Holden Beach grom Bella Faircloth rides a wave of success.
Twelve-year-old Bella Faircloth made waves in 2020 — or rather, rode them.
She won Female Performer of the Year and placed second in the Open Women’s Shortboard category at the South Carolina Surf Dreams Tour. In the East Coast Wahine Classic Surfing Competition, she was named Iron Woman Champion of the Year and beat a competition record for the most heats in one day — 13. Now she has her sights set on qualifying for the world tour “as soon as possible!”
A sixth grader at Southeastern Christian Academy in Holden Beach, Faircloth has already participated in more than 20 surf competitions, from Garden City, South Carolina, to the Outer Banks and everywhere in between.
From the time she was 3, Faircloth was already on a board, being pushed in the water by her family. Then she took to the boogie board. From there, it was a natural progression to full-on surfing by age 7.
“It took me one day to learn how to surf,” she says. “It was pretty easy. I got on my first board, the Green Machine. It was stable and sturdy.”
She began competing on a serious level within the last year and a half.
Surfing comes naturally for this third-generation surfer. She is inspired by her dad, Cane Faircloth, and his own surfing talent and love for the water. A Holden Beach native, Cane spent 16 years working in sales and marketing for the surf industry. He’s also a captain and owns Ollie Raja Charters, running inshore and offshore fishing charters in Holden Beach and Ocean Isle Beach.
Her mom, Brea, doesn’t surf but is her daughter’s biggest cheerleader.
“I pack the coolers for them when they go out,” she says. “I’m there to support her in whatever she decides to do; whatever she puts her mind to. She’s got a God-given talent, and I think she should go for it.”
Faircloth and her dad, and often her friends, try to surf every day — “sometimes twice a day when the waves are good for us,” she says. Her favorite time of the day to surf is just before the sun comes up so she can watch the sunrise.
What excites Faircloth about the sport is trying new maneuvers. She admits she can do some pretty good turns and is currently learning how to do airs (getting airborne and launching out of the water) and ride the barrel (riding inside the curve or barrel of a breaking wave).
She is also excited to experience new adventures away from the East Coast. Faircloth wants to travel to California to visit some iconic surfing locations like Lower Trestles, a surfing spot at the San Onofre State Beach in San Diego County, and The Wedge, a spot located at the extreme southeast end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California.
“It has a huge, gnarly shore break — I want to go watch other people get pounded,” she says with a laugh.
The family had tickets to go to California the end of December, but due to rising COVID cases, they canceled the trip.
Faircloth’s favorite type of surfing is shortboarding, which allows her to ride larger waves, ride faster and perform bigger turns.
“What can I say? She’s young and wild,” Cane says.
To date, Faircloth owns seven shortboards, many of which are custom shaped by Kelly Richards at Perfection Surfboards in Garden City.
“He is good at shaping kids’ boards,” she says. “He designs them based on my weight and height. He makes the perfect surfboard just for you.”
Local and national brands have embraced Faircloth as an ambassador with sponsorships.
“I’m very thankful to have them,” she says. “Buell provides me with wetsuits, booties and gloves. Surf City Shop helps me with board bags, pads, leashes and fins. And Sanuk helps me with my sandals.”
Smith Optics and Sun Bum Sunscreens are also sponsors.
It should come as no surprise that Faircloth’s favorite subject in school is P.E. because she “gets to be outside and active.” When she isn’t surfing, she loves playing soccer.
“She spent her spring and summer last year traveling for soccer contests, but when soccer was shut down due to COVID, surfing was full on,” Cane says. “That’s when she competed in the Surf Dreams Tour. It was the only contest in the country at the time.”
If that’s not enough to keep Faircloth busy when the waves aren’t cooperating, she loves to skateboard, skimboard and snowboard. The outdoors also inspires her to fish and duck hunt. When she and her dad hunt, her 6-year-old Labrador retriever, Fin, loves to go along and retrieve the birds. Having been raised on the water around her dad’s charter business, Faircloth is no stranger to a fishing pole. She’s been known to hook a a few king mackerel and 100-pound sharks that are all bigger than she is. “Some of them were so big, we had to tie her to the boat while she reeled them in,” Brea says.
Faircloth envisions that her future will include surfing. Her parents would love to see her attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington or a school in California where she can join the surf club or team. “I want to see her enjoying surfing, and get a good education along the way,” Cane says.
For now, Faircloth is enjoying being able to catch waves with her dad at Holden Beach, looking for an opportunity to practice her barrels and waiting patiently for the contest season to resume.