanish.
Then it's back to the kitchen for lunch. I'm currently obsessed with summer rolls so I'm going to make tofu summer rolls. I feel it with veggies and make a peanut sauce. Afterwards I spend some time with my family at the dining table while we eat. I might go surfing one last time or go for a walk with my mom and we'll be back in the kitchen for dinner. This is gnocchi, sushi, and it's endless. I always have to end the night with chocolate.