Nique Miller on Creating the Next Wave
Nique Miller is a professional surfer and is ranked among the top 10 female competitive stand-up paddle surfers in the world. She has dreams of becoming the first Afro-Latina woman to win the World Surfing Champion title.
Nique Miller currently lives in Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, prior to her pursuit of surfing greatness, she grew up in many different regions of the United States. She was raised in the mainland US, and went to the University of Hawaii to run track. While growing up, Nique was very athletic and really looked to sports as her outlet. Being biracial, she never truly felt like she fit in. Since sports genuinely brought her joy, she was able to funnel that frustration through them to serve as her escape and health outlet. Her competitive spirit is really what pushed her through to achieve success. Nique says, “I never wanted to be average. I always wanted to be the best that I could be.” This mindset served her well as she discovered her new passion for surfing down the road.
“I never wanted to be average. I always wanted to be the best that I could be.” – Nique Miller
Making the switch from running to surfing seems like it would be a difficult transition, but Nique did not let that get in her way. When she talked about what inspired her decision to change her craft, she said, “Everyone can run but there are only a few people that can surf.” Nique had tested the waters a few times before when her friends took her out to surf. This is really when she began to fall in love with the uniqueness of the sport. The competitive drive and athletic skills Nique developed over the years carried her through the beginning stages of learning to surf. To this point, she never formally took lessons. However, her eagerness to succeed led to 3-4 hour practice sessions twice a day. While out practicing she would watch and learn from the best surfers in line-ups. She would observe their tricks and habits, to later break them down and replicate the skills she observed. Nique gained momentum in the sport and competed with the best in local competitions. Eventually, she hit a turning point, it was time to push herself to the next level and compete with surfers worldwide. Nique said that being surrounded by the heightened level of talent at these worldwide circuits instantly motivated her to be better. With heightened competition came heightened standards, and again Nique strived to reach the standards that were set.
With a sport like surfing, Nique notices that people choose to not go out and practice because of less than ideal water conditions, however Nique has a different approach. She says, “Every wave is important to me. I treat every wave like a contest wave… You never know what conditions are going to be in the contest, so I go out and practice in everything.” This mindset trains Nique to be ready for anything the ocean throws at her on any given day. Her flexible, go-getter mindset is also important in life. Being able to adapt to the different curveballs life throws at you can really help you to grow in difficult circumstances and come out the other side a better, stronger person. Furthermore, it builds character, discipline, and strength in your craft. If you aren’t practicing then you aren’t improving, and there is someone else out that is.
“You never know what conditions are going to be in the contest, so I go out and practice in everything.” – Nique Miller
In addition to her drive to excel at the sport, Nique feeds off of the motivation that stems from her opportunity to carve the path for black surfers in the future. Nique is one of a very few black surfers at the professional level. While she deals with different levels of discrimination within the industry on a regular basis, Nique refuses to let it hold her back. She says, “I want to really try and be that person that opens doors for people, and I want to be the first Afro-Latina surfer that wins the world title. I think it would be so important.”
“I want to really try and be that person that opens doors for people, and I want to be the first afro-latina surfer that wins the world title. I think it would be so important.” – Nique Miller
Like other industries, there are many unfair stereotypes that have been ingrained into the threads of the surfing industry, with race, age, and appearance being a few that exist in the surfing culture today. Nique acknowledges that, “there are so many dark surfers that are so good, but there are no sponsors that really want to back them because these brands think the market is mostly for white people.” She explains that very often brands offering sponsorships seem to be looking for the aesthetic of the industry standard, which makes it so much harder for people who don’t fit that look, especially people of color, to continue to surf at a professional level. In professional surfing, sponsorships give athletes the ability to fund their travel to world title competitions. Surfing becomes a very expensive sport when you must pay out of pocket to travel to different competition locations. Nique is striving to break down these barriers of entry that are built on unwarranted negative stereotypes toward many black and other non-white surfers that are hindering their access to success in the sport of surfing.
Recently, with the new level of accountability that many people are finally placing on companies in regards to supporting black people and the Black Lives Matter movement, companies that Nique has worked with have been asking for her opinion on how they can be better in regards to improving diversity and the inclusion of people of color. Nique has told these companies that the very first step in beginning that process is to start including more non-white people in all of their brand content, from their advertisements to pictures on websites to social media to the people they offer sponsorships to. This is one of the very first steps they must take to begin breaking down the stereotypes of the surfing and outdoor sports industry to set a standard of inclusion. Often people ask Nique why she is supporting companies where she is the only black person out of all their models. Like she has said about her whole surfing career, Nique is trying to begin to open these doors for others.
“Just take it one day at a time. Reset & go at it the next day.” – Nique Miller
Through all the different struggles Nique has faced and overcome along her path, at the end of the day, she wants to inspire other people with her story. She has used her Instagram to organically grow a large following and share her journey through her content. She has also recently created a TikTok to share her surfing videos with an even younger demographic. She hopes that these social media platforms can serve as additional outlets to encourage people to follow their dreams even if the world is working against them. She says that she hopes when people see her content, especially as a black professional woman surfer, that she can make an impact on their lives to work hard toward their life goals. Nique shares that reaching success and change requires one to put in the work and keep at it, even when it gets frustrating. She says, “Just take it one day at a time. Reset & go at it the next day.” This is important advice to remember every day as you are working toward achieving your aspirations.
Thank you Nique for sharing your wisdom and inspiring journey of how you are changing the world of professional surfing. If you want to follow along as Nique continues to create new waves in her industry and the world, check out her Instagram and TikTok linked below.
Written by: Anna Rice
Interview by: Jason Crowe