HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At just 14 years old, Haley Otto was named the 2018 USA Surfing Longboard Champion (under the age of 18).
She walked through the airport terminal, trophy in hand, and was greeted by friends and family with loud yells and happy cheers.
Before the national competition, however, the Waikiki resident wasn't even considered to be a top underage surfer in the state.
She made it to the final rounds of the Hawaii Surfing Association state championships, but didn't claim a spot in the top six . That's what she needed to automatically qualify for the championship in Oceanside, Calif.
Still, she was just a 14-year-old competing against girls who were 15, 16 and 17.
Later, she got an email inviting her to the national competition anyway. Her father said she was the youngest in her division of 20 surfers at the Oceanside championship.
"I didn't know I won, actually, until I got onto the beach," Otto recalled. "I was in fourth the whole time and then I caught two waves and that put me in first."
When she finally got to shore at the end of the competition, cheers and yells of victory reassured her of the champion title.
Some may be surprised that a girl so young could win a title so big, but Haley's father wasn't.
"She may be the youngest, but she has the heart of a tiger," her father, Randy Otto, said.
The family moved to Waikiki about six or seven years ago. Haley Otto was 8-years-old at the time.
She took to the ocean soon after.
"She got a couple of waves and fell in love with it," Randy Otto said.
Haley Otto believes that age doesn't holder her back, and she encourages others to pursue their hopes.
"Follow your dreams," she said. "And just don't give up."