How Surfing Inspired My Artwork by Heather Brown

Aloha 🤙 Everyone!

As many of you already know, my art is heavily influenced by my surroundings and passions in life. Living in Hawaii I found myself inspired daily by the beautiful tropical flowers, wild fruit trees, breathtaking landscapes, and spiritual scenery found throughout all the Islands. For those of you who follow me you’ve seen the many landscape art paintings I’ve produced over the years. These scenic paintings played a huge role in my career and helped me develop into the artist I am today.

However, what many of you may not know is that I actually started my career with a strong focus on surf art and painting surfers riding waves in Hawaii.


When I lived in California I didn’t know how to surf, though I was always enamored by the surfers riding waves up and down the coast of California. Surfing was so appealing to me because of my boundless love for the ocean and during that time I was in the water every day swimming, and as a boat captain and a divemaster. I wanted to learn so bad but I didn’t have anyone to surf with and I never tried it. Little did I know surfing would become the foundation of my future career as an artist.

Then I finally moved to Hawaii and began studying art at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. I first moved into an apartment that was just outside of the famous Waikiki Beach. It was a short moped ride for me and I found myself at the beach as much as possible and it became my favorite place to be inspired. Once again I found myself watching surfers ride the amazing waves that blessed the Waikiki shoreline. I never expected that Waikiki beach would change my life forever.  

I was so inspired by the beautiful waves and local surf culture I immediately knew I had to start surfing and I had to learn how fast! Determined, I finally went and got my own longboard and started paddling out at some of the smaller less crowded Waikiki surf spots so I could learn and get my surf legs. While I thought surfing was only going to be a simple pastime of mine it soon encompassed my everyday life. Over time I found my surf legs and my love for surf grew even more. I would be chasing South and North Shore swells of Oahu and surfing as much as I possibly could.

Artist Heather Brown Surfing in Hawaii

Surfing in Hawaii made me noticed how content I was just floating around on the outside of the breaking waves, where the water is peaceful and quiet, looking at the corals, turtles, dolphins, and of course some of the world's best and most stylish surfers. After surfing and before I went to work I would sit at my easel and try to convey with my paintings what I had experienced that day in the water whether it be different surfers or the over/underwater life of the islands. With surfers, I wasn’t always trying to capture the best guys out there, but the most stylish. Watching old movies of guys like Gerry Lopez (which Pipeline Style is inspired by) Phil Edwards, Lance Ho’okano, and other North Shore legends like Owl Chapman, Toots in Waikiki, John John Florence. There were many other Hawaii surfer guys and surfer girls that just exuded style and just watching them you could feel their positive energy, joy, and a sense of happiness I’ve not seen or felt anywhere else.

Hawaii Artist Heather Brown enjoying the surf

Once I started to get better at surfing and felt more confident I started surfing at different beaches all over the Island of Oahu as well as Kaua’i and Maui to find fun waves. I experienced amazing new surf breaks, landscapes, and people. Still, my all-time favorite waves are in Waikiki at my favorite break, Pops. Oh, how I love to surf Waikiki with Diamond Head as the background and the expansive sea consisting of every shade of blue twinkling in the sun. I generally only paint longboard surfers because I think the style and grace overtake the “trickery” of riding a shortboard. Because of that, you will likely see people riding on the nose (nose riding) with 10 toes hanging over the tip (Hang Ten). You will find graceful women sliding down turquoise mountains of water and couples enjoying a great day together on a surfing date.

Two surfers surfing in Waikiki beach painting by Heather Brown


Just writing this article has me drooling for waves. If you’ve never surfed before I hope this article will inspire you to try and get in the water and learn. Also, if you’re ever visiting Oahu I highly recommend you learn to surf in Waikiki with an instructor. They will have your riding waves the same day.

Well, now it’s time for me to wrap up the writing and go surfing!

If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends!

Aloha & Mahalo for reading,