Zoe Chait
Zoe Chait has earned acceptance in the often male-dominated world of local surfing. Photo courtesy Marcus Chait

Zoe Chait achieved something of a dream scenario for many surfers a few years ago. In 2019, the 13-year-old recent Cunha Intermediate School graduate was accepted into a camp run by the Moore Foundation, a nonprofit established by Carissa Moore who is a four-time world champion on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, as part of a surfing cohort. Chait surfed alongside Moore and dozens of like-minded and talented girls on the fabled North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii.

“I met some really good surfers,” Chait said. “They shred and charge big waves. It was really cool.”

Though already talented, Chait was inspired by the trip to strive to surf even better. In their years on their respective Half Moon Bay surf teams, Chait and Emma Stone, a recent graduate of Summit Shasta in Daly City, have stood out among their peers and rivals. During this past Santa Cruz Scholastic Surf League season, both girls won the shortboard title and finished runner-up in the longboard division.

Stone won all four shortboard finals and helped the high school team with the season title. Chait won two out of three middle school events, finishing second at the final meet of the season at Steamer Lane. But the year before, as a seventh-grader, Chait went undefeated, and Stone was the state champion in the girls shortboard.

For much of surfing’s history, women and young girls have been the minority in lineups regularly occupied by men. Navigating competitive surf spots can be hard enough as it is. So the girls have to push a little bit harder to get their share of waves. As Chait puts it, the guys “definitely don’t give you waves, but they give you respect.”

Chait and Stone are among a new wave of girls and women in the local lineup. With years of determination and support, Half Moon Bay’s surf teams help many girls surf on a regular basis. As a result, their faces are familiar in surf spots around town.

“As a girl, you have to be a bit more forceful, so they know you can surf and they won’t cut me off,” Chait said.

Chait lived in Southern California for several years and learned to surf in summer camps in Half Moon Bay with her younger brother when she was 9 years old. She played soccer, competed in triathlons and swam competitively for several years but is now dedicated to surfing.

Thanks to summer days spent with friends in the Half Moon Bay Junior Lifeguards program at Dunes Beach, Chait became comfortable in the cold and often turbulent surf around town. With the support of her devoted parents, she surfs almost every day.

Though the middle school and high school teams compete on different days, Stone and Chait talk and surf together on occasion. For them, surfing will always be a challenging activity to pursue. It’s also serious business. They both have scheduled workouts and coaches who help with everything from board design to heat strategy. Much like a breaking wave, these girls are looking ahead and planning for the future.

“I’d really like to go pro and win a world title,” Chait said. “I know that’s pretty hard, but I want to try to get there.”

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