Mountain girl chases ocean dreams

ROANOKE, Va. A sophomore at Patrick Henry High School will go wherever the wind will take her. All she needs is a board and the determination not to let mountains stand in her way.

Sixteen-year-old Callie Summerlin is your typical teenager living in Southwest Virginia. She loves to hang out with her friends and family, and toss the ball around with her dog, Champ. Unlike most teenagers however, this mountain-girl has some pretty big ocean dreams.

“I love being on the ocean because you can kind of do whatever you want, there are no set rules and you can just be on the ocean and free,” Callie Summerlin said.

It’s surfing that brings her that feeling of freedom. Her mom, Shannon Summerlin, said from the moment Callie got on a board, she knew her daughter was gifted.

“[She] could catch the wave and had a good sense of where the waves were. It was really fun to watch,” Shannon Summerlin said.

Callie started surfing at her grandparents’ beach house in North Carolina during summer breaks, but it quickly turned into a passion worth competing for.

She’s only been competing for two years, but she’s already making a big splash. She’s won several competitions and even received a few sponsorships.

Finding the balance between school and surfing does have its challenges. Callie says she misses a lot of school but has teachers who are helpful in keeping her on track.

“When I’m gone and on the road, I try to do my homework and all that stuff,” Callie Summerlin said.

But at the end of the day, it is the beach.

“Once we arrive at the beach everyone exhales and it’s good,” Shannon Summerlin said.

As a sophomore, college is still a couple of years away, but Callie is already looking at schools in California and Hawaii. Even though the mountains are home, her parents say they support her call to the ocean.

“Surfing is something she just has this passion for,” Shannon Summerlin said. “So when you see your child doing something they have this passion for and they just love it, it’s very rewarding.”

As for Callie, she says she can’t imagine her life without it.

Last week Callie was invited to be an Eastern Surfing Association All-Star. She'll be competing with the team in Hawaii in February.