It took some serious convincing to let 5-year old Braeden Kopec onto our guided boat tours back in 2011… I mean, do 5-year old kids even wipe their own butts? The Witch’s Rock staff had their doubts, but rest assured, this 5-year old super-grom already had more experience on a surfboard than the majority of our guests. After the first boat trip to Playa Grande, the entire staff was simply blown away by the skill level and ocean knowledge of this kid. Now 16 years old, this rising star from Central Florida is trotting the globe and making waves in the surf world. I guess discovering your passion at age 5 gives you a leg-up on the competition…
From a family surf trip to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp over ten years ago, to winning national championships, signing sponsorship deals, and gaining recognition across major surfing platforms, Braeden Kopec is the real deal.
We recently caught up with Braeden to see how he’s grown (now 6ft tall), pry open his Costa Rica memory bank, and understand his vision moving forward.
Name and Date of Birth
Braeden Kopec, June 2006
How old were you when you started surfing?
Three years old, I used to ride on the of my dad’s longboard with him and then he pushed me into waves and I’d surf on my own.
What is your current home surf break?
Ponce Inlet, Florida.
Magic board dimensions?
I ride for Channel Islands Surfboards and ride a variety of their models like the Fever, Black & White, CI Pro, Too Happy, Happy Everyday in different dimensions depending on where I am, the conditions or where I’m competing. All are squash tail and vary between 5-10 and 5-11. Britt and the entire crew at Channel Islands have made me some really special custom boards over the years. Dimensions are always changing as I’m growing and it really depends on the model of the board.
How old were you when you came to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp? Was this your first time surfing? What do you remember most about your 1st trip?
I miss Witch’s Rock, I need to get back there! I think the first time I went there I was about 5 years old and my mom called to get them to approve me coming there and surfing different locations by boat. I think I was their youngest surfer to ever attend the camp. It was my first trip surfing out of the US. The break right out front was fun and so was Playa Grande. My first trip there definitely made me fall in love with Costa Rica. I had so much fun there with the instructors and meeting great people. Everybody is so awesome. I had cool instructors/guides named Andres and Flash! They took me to some great places over the years. Each time I came back to Tamarindo they’d help me up my game. I remember I’d take rides on a local guy’s horse down the river mouth or go zip lining – so much fun. Ten years later and Andres still hits me up on social media which is pretty cool. Joe Walsh does a great job running the camp. I learned a lot being there and it helped me in my early years of surfing. Going to Witch’s Rock Surf Camp was so great. I think we went there like 8 or 9 times in a 3 year period and it definitely influenced my love for traveling. It all started at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp. I’m thankful for the opportunity my parents gave me to experience such a great place when I was younger and I would really encourage families and kids to take advantage of what Joe Walsh and his team have created in Tamarindo! Hanging out with Robert August was so cool. Helping him shape a board was great. He handed me a piece of foam that he cut off a board in the shaping room and said – “here, keep this, it’s worthless!”. I still have it! The whole area where Witch’s Rock Surf Camp is located is so cool. Tamarindo is awesome. Great food at the camp and walking to the bakery down the street each morning. So much fun! Going by boat to surf the famous break at the actual Witch’s Rock or going to Ollie’s was always so awesome!. Great waves, seeing whales, great food, great people… so fun!!
What other surf destinations have you traveled too? Where have you caught the best waves overall?
I just got back from Mexico and I’ve surfed in Barbados, Dominican Republic, all over Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and I’m headed to El Salvador at the end of July. Costa Rica definitely has provided me with some of the best waves but wherever I go I think I always come out of the water thinking I just caught the best wave just now! Each location offers up something different.
Any recent contest highlights?
In April of this year I won my 5th and 6th NSSA East Coast Championship title. I was stoked to go back to back and win the Open Mens division in 2021 and again in 2022. Those two titles brought my overall championship wins count to 13. In March I got the call from the WSL on a Tuesday that I got a spot in the a QS event in the Dominican Republic and I flew out the next day from Florida, surfed 40 minutes before dark at the event site and the next day won my first WSL QS heat against an international field on Thursday morning. I had never been to the Dominican before so that was a pretty good first visit!
Recent surf career highlights? Featured on Surfline, surf mags, etc
I’ll be 16 this month and 10 years have passed since my fist trip to WRSC. I’ve been traveling a lot, competing a ton in California and have been on the USA Surfing National Junior Team since 2019. I currently compete in the NSSA, USA Surfing Prime series and the Junior Qualifying Series and the Qualifying Series for the Word Surf League. I’ve been featured on Surfline’s “Rising Stars”, Eastern Surf Magazine’s “Who Da Guy”, and online in several features and articles.
What advice would you give to kids who want to learn to surf?
Always make sure you have fun. Love what you do. Don’t overthink it. Don’t let yourself get frustrated. Stay positive. Get a board that truly fits you. Find a break where you can get comfortable surfing. It took me a lot of attempts to be able to do the things I wanted to do when I was first starting. Nothing has changed and as I push myself to excel in my surfing or in events I have to try really hard and I’m still trying hard just like I was when I first started. You never stop learning how to surf. And if you want to learn how to surf WRSC is a great place to start as a kid… you’ll love it.
How would you say discovering the sport of surfing has changed your life?
It really opened my eyes to see so much when I travel. I’ve met so many great people my age or 5 times my age from all over the world out in the line-up. I’ve made great friends from different areas of the world. I’ve been really fortunate to see and surf beautiful places. I think my perspective on life is definitely different because of surfing.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years from now?
5 years is a long time from now. My goals change every year. This whole competitive surf thing is a long marathon for sure. Of course I hope to have continued success in larger events like the WSL JQS and QS 5 years from now. I will be 20 years old and I’ll be wrapping up college. I’m really focused on the now versus the future just taking one day at a time. Currently I’m in California for 6 weeks competing in 3 major events and then I’ll head home for a couple weeks before heading to El Salvador…. Hopefully I’ll be doing something similar to this in 5 years too!
Who would you like to give thanks to? Sponsors? Parents? Coaches, etc
I couldn’t be where I am today without my parents. I’m very thankful for all they do. I’ve had great coaches and sponsors over the years who have helped me achieve success and make it all possible. I’m extremely grateful for them. O’Neill, Monster Energy, Channel Islands, FCS, Nixon, Sticky Bumps, SunBum, Surf Station have been so awesome as my sponsors.
And thanks to WRSC for letting me come there when I was just a little grom.
Pura Vida mi amigos!!!
Follow me on Instagram @braedenkopec