Beyond the break: Tess Booth finds passion in surfing, solo travel and family 

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By Jackie Connor, Special to the Independent

Blink and you might pass up the beautiful shores of Oak Street Beach. Among the 26 unique shorelines in Laguna Beach, Oak Street is home to not only a marine protected area but also a host of locals like the Booth family, who call many of these unique shorelines home. For Tess Booth, 20, growing up splashing in the shore break and conquering some of Laguna Beach’s premier surf spots ignites a forever passion for the ocean.   

Tess Booth navigates the lineup at Pavones surf break in Costa Rica. Photo/Randolf Stoker

Daughter of former professional surfer and Laguna Beach local Jeff Booth and surf industry design veteran Melissa Martinez, owners of Distant Local, a surf shop co-branding company, Booth and her brother Travis were raised with surfing as a steadfast passion. Booth may not remember her very first wave, but she recalls diving under the waves at Oak Street alongside her dad when she was five years old. 

“Something clicked in my brain and I went under, and…it was perfectly fine,” said Booth. “And ever since that moment, I feel like I got really comfortable with the ocean and started surfing with my dad.” 

At age nine, Booth was determined to join her dad and brother out in the surf, recalling her birthday present from her dad—a seven-foot Odyssey surfboard. Fueled by her determination to be a part of the surf conversation with her dad and brother, Tess would surf on her own, honing her skills, or with her dad by her side, coaching her.   

“I am extremely lucky to have a dad who is a master of his craft because he taught me everything that I know and really helped me to become the surfer that I am today and the surfer that I want to be,” said Booth.  

The Booth family surfers (left to right: Jeff Booth, Travis Booth and Tess Booth) getting ready for a paddle out in Laguna Beach. Photo/Bob Booth 

Her surf journey soon graduated to Brooks Street, a left-breaking wave whose reputation for being anything but gentle precedes itself during large summertime south swells. It is also home to the Brooks Street Surfing Classic, one of the longest-running competitions in the world, dating back to 1955. Booth earned second place in the women’s 16 and over division in last year’s competition, which hosted ideal conditions thanks to Hurricane Jova.  

“It’s a rite of passage. You have to paddle out,” said Booth. “I remember growing up and, of course, being scared of Brooks Street during my first contest and just surviving. And then all the boys and the community members (saying) I did a good job.” 

The Booth family in their hometown of Laguna Beach. Photo/Madeline Javier

Booth recently hosted the premiere of “Girls Can’t Surf” at the Rivian Theater where she interviewed a panel of professional women surfers. It’s no secret she has a gift for connecting with people. A testament to her independent spirit and thirst for exploration, Tess recently traveled solo to Costa Rica where she relished in the world-class waves like Pavones as well as the country’s local culture and natural beauty. Forging connections with the locals, she is determined to embark on more solo adventuring.  

“I feel like solo traveling gives you the opportunity to learn so much about yourself and to really just immerse yourself in the experience without having to worry about other people,” said Booth. “You’re going with the flow and seeing where life takes you.”  

Tess Booth carving a large left-breaking wave in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Photo/Randolf Stoker

Between working as a surf coach for Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch located in California’s Central Valley city of Lemoore, her surfing talents, and her interviewing skills, Booth has a down-to-earth personality that removes any stage fright, both in and out of the water.  

Booth also finds solace in music and literature. A pianist at heart, Booth channels her creativity in not only carving beautiful lines on wave faces but also composing melodies and submersing herself into timeless tales of love and adventure. Her mom serves as her biggest inspiration through her creativity and resilience. 

“She is the most intelligent person ever,” said Booth. “I’ve seen where people wrong her [in business]…and it’s super frustrating, but she is a creative, does things her own way—she gets up, brushes herself off and just keeps going.” 

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