Brett Barley has dreamed of being a surfer since he was 5 years old. Growing up in Buxton, N.C., he began competing as a young man in the Eastern Surf Association and progressed into larger surfing leagues within a few years, such as the Association of Surfing Professionals (now called the World Surf League).
Now 30 years old and sponsored by O’Neill, a popular swimwear clothing line, Barley spends his time traveling the world surfing places from Pipeline to Iceland, but his favorite wave is in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When he is not spending time with his wife and family, he’s focusing on gathering surfing clips for his huge audience on social platforms and video sites.
Roman Gabriel interviewed Barley in his home town. What he found was a man committed to God, family and a passion for the sea. The following is an edited transcript.
Q: Casual surfing fans don’t often think of North Carolina as a great surf destination, so what makes the Outer Banks special?
A: Cape Hatteras is the closest thing to the continental shelf on the East Coast, other than Miami, Fla. Our swell has a lot of power. We have really good sand bars and they set up for pretty epic days of waves.
Q: Who were the surfers on the East Coast that motivated you?
A: Growing up in Buxton, I was pretty isolated. For many years I just looked up to the local guys, like Jesse Hines, Noah Snyder, Matt Beachum and Billy Hume. They made a career of surfing in the Outer Banks at the time, and they’re my heroes.
Q: Can you tell me about your relationship with 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, who is considered the greatest pro surfer ever?
A: When I was younger, surfing champions like Kelly Slater used to come the Outer Banks for great surf.
We were in Hawaii together once, chatting about his surf farm (Artificial Wave Facility) in Santa Clara, Calif., and he invited me to come surf. On my way home from surfing the Pipeline in Hawaii, I stopped in at his surf ranch and that was really special. It was really rad to get to see that place in person.
Q: How has your faith impacted your surfing and personal life?
A: I came to know the Lord at 12 years old. I just knew from the get-go, and the way He revealed Himself to me, that I never wanted to abandon Him or leave Him for anything.
As I got older and saw some of my friends start drifting away from the Lord, I still knew putting Him first was my goal. I never wanted to live life apart from him.
It brought me to a place where I was able to form a relationship with my now-wife. I have two children and it’s a place I never would have been had I not had a relationship with God.
At the time I could’ve acted based on my own selfish ambition, but I wanted to make sure I put God first. He has led me to where I am now, and I definitely would not have this life without him.
Q: How difficult is it to balance life as an elite surfer with a family?
A: It takes a lot. I have to make sure that before and after a trip I’m totally focused on my family. I need to be with them.
I will never let anything come between my relationship with my family. Balancing surfing and my family can sometimes be tough. My wife and I are on the same page in terms of raising our kids and the way we live our life.
For more information on Brett Barley, follow him on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @brettbarley.
(EDITORS’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Visit the Faith Family Sports website: fspn.net. Hear his Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. Visit his website: soldout-tv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: [email protected].)