Leif On a Mission

Leif. Day one. Teahupo'o. Photo: Vanessa Maranov | Earth Missions

Back in the end of July, Montauk surf magician Leif Engstrom won his 3rd NYSEA surf week title. Winning contests … nothing out of the norm for Mr. Engstrom, but there are a few things that go along with winning this particular NYSEA surf week that make the win a little more special.

Thanks again @nysea_surf @earthmissions @speaquasoundco for another epic event last week!!!! ? @la_vida_escondida

A photo posted by Leif Engstrom (@leifnotleaf) on

First, this win in Long Beach keeps his streak alive. He completed the ‘hatrick’ by winning his third consecutive title — making him the only guy to ever win the event in the three years the NYSEA surf contest has been running. As a result, Leif went home with a $1,000 first place check, and for the first time in the contest’s history, took home a prize that made the money seem almost inferior. Leif earned himself a surf trip to any destination in the world he desired, courtesy of Earth Missions.

Being he had the world as his oyster, so to speak, Leif chose the only place that made sense for a goofy footed tube hound — Teahupo’o, Tahiti. With Earth Missions keeping an eye on the swell and finding the right window to pack the bags and go, they waited for the opportune time. They saw their swell on the horizon and took off for the South Pacific two weeks ago, heading to one of the heaviest waves in the world with the goal of coming home with video and photo documentation, and an experience worth sharing with Whalebone. Joining Leif on the trip was friend and fellow New York surfer, Blake Ferraro, and Earth Missions’ Tom Werney and Vanessa Maranov. On the night before the big swell they had been anticipating hit, we caught up with Leif and he sent us back some insight from the weak wifi signal on his iPhone.


High n Tight Photo: Vanessa Marannov | Earth Missions

High n Tight Photo: Vanessa Marannov | Earth Missions

Tell me about NYSEA Surf Week. What’s it like?

Well NYSEA surf week has been going on for about 3 years now. It’s a cool event put on by the great community of Long Beach, with a big helping hand from the Skudins and Earth Missions.

You’ve won the event a few times now, right?

This is my 3rd time winning ?

Tell us a little bit about your prize this year for winning the NYSEA event.

Besides getting a $1,000 dollar check from NYSEA, I think the coolest part about it is the Earth Missions trip to anywhere in the world.

How does this prize package stack up next to others?

When I won, I didn’t really think of how cool this could actually turn out to be. Now that I’m here, I don’t ever want to leave.

Earth Missions gave you the option to go anywhere in the world to chase a swell, were there any other options besides Tahiti?

When I talked to Tom (Werney) from Earth Missions about this trip, we were looking into going to Mexico or Nicaragua. Then when Tom saw a few random swells making their way to Tahiti, we had to jump the gun, and leave that week or we would have miss most of the swell.


Teahupo’o. Photo: Vanessa Maranov | Earth Missions

What do you think about the whole Earth Missions’ goal?

The whole Earth Missions idea is amazing. It’s really hard to go to a place you’ve never been, and actually figure everything out. There’s always a better less crowded wave somewhere, and there’s always a nicer place to stay. I am stoked on their ‘Score Missions’ model because it puts the most important variable first — the waves. I know first hand how spending time and money traveling to places to get skunked sucks. Letting Mother Nature determine your destination is an awesome way to travel. Their global network allows you to travel to distant locations with confidence because they have local reps in certain areas to help you get dialled into the location.

What made you pick Tahiti?

Tahiti has always been a place I’ve wanted to travel to. It has one of the heaviest lefts in the world, and I feel like it’s always been in the back of my mind to go there.



How’s Teahupo’o been so far?

Nothing is better then waking up on the first day to a 12 foot swell. It’s something that I’ll have engrained in my mind for the rest of my life. It was a perfect warm up for what’s to come next week.

How does it stack up to other trips you have gone on?

This experience is way different than most of my surf trips because we’re anticipating a swell like I’ve never seen before.

You nervous?

Am I nervous? … That’s a good question. I can’t tell if I’m having waves of excitement going through my body or if I’m nervous I might get the worst wipeout of my life.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time over there?

I really want to get some clips here, but not having a filmer on this trip is making that quite difficult.

Teahupo’o front side or would you rather be backside?

I love surfing barrels on my front hand. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But watching guys like Jackie Robinson surf this wave backside is mind blowing, and it actually looks like they have a advantage on the drops.

Have you met Raimana yet?

No Raimana sighting so far.

Gnarliest thing you’ve seen in Tahiti so far?

The gnarliest thing I’ve seen in Tahiti, so far, is the reef. It practically sucks up dry on every wave, and if you don’t make the drop there is a good chance you’ll end taking a piece back with you.

How’s the food?

The food here is great. We’ve been eating fresh fruit every morning and tuna is under $2 a pound so, we’ve been making sushi every night.

How are the chicks?

I haven’t seen a chick since we’ve left the airport. ?

Is Blake charging?

Since Blake has been here it’s been pretty much flat, so he’s extending his trip in hopes of scoring a swell.

How many planes does it take to get there?

The flight wasn’t as long as I expected it was pretty easy compared to flying to Indonesia.

When the wave breaks here _________________.

you better be there

Psyche up song for Chopes is ________________.

Chick music!

Before bed, when it’s going to be huge tomorrow, I ________________.

pray that everything goes my way, and it all falls into place.

Sent from my iPhone**

Leif in the Lagoon. Photo: Vanessa Maranov | Earth Missions

Leif in the Lagoon. Photo: Vanessa Maranov | Earth Missions

Check back with us soon for the full edit and recap of Leif’s trip to Tahiti. For updates until then, follow Leif on Instagram @leifnotleaf. To see more of what Earth Missions is all about and potentially book a trip of your own, head over to their website and follow them on social as well @earthmissions.