9-year-old N.J. surfer catches waves for 150 days straight — and counting

Nine-year-old Carter Doorley, of Brigantine, made a bet in March that he could surf 100 days before school started again. He met that goal in early September, and kept on surfing.

On Wednesday, this fourth grader celebrated his 150th consecutive day of catching waves.

When schools were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, many kids and parents were left wondering what they could do with their time, and do in a safe manner. Carter’s mom, Dawn Doorley, felt it was a safe activity to do during quarantine since it’s more or less a solitary sport. And while most parks were closed, Brigantine’s beach was still open.

“Since quarantine, I really had nothing to do,” said Carter. “So I started surfing because it was a thing I loved to do.”

Carter Doorley, 9, of Brigantine, poses for a photo before heading out to surf his 150th consecutive day, Wednesday,
Oct. 21, 2020. Carter set out to surf 100 days in a row after the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools and parks

Dawn admits that when he first thought up this idea, she kind of laughed it off. Carter has been diagnosed with ADHD and it’s been hard to find any activity to keep him interested in for any length of time.

“But this has really stuck with him,” she said. “Before we knew it, it was like day 50 and I’m like ‘he may actually do this’ and then he just hasn’t given up. Even on rainy days he’s like ‘let’s go, I’m ready to go.’”

Surfing conditions vary from day to day — and even from hour to hour — with some days having very little wave action. The 150th day may have fallen into that category, where he spent a little time sitting on his surf board, eagerly anticipating the next wave he could try to ride along the Cove beach in Absecon Inlet.

“Very fun,” Carter said with a smile after surfing for nearly an hour. The less-than-ideal wave conditions — “maybe a foot or two, but very long” — didn’t stop him from having fun.

Nine-year-old Carter Doorley, of Brigantine, smiles as he paddles to catch a wave on his 150th consecutive day of surfing, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

However, with the active hurricane season this year, there have been some days where the rough surf could have stopped him in his tracks. But his parents planned ahead and looked for a window each day when it would be safe for him to catch even just a few waves.

“If you don’t get up at 7 a.m., you’re done for the day because it’s not safe,” Dawn said she had to tell him on a few occasions. That may have stopped some kids, but not Carter.

“It’s a big goal for a little kid,” she said. And the amount of support he’s received from the surfing community has been overwhelming. Local pro surfer Ben Gravy chats with him all the time and local surf shops and have been supportive as well. A family friend went out with him frequently, coaching him and getting him out of his comfort zone.

“Carter’s fearless," Dawn said. "He’s always been fearless, and he’s not scared of anything, which is crazy. Even during the hurricanes, he’s like ‘one more (wave)’ and we’re like ‘no, get out!’”

Nine-year-old Carter Doorley, of Brigantine, is silhouetted as he waits to catch a wave in Absecon Inlet off the
Cove beach in Brigantine, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. This marked Carter's 150th consecutive day of surfing.

Surfing 150 days straight has not been the only surfing accomplishment for Carter this year. In August, he competed in the Brigantine Surf Jam for the second time as a surfer — and became the youngest Super Heat winner in event history. There are several age groups, from 10 and under through adult, who compete in individual heats, and the winners of those heats compete in the Super Heat at the end of the event to determine the champion of the Surf Jam.

He wasn’t looking to win, he said. “I just wanted to have fun.”

“He didn’t even catch a wave last year, he went out so far people couldn’t even see him,” Dawn said. “And then the turnaround this year, to win the entire thing, was insane. He cried, it was very emotional.”

Carter Doorley, of Brigantine, catches a wave off the Cove beach in Brigantine, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. This marked his 150th consecutive day of surfing.

So what’s next for Carter? Well, he’s now set his goal at 400 consecutive days of hitting the waves, but they’ve decided to break down that goal in smaller increments for the time being. Two hundred is the next marker to hit, then 250, 300, 365 and 400, he said.

His mom created an Instagram account for him — @cartercatcheswaves — to document his journey. She runs the account, monitoring comments, but she lets him comment under her supervision.

“It’s just amazing how many people are now invested in what Carter’s doing — a 9-year-old,” his mom said. “They’ve been super amazing, like these tough surfer guys, pushing Carter. It’s just been awesome.”

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