Seea ambassador Sierra Lerback was ready to make a big change: packing up the only home she’s known in Maui and relocating across the world for love.
Sierra and Zye Norris have been in a long distance relationship for three years (she’s based in Maui and he lives in Noosa, Australia) and after many tearful airport goodbyes, they decided it was time to move in together.
Making a huge life change to a new country can feel like being a fish out of water; but for Sierra, the adjustment to her new environment has been going, well, swimmingly.
We caught up with Sierra to hear about her new wildlife neighbors, the hardest part about leaving Hawaii, and what she’s looking forward to in this new chapter.
Photos by Sierra Lerback, Luki O'Keefe and Zye Norris.
Afternoon walks through the trails to the open beaches.
Why did you move to Australia?
I fell in love with Australia since my first trip here in 2014. After meeting my boyfriend Zye, who grew up in Noosa, I've been back nine times and have gotten really comfortable here and it has felt like my second home. The waves are perfect, the weather is ideal, and after three years of a long distance relationship, and trying to figure out Visas, with the given circumstances it was easiest for me to make the move to Australia.
How did it feel to leave Hawaii and say goodbye to a lot of your friends and family?
The hardest thing about leaving Hawaii was leaving my mom. She's my rock and I'm hers. I was a wreck on the plane ride over, but I've adjusted pretty well and I know home and family is always a flight away.
"Afternoons spent at the points at Noosa with friends."
What area are you living in and what do you love about it so far?
I'm living in Eumundi, which is about 15 minutes inland of the points at Noosa. It's a small town, with a real mellow vibe—it reminds me a lot of where I grew up in Maui.
There's a huge farmer's market twice a week that's walking distance from our place. I've really enjoyed being able to have easy access to local produce and getting to support local businesses.
"Visiting our closest neighbors, two sweet little calves on a foggy morning."
What have been the biggest changes for you since moving there?
Life has changed quite a bit since getting here. I feel like this has been a major step forward in my relationship with Zye. Doing long distance for almost three years was really tough and the goodbyes would just get harder every time, but being able to be with him every day and not counting down the days 'til one of us would have to get on a plane has been really amazing.
Trying to find the right time to talk to my family has been tough. Some of my family is in Tennessee and the time difference doesn't allow us much time to have a steady conversation so it's been random messages here and there.
What is the most surprising thing about Australia you’ve discovered since moving there?
I'm seriously blown away by the wildlife here. I've gotten to see kangaroos, emus, echidnas, snakes, and dolphins—all within the first couple weeks. There are so many beautiful animals here, but so many that can hurt you as well. I learned my lesson about that when I ran through the grass to our swing and stepped in a bull ant colony. It was one of the more painful things I've ever experienced!
What are you looking forward to experiencing this year in Australia?
We've had a great run of waves since I landed in Australia, and have been surfing nearly every day at the points. I'm looking forward to experiencing my first real winter here since Hawaii never really changed with the seasons!
Something else that I am really excited about is being closer to Indonesia. I've been taking a couple of trips there every year and it is such a long mission from Hawaii. But now having Bali only a 6-hour flight away is gonna make traveling there and to the Mentawais a breeze.
How do you know it was the right choice for you right now?
I've lived in Maui my whole life and feel like I've been in a little protected bubble surrounded by everyone I grew up with. I wholeheartedly felt like it was time to take myself far out of my comfort zone and experience something new. During this whole process of moving, I've learned a lot about myself and it's been really exciting.
Brazil has more than 4000 miles of coastline, but the island of Ilhabela has a special place in our heart. This former fisherman village is where our founder Amanda Chinchelli first fell in love with the ocean and inspired the latest collection’s colorful patterns.
Our Seea ambassadors shared their favorite places to surf, explore waterfalls, and what to pack to this off-the-beaten path paradise.
“Praia do Bonete was really a dynamic wave, with refracting swells, bouncy sections, steep drops—the whole lot. I brought my 5’6” flex tail twin fin. In small or slightly big surf, this board finds a way to go really fast!” - Seea Ambassador Leah Dawson
“My favorite wave to ride my 5’2 keel fish by Thomas Bexon was Praia do Bonete. You could watch the swell coming in to the big bay, bouncing off the sea walls, and finally it would come to the little corner we were in and wedge up into a punchy barreling right. It took us a bit to figure out where to sit, where to take off, and how to surf the wave—but watching the local boys for a bit put us in the perfect spot.” - Seea Ambassador Sierra Lerback
“Bonnette was a gorgeous adventure and the wave was really interesting because it broke against a cliff making it a wild wedge to swim. It was fun to watch the girls get the hang of it.” – Seea photographer Luki O’Keefe
“Between surfs on the boat would always have Brazilian Maracujá fruit on hand. Similar to what I’ve always known as a Liliko’i or Passionfruit in Hawaii, the Maracujá in Brazil were at least triple the size, extremely sweet and tart. I prefer to eat them plain but they’re great with something creamy or in a drink!” - Sierra Lerback
“Being in the waterfalls felt surreal. The cool river water running beneath our feet, hearing birds singing in the trees, and breathing in the fresh air felt revitalizing after a long morning in the sun.” - Sierra Lerback
“Almost 85% of Ilhabela is a protected biosphere. The vibrant color of green was more powerful and abundant than anywhere I’ve ever seen. The jungle, trees, and forests we passed along our journey, had my attention and gaze of wonder.
Anytime we see things for the first time, it arises that childlike wonder, and that feeling is priceless. Never have I felt a green aura pulsing louder through my field. Brazil’s forest is magic, and now my respect and love for it is quantified. ” - Leah Dawson
“Everywhere I go is humid so I just do my best to keep everything dry in my camera cases and I have menstrual pads in my housing to absorb any moisture and keep from fogging. If it’s extra humid I'll add a tampon or two.” - Photographer Luki O’Keefe
“My most fond memory of Brazil was the kindness of the people. No matter where we went, or where we surfed, we were greeted with a smiling face. I have never felt more welcome and at ease when on a trip to a new country!” – Sierra Lerback
“Meeting local surfer Marina Carbonell was one of my favorite parts of the trip. All of us girls bonded with her, which reminded me how much surfing ties people together from all over the world.” – Luki O'Keefe