Costa Rica is known for being 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 in World Surf League star Brisa Hennessy.

As a child, Hennessy’s parents ran a surf school and had a vision of being able to surf as a family. After Brisa was born, it wasn’t long before she was introduced to the ocean and a board. Even now at the age of 22, she cherishes the moments in the water with her mom and dad.

“Being able to connect with the people you love, I think that what makes you happy from the inside out and really fuels the soul,” Hennessy said. “Bringing the element of water and sport, it’s beyond therapeutic. In general, water has negative ions, which is kind of ironic because it actually boosts your mood, energy, and vibes. I truly believe that everyone who gets in the ocean comes out a better and happier human.”


In just three years as part of the world’s top surfing circuit, Hennessy’s right at the top and inspiring the next generation of girls in Central America. With all that has come her way in such a short amount of time, she’s learning to embrace and enjoy each experience without being overwhelmed by the pressure that comes with her talent.

Brisa Hennessy spoke about the misconceptions around the sport, how she’s slowed things down for herself, the mindset of being the one that everyone is gunning for, and some of the dishes she enjoys making for herself and her family.

Test the Surf With Brisa Hennessy

I think the biggest misconception is just how we are as athletes and surfing is a lazy lifestyle sport. I know that’s changing completely and I know that I see it with my own eyes how people are taking us really seriously. We are athletes who train really hard, and we put our whole heart into everything that we do. It’s definitely a different sport. It’s not like basketball where there’s a defined line or hoop that we have to shoot in. We always have to test ourselves. I really feel like we are consistently redefining ourselves and pushing the limit in our sport in our own way as true athletes.

I would say when we’re tested in bigger, scarier, and more complicated conditions. I think when you have to really not only face those big waves, but also what’s inside and your fear in some way, and tune into your emotion in some kind of way — it’s a scary thing. We see those conditions a lot and it’s always ever changing. I think that uncertainty of not only the conditions but the uncertainty of who we are going to surf next, or heat, or are we going to do well in a contest? That uncertainty for surfing is a very scary but beautiful component.

Brisa Hennessy Is At The Top Of The Wave

I’m in this position now where I’m at the top. Sometimes, I don’t believe that, and I have never really been in that position where I’m being chased. It’s kind of easier when you’re coming from behind. You know what you need to do and accomplish. I would say you have to stay on this leveled wavelength. For me, I have to tune into one emotion fully. I can’t be scatterbrained with my emotions. I have to fully emerge myself in the moment if I’m feeling happiness, anger, or calmness. If I’m in that emotion completely, I can let go and tune into the task at hand. Surfing is like you’re competing against yourself in a way because things are out of your control all the time. The one thing you can control is yourself and preparing yourself for the task at hand.

This year, I’ve really been focusing on breathing. I do it every morning and I think it sets the pace for my day and to not get too anxious, think too far ahead or be uncertain. I think that’s one thing I’ve struggled with and also expectation. I’ve been trying to ground myself and be in the present. I’ve been living more slowly and simple now, but in the back of my head, there are all the goals I have.

Brisa Hennessy’s Training Tips

I don’t have a set routine that I go to. I find myself constantly having to redefine myself in the gym, out in the water, and strengthening my weaknesses. Whether that be at the timing of my speed and agility, smaller waves, or my explosive power maneuvers — it kind of varies. When you find the time to bring it all together and tune into your body, I feel like surfers already have a knack of listening to their instincts. When I used to go to the gym, being honest, I don’t think I really had a goal. I just went to work out. But now, I try and go in there with a set intention of strengthening my legs or whatever. I know now that I need my big thighs for those big waves. I need my big arms and shoulders, and it’s about strengthening and preserving them while still being flexible and fast. It’s constantly changing.

Female Surfer Brisa Hennessy holding a sushi and sashimi board
Courtesy of Brisa Hennessy

Know How To Fuel Your Body Right

My mom was a chef so you can say I was inspired by my parents. I come from a big family of chefs and cooks, and I grew up on the kitchen. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the kitchen with my mom and now, I’m the one making all the meals. I’ll immediately come in from a surf and the first thing I do is go into the kitchen. 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 making people’s tummies happy. I’ve always been mostly vegetarian, and I would eat fish sometimes because my dad is a professional fisherman. I always have believed that fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein are the greatest fuel for my body, especially recently. I just feel my best and free with knowing what I’m putting in my body. I also believe in moderation and balance. If we can do a little bit to help the planet, save animals and also fuel our bodies, I think it’s a great change for everyone to make or incorporate one plant-based meal a day.

I make a pretty good gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi. I make a basil cream sauce with a tomato bruschetta garnish and crispy kale. Making sushi with my mom because she’s like a walking weapon when it comes to sushi. We make a bunch of vegan sushi out of tomato tuna and there are some fried oyster mushroom rolls. We make our own spicy mayo.

Brisa Hennessy Starts The Day Right

The moment I wake up, I have to have a big glass of water with lemon just to cleanse the stomach. I’ll do some yoga, breathing, and visualization, and it’s right into the kitchen. I normally start my day with a big smoothie bowl with mocha powder and Natreve protein powder. I’ll either do a tropical or berry one. I’ll top it with coconut, granola, and a bunch of fruit. I’ll have that with a big cup of coffee or tea. After that, I’ll do a stretch, and then I’m right into the water. I normally surf for about two to three hours. I’ll run some drills so I can do some heats with my coach just to keep it fun. I’ll come back home and I’ll either read or work on my Spanish.

Then it’s back to the kitchen for lunch. I’m obsessed with summer rolls at the moment, so I’ll make tofu summer rolls. I feel it with vegetables and make a peanut sauce. After that, I’ll spend some time with my family at the dining table while we eat. I might go for one last surf or a walk with my mom and we’re back in the kitchen for dinner. That will be gnocchi, sushi, and it’s endless. I always have to end the night with chocolate for sure.

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