Endless summer: Jessica Wallace back on the Outer Banks after surfing her way around Australia
Published 4:44 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2023
By Daryl Law
Surfers and contest officials were treated to “epic” conditions with chest to head high hollow, clean waves peeling both right and left on Day 1 of the WRV OBX Pro surf contest Wednesday at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Offshore breezes helped each wave stand tall stand before spitting spray from the lip.
One of the competitors, Jessica Wallace of Kitty Hawk, called the scene “perfect.”
A former First Flight and Meredith College soccer star, she had recently returned home from Australia to visit family and decided to compete in the contest.
Although she didn’t advance out of her heat later that afternoon, merely getting to compete with the girls made her happy, the 26-year-old multisport athlete said.
In the days leading up to the event, she practiced her wave riding skills on the same southside sandbar break where the contest was held the following days. Wallace explained it’s a good way to see how and where the waves are breaking.
Wallace surfed mid-afternoon alongside of another local favorite, Hatteras Island native Leanne Robinson of Secret Spot.
“Pretty keen on surfing in the Outer Banks Pro this week,” Wallace said. “Been a long time since I’ve competed.
“Last time I did this comp, they didn’t have the girls’ section, so I was surfing against boys – oh well, let’s see how I go this year against the girls,” she said.
“I’m just here to have fun and rep the Outer Banks!” Wallace said. “Holdin’ it down boys – let’s get it! Yee haw!”
After spending nearly four years in Australia bouncing around from one surf spot to another in her van, Wallace picked up an Australian accent, along with a few phrases and sayings such as “Have a surf.”
She hails from Kitty Hawk but sounds like she could be from Phillip Island in Australia, her new home away from home. Wallace said its odd when people along the Outer Banks ask her, “Where are you from?”
As for her journey, Wallace said her quest to surf her way around the Australian coast just felt right. For employment, she started as a babysitter and then did odd jobs in different towns picking fruit and working at a brewery.
“I’ve been in my van traveling, but I sold that,” she said. “It was a dream, I was just following my heart,” Wallace said. “I rocked up to places, rolled up, opened the door and the beach was right there.
“Surf, then go to the next town,” she continued. “New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
She met wonderful people while experiencing her own “walkabout.” Along the way, she saw koalas, wombats, big spiders, kangaroos on the headlands, beautiful flora and even a wobbegong shark.
“I looked down and it was under the reef,” Wallace recalled. “The vibrant colors of the place, all the plants were alien like to me.”
She also lived through some hard times there – wildfires, floods and COVID.
“They were gnarly over there, strict,” Wallace said, “intense times.”
At the start of the pandemic, all the other visitors went home. She was in Australia but not an Australian.
“It was a lot like here,” Wallace said in her Aussie accent her family ribs her about.
“Dad’s making fun of me,” she said. “My sister is not a fan.” Where are you from?
“Here, born and raised,” This is what happens when you “don’t come home for three and half, four years while on a journey.”
“Phillip Island, I live there now,” she said. “But I love it here at home, I have a stable life here.”
In addition to an interesting accent and a surfer’s dark tan, Wallace also brought back a snappy lid called an Akubra hat and she wears it with style.
“I found all of the feathers on it too – emu, kookaburra and peacock.”
Speaking of “kooks,” she didn’t think much of the Outer Banks Netflix series that blossomed while she was away. She doesn’t like the chain stores or “McMansions” that have popped up either.
Wallace was happy, however, that the women had their own section in the pro contest and that the prize money was even between men and women “as it should be.”
Another aspect of living in Australia she liked was the positive vibes most people demonstrated.
“The surf, flowers and joking around about everything,” Wallace said, “and their sayings: ‘It will be alright, she’ll be right.’
“We should all live more like that – not stressing out, not fixed on political topics,” she said.
Along the way, Wallace used social media posts to share her adventures and photos of the beautiful beaches.
“I was just being myself, people really liked it – people liked seeing it,” she said.
Now that Wallace is back on the beach, her posts have slowed down but her followers continue to support her in every way, especially her entering the contest.
“I just wanted to say I’m over the moon with how much support I got from my friends and family and others in town,” she said. “To those who watched it [online] and came out, I love you.”
So, will Wallace go back and chase the endless summer down under a little longer?
Well, she’s torn. She loves visiting her grandma Mary Faye in Ocracoke and, of course, her mom Melissa, dad Jeff and sister Savannah, want her to stay.
“She’s a history teacher at First Flight High School,” Jessica said of Savannah. “She just left that place and she’s right back in. She’ll make a good teacher, mom is too.”
Jeff would like for her to take over the family business, Dare Pool and Spa Services, but Jessica said, “I just want to surf and be free!”