“It’s pumping…it’s overhead. Get up dad, let’s go!” This morning scenario repeats with some frequency during the winter months when the cold fronts push the swell all the way to South Florida. Joonas, the energetic and determined 14-year-old, is up at dawn (5:30am) checking the surf cams and ready to wake up his dad. There is just enough light (and time) to get a full surf session in before the school starts at 9:30am.
Growing up in Florida, Joonas has spent most of his childhood at the beach and in the water having fun on surfboards, boogie boards, skim boards, and paddle boards. But on his 10th birthday something special happened. He got his uncle’s 90s custom surfboard as a birthday present. That sparked a new level of stoke in his surfing – since then, Joonas has been in the water whether it’s 10-foot (3m) and hollow or a knee-high wind chop.
Joonas loves to surf the unique South Florida refraction swell that transforms local surf spots into long lefts, generating even occasional barrels. He is always looking for the biggest wave to ride or a barrel to sneak into. Though Joonas has surfed in various types of waves throughout Florida, he has not yet had a chance to experience world class waves, except on a short trip to Portugal in 2022. Getting barreled in Super Tubos was the highlight of the trip. Joonas is dreaming of taking a surf trip to one of the epic surf spots around the world (Fiji, Indo, Hawaii) – and getting more experience in world class waves.
Joonas started competing in the fall of 2020. He entered the Gnarly Charley beginning series and almost immediately made finals and started winning events. One of the highlights was first place at Gnarly Charley Jr. Pro division in 2021 – which earned him $200 cash price.
Shortly after, Joonas began to compete in the local ESA (Eastern Surfing Association) chapter placing 2nd in U12 boys for ESA Palm Beach for the 2021 season. In 2021-22 season he placed 3rd in U14 series. In 2023 season Joonas has already placed 1st in U18, and Open Shortboard categories. Joonas has also competed in the NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) events. He has won a local event in 2022 (e.g. SE/North 2nd event) and placed in the Top 10 in the NSSA East Coast Open Boys Championship in 2021-2022.
Joonas’s biggest accomplishment so far is qualifying for the USA Prime Series in the Fall 2022. This is the highest-ranking junior series on the East Coast (with an equivalent on the West Coast). Joonas surfed really well in first contest in New Jersey and gained valuable experience competing against the best surfers on the East Coast.
It became evident that surfing in the USA Prime required a new level of commitment. As a result, Joonas began training with a Brazilian Surf Coach, Michel Flores. They are currently focusing on small wave technique, mental focus, and competition strategies. Working with Coach Michel has been a tremendous help though it requires driving to Ft. Pierce (1.5hrs) weekly for training and better waves.
Joonas’ short-term goals are qualifying for national finals (USA Prime and NSSA) in California in June 2023/2024. He is also eying the ISA World Junior Championship contest in El Salvador for 2023 or 2024. Joonas’ dream and long-term goal is to represent Finland in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Joonas is thankful for his current sponsors Wind & Waves Finland, Offshore, American Surf Solutions, and Absolute Insurance Inc. They have provided gear and covered some contest fees. However, more sponsors are needed to help Joonas get to the next level in his surfing career and fulfill his dreams.
Through Joonas’ excitement and passion for surfing, he has motivated many friends to pick up the sport. Many kids who used to spend their time playing video games are now messaging Joonas about going surfing. Their parents have been grateful for this positive influence. He has even influenced his little brother Jesaja and his dad Esa to also start competing in surfing.
When the waves are not pumping, Joonas spends his time skateboarding and fishing with friends. Joonas’ love for surfing is contagious and he is ready to take his surfing career to the next level. You can follow him on instagram @Joonas_Autero where he regularly posts photos and videos of his surfing taken by local surf photographers. Some of his surfing videos are also found in the family YouTube channel Flyfinn Adventures.