Malia Manuel is the 25-year-old surf pro from Hawaii who has been catching waves since from the time she could walk. Her poise, strength and graceful style have earned her countless places on leaderboards around the world, not to mention a global fanbase.

When Malia  was just 14 years old, she became the youngest surfer ever to win the US Open, though it’s not just her skill that makes Malia stand out. As anyone at the top of their game knows, natural talent alone is not enough to sustain a topflight career. Malia’s positive, holistic attitude is what keeps her focused and ready for anything (and any wave) that comes her way.

Here, Malia shares her most valuable life lessons, praises the wisdom of honest friends, and reveals why mountain air, good food and great conversation are the best balms for body and soul.

Malia Manuel | Kauai, Hawaii

What do you miss most about Kauai, Hawaii when you’re away? The simplistic lifestyle, mostly. I spend a lot of time away from home, so when I’m back I really love being in nature and catching up with friends and family. Kauai is where I rejuvenate and find new inspiration. The relaxed routine makes me feel so fulfilled.

How do you get yourself focused and calm before a big competition? I find yoga and light workouts very calming. They help me to focus on my body so I’m well rested but also strong. That way, I feel the most confident when I go into competing.

What do you do to relax and take your mind off surfing? As a healthy distraction, I go to the mountains and snowboard with my boyfriend. I really enjoy being outdoors with friends. We go hiking, or hang out on the beach or in the kitchen. Going to farmers’ markets and cooking with my girlfriends is something I love, too.

You’re usually active all day long. How do you keep yourself energized and motivated? I usually like to eat light throughout the day, and I always have a lot of liquids – coffee, green juice, smoothie bowls, protein shakes, Oki teas and water, and sometimes a granola bar. I enjoy busy days filled with workouts and surfing to keep my body healthy – these are the things that keep me motivated.

What has been one of the toughest challenges you’ve overcome in your life so far, and what gave you the strength to do it? After injuring my knee, trying to get back into surf shape was tough. I think stepping away from surfing and the ocean was really hard to accept at first. It took me six weeks to surrender to the injury and trust the process. Then, I started seeing positive changes and began to heal about ten times faster!

What has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? To surround yourself with positive and influential people. If a toxic friendship or relationship isn’t doing anything positive in your life, it can be hard to part ways, but ultimately you’ll feel so much healthier.

“Surround yourself with positive and influential people.”

What’s your idea of a good time with friends or family? Being active – surfing, hiking, working out with good music, eating well. And having good conversations away from social media.

What are some foods you like to prepare for yourself that keep you feeling healthy and balanced? I really like making veggie bowls, quinoa, roasted veggies, sauerkraut, chickpeas and sautéed spinach. Something like that!

You’re an inspiration to many, but who do you look up to most? My three best friends. I appreciate their honesty and how they aim to be the very best versions of themselves, every day. They’re all genuine, kind humans.

Finally, what do you think the key to contentment is? Always finding something to be grateful for every day, and in every situation.