Irie Fitzgerald is the latest addition to the Pit Viper team

Irie is the newest addition to the Pit Viper team. Photo: Ray Blas.

Irie Fitzgerald lives the good life when it comes to teenage freesurfers. At 18 (19 in two weeks) she lives on the south shore of Oahu, is sponsored by Tokoro Surfboards, Syndicate Japan, and of course, pit viper. She attends college online, and when winter rolls around, she takes her 1969 Chevy pickup truck to the North Shore so she can surf without “paying the most expensive Airbnb of (her) life.” Last year, Irie dipped her toes into the big wave scene for the first time in the Red Bull Magnitude contest, and she’s aiming to tow Jaws in the near future. I got to chat with the young girl about her early days in big wave surfing, her life in a van and how she landed her Pit Viper sponsorship. Read below.

This year has been quite significant for you. First Red Bull Magnitude, first Triple Crown. Where do you hope to take things next year?

Well, I started surfing big waves last year just before the contest, so I really want to push that next winter. As for big waves, I’ve only surfed Waimea. I really want to try surfing Jaws if I can manage it. I just need to find someone who can teach me how to tow. Participating in Red Bull Magnitude opened up a whole new world of surfing for me. I really want to focus on big waves.

I also feel like it fits my style of surfing. I am a fairly complete surfer. I can do longboard, shortboard, twin fin and style it all. Adding big wave surfing was just ticking a box at first, but I realized I enjoyed that too. I love adrenaline and totally didn’t expect the level of support I got when I started, so it was super awesome to experience.

Irie Fitzgerald

“Adding big wave surfing was just ticking a box at first, but I realized I enjoyed that too.” Photo: Irie Fitzgerald.

So, Jaws this season?

I am still developing my courage. I want to go surfing the Himalayas first. I mean, I’ve been doing this big wave thing for such a short time. I started surfing in Waimea probably a month and a half before entering the contest. I was still learning to ride big waves during the event. It was such a great experience, though. I was able to borrow someone’s biggest single fin Waimea board, went out a bigger day, caught three waves and got out before I was stuck there. Jaws is different though. It’s scarier and harder and the whole tow is just different. You really have to train for that and everything beforehand. I’m thrilled to see more young people like me coming out, it’s super inspiring.

What did you do this summer?

I’ve been on Oahu mostly. I went to Fiji actually in the early summer because my dad lives there now. I was able to surf on Cloudbreak, and it was really fun. Kind of like a relaxing, relaxed and fun surf trip. I surfed at Cloudbreak for two days then stayed with a friend more in the middle of the island and surfed all the spots around. Then I stayed with my dad in town and surfed there too. During the whole trip I was a fan of new waves, so I thought to myself: “I want to surf a new spot, I don’t care if it sucks, I just want to go there!” I surfed almost everywhere on the island.

How did the waves go for you? Looks like the south shore had a pretty good swell this summer.

Good! I surfed a lot in Kewalos because I live very close and since dedicating my time there I was able to catch more waves. But on the big swells I’m going to go to the Bowls because Kewalos doesn’t really hold up so well. It’s more competitive, but most of the time I’ll just sit on the shoulder and wait for a nugget to pass, then rush into the crowd and take it. [laughs] A few uncles there know me too and one of the Smith brothers who does bodyboarding, he’s always out there on the big swells and will call me in the waves.

Irie Fitzgerald Stylin' in Kewalos

“I can do longboard, shortboard, twin fin and style it all up,” says Irie. Photo: Ray Blas.

Tell us a bit more about your new sponsorship with Pit Viper. How did it all happen?

It’s actually quite a funny story. I was at a friend’s birthday party and she was wearing Pit Vipers and I thought they were super sick and became obsessed with them. My dad bought me a few pairs for my birthday and I treated them like my babies. A friend of mine from Northern California is helping them with their events. I was talking to him one day and asked him who I should talk to about sponsorship. He gave me someone’s email, and I sent them an essay explaining why they should sponsor me. Basically just fan-girling and saying Pit Viper sunglasses shouldn’t just be for motocross a lot of people wear them at the beach and being a surfer I do things on the beach instead of just sitting . They loved it and sent me my first Pit Viper package with a ton of sunglasses. And now, a year later, I am progressing in the team. I just joined them Key Players Program a month ago to start producing content for them. I also wear them a lot in general. It’s great because it started with a brand that I really liked and then I kind of got on their team.

They must be thrilled by your push into the big wave surf. This seems to fit the Pit Viper mentality quite well.

Yeah, that totally fits. I think they appreciate that I’m super random but also have a good sense of style. I drive a 1969 Chevy pickup, and sometimes I film content for them. It’s just fun.

Irie Fitzgerald Van

“North Shore ride” includes inflation vest, Tokoro gun and Pit Viper sweatshirt. Photo: Irie Fitzgerald.

Is this your kind of city walk?

This is actually my ride on the North Shore. I bring it there during the winter season and camp in it so I don’t have to pay for the most expensive Airbnb of my life. I’ve had the van for a year and a half now. It showed up on Craigslist with a new engine with only 8,000 miles on it. The interior was stripped and there was no rust anywhere, so I sold my car and bought the van. Everyone keeps telling me to build it, but I just have this mattress that folds into a couch in there and I don’t really want to do any more because it’s a 1969 pickup truck. do you know how long it will last? And the mattress works great and feels super roomy. I can even put my mountain bike there if I want.

What’s next on the list for you? A surf trip?

Not too. I’m leaving for California soon for the Super Girl Pro pageant in Oceanside. I love this event. They have the best snack bar ever.

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