KENNEBUNK — Maddie Ryan grew up in a surfing family but admits when she was quite young, “it wasn’t my favorite thing to do.” For one, she wasn’t fond of the frigid north Atlantic waters.

Then she got a chance to enter a competition in Puerto Rico, where her family has a second home.

“When I was 9 I did my first competition and I was really hooked on it,” she said.

Four years later Ryan, a 13-year-old from Arundel who will be a freshman at the online Maine Connections Academy, is making waves in regional competitions and attending national 20-and-under competitions.

“She is assuredly – and sorry to her mom, who is very good – the best woman surfer I’ve known from Maine,” said Kevin Grondin, a six-time U.S. amateur champion and former national amateur coach. “There’s no one in Maddie’s league on the women’s side and not just from Maine but we can say at least northern New England for sure.”

In May, Ryan won the girls’ U14 division and placed fifth in the girls’ U16 at the Eastern Surfing Association Northeast Regional in Belmar, New Jersey.


Maddie Ryan, a 13-year-old from Arundel, isn't just the best woman surfer from Maine, according to a six-time national champion, but from northern New England.

Maddie Ryan, a 13-year-old from Arundel, isn’t just the best woman surfer from Maine, according to a six-time national champion, but from northern New England.

In June she competed in the 20-and-under Volcom TCT Global Championships at Lower Trestles, a well-known surf site in San Diego County, California. Ryan won a 20-and-under contest in New Jersey to qualify.

Ryan’s rapid improvement has helped her land product ambassador gigs for companies that sell surf wear, women’s apparel, watches and eye wear. Ryan gets swag and discounted products, and the companies get a surfer spokesperson with roots in the growing northern New England market.

Ryan said she intends to pursue as many competitive opportunities as possible and said taking her high school courses online will make it easier to travel and surf.

“I think my passion for the sport is that it helps me in every way. It keeps me in shape and it keeps me happy,” Ryan said.

Ryan has learned plenty from her parents, Bill Ryan, 54, and Rachel Ryan, 49, who have nearly 70 years of combined surfing experience. She also gets tutelage in both Puerto Rico and Maine from members of her extended surfing “family,” which includes Grondin, a resident of Hampton, New Hampshire.

On a cool, windy mid-spring morning, Maddie and Rachel Ryan were getting in their daily surf at Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk. The surf was choppy, relatively small and had inconsistent breaks, but Ryan’s ability was still easy to spot. Popping athletically upright, she dropped in to waves with her left and right foot forward, snapping off quick, aggressive cuts just ahead of the foamy whitewash of collapsing water.

“It takes me away from all conflict,” Ryan said.

“If I’m having a bad day … or something’s not going as planned, I’ll go out and surf my aggression out, and put my aggression into surfing and I keep developing that way.”

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