some things money can’t buy

registration fee: $90

board repair: $67.20

new car to get to the beach after van finally bit the dust: $8,700

insurance for new car to get to the beach: $1,100

gas for new car to get to the beach: $50

friend with truck to lug longboard to the beach since new car came sans roof rack: free!

catching a bomb at the 10th annual Queen of the Peak: priceless

watching footage of the paddle out back: also priceless





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It was the best laid plans of mice and men: Score a noserider for Nationals and I’d be golden.

But alas! My master strategy backfired.

A challenge is why I signed up, and by golly, gee whiz, where ya from, eh? A challenge is what I got.

It took me 10-minutes to punch out the back. Not longboard conditions at all. If I hadn’t been “training” on my friends’ 10′ for the last two weeks, the shortest board possible would’ve been my choice.

I caught one gem though. That wave put me on the scoreboard.

Also got worked on the inside by a large set. Someone told me later they thought that was the one of the biggest sets they’d seen all day.

My friend Jay shared this photo he snapped of me in the white jersey. It certainly showed how unruly the conditions were. Head high closeouts to the horizon. My arms flailing for balance as I rode one in on the inside.

Who wants to paddle out into that, right? Local knowledge or not, there are plenty of excuses I could have deployed for not surfing these big waves.

But I had paid the $60 registration fee, my name was on the competitive matrix, and I was surfing in the contest. There’s no crying in baseball, and Mother’s Day weekend makes you call for your mommy.

The play-by-play over the speakers was muffled on account of the wind and heavy sets.

After changing in the parking lot, I humbly made my way back to Wickaninnish Beach with my camera bag and notepad in tow. There were junior National crowns to be handed out, after all. SUP surf titles too.

I found a vacant beach chair in front of the Corona tent and plopped myself down, ready to watch all the action from the shore, just like a spectatrice.







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enter a surf contest


Oh man, I only needed 4.74 to make the finals! Totally doable. 🙂

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get money, get paid


Behold! My custom Orca board. Shaped with love by my hanai Nate Batara.

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change it up


summer clippings

I’m writing the West Coast as a freelance reporter for Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News.

And my new project is called… Drum roll, please!

PONY UP OR EAT IT is in the bag.

Quite literally, I have a copy of the manuscript in my suitcase.


Everything is rad.


sample chapter

UNEDITED excerpt from

pony up or eat it

by nora o’malley

part III

australia (checkmate, mate!)

chapter 6

australia-chaptersix-ponyuporeatit A sea turtle introduced me to a lovely Kiwi boy today at Burleigh beach.

“Holy crap!” I said as it floated directly in between us.

“You’re not scared of a turtle are you?” he said.

“No! It just startled me.”

We watched the turtle swim away from us, then I gave him my sexiest smile. His tanned face was shaded by dirty blond hair and the blue long sleeve rash vest he had on made his blue eyes pop.

“I like your board,” I said.

“It’s not mine. I stole it from my house mate.”

“You saw the waves were good so you just jacked his board?”

“Pretty much.”


“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Canada,” I said.

“What about you?”



“Gisborne! It’s on the North Island of New Zealand. Have you ever been to New Zealand?”

“Nope. But I’d like too. I’ve heard it’s a lot like Canada only warmer.”

“I’m Finn,” he said.


“Nice to meet you, Kelleigh. How long are you in Australia for?”

“A year.”


“I moved here permanently. Got a couple job interviews lined up and everything.”

“Good for you! I’m trying to get a job. But mostly I’ve just been surfing.” I shot him another mischievous smile.

“Have you surfed anywhere other than Burleigh yet?” he asked.

“Nope. It’s been Burleigh Heads all day everyday for me!”

Then Finn asked me the question, the ONE QUESTION every surfer girl wants a hot surfer boy to ask “Can I take you surfing?”

“FUCK YA!” I said.

chapter 7

Finn found a job at an adventure centre. He was now giving surf lessons at Burleigh beach and teaching indoor rock climbing. I was dating a surf instructor! But it’s not like I used that to my advantage or anything. I barely let Finn give me advice at all.

“That board’s too small for you, Kelleigh.”

“Maybe. But it’s easy to duck dive and get under the big ones. I can’t be walking to the beach everyday with a longboard under my arm.” My choice of board had been a sore point in our blossoming relationship…

Read excerpt from part II: costa rica

Read excerpt from part I: california

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sample chapter

UNEDITED excerpt from

pony up or eat it

by nora o’malley

part II

costa rica (buena mota, sabor como piña)

chapter 3
Andre Marlon was the first local surfer I met. He intercepted me on the muddy path as I was heading down for round two.

“Where you from pretty girl?”


Andre was a big Tico. Like Olympic weightlifter big. And he had a head of long, wavy, thick hair. He looked about 35-years-old.

“I live here with my momma, behind our souvenir shop,” he said proudly. Then pointed out their home business located on the corner of Playa Carmen‘s main dirt road and the muddy path. Close-knit hammocks, beautiful tapestry, and tropical printed towels hung out front.

“What’s with this town?” I said obnoxiously. “Why wasn’t anyone out early this morning?”

“Last night was reggae night at Coco Loco. Everyone is still sleeping, mi amor.”

“Such lazy asses!” I scolded.

But I was secretly so stoked. Playa Carmen was a party town, which meant no dawn patrol and waking up way too fucking early unless you’re actually fucking sessions that those Californians loved. Taking it slow and easy was the norm here in Tico town. I was happy to adapt.

“You’re so beautiful, mi amor. Your skin, I just want to – ” I cut my new Spanish Casanova off there. Damn Latinos. They didn’t hold back nada.

“Andre! Can I call you Andre?”

Si, mi amor.

“Just show me where to paddleout!”

chapter 4
Sometimes I get lucky. Like REAL lucky. In this particular case, I somehow got the entire Hostel Tranquilo to myself for 10USD/night, plus coffee and pancakes for breakfast. I don’t know why or how exactly… It shall remain a mystery.

Now, I know for a fact that Tranquilo was the best hostel on the dirt road strip because I did recon on the other ones before committing to a full week. Tranquilo was it. It had hammocks, a nice big kitchen, clean bathrooms, a fan in the room, an open courtyard with a mango tree, and a pool table. I mean, as far a third world/small Spanish jungle town hostels go, this place was a Goddamn Fairmont.

But for some reason, I was the only guest. I had a room which slept eight all to myself. Not to mention the entire compound, which probably could sleep at least 150 people, to myself as well.

The most hilarious part of it all was that there were these two Tica girls on staff cleaning up the place and making me coffee in the morning. It’s like I was the queen of the fucking manor.

I tried to make friends with the Tica girls, but my Spanish sucked at this point. And they weren’t interested on working on their English either. Fair enough.

So after day six of having no house guests, I was considering packing up my bag and moving to another hostel. Tranquilo was beginning to feel a bit like The Shining. Too quiet. Too lonely.

chapter 5
“You’re the hot girl at surf camp. You could really do some damage,” Shara said.

We were catching up over Skype. It was the eve of my 29th birthday.

“That’s true. I spotted at least three shortboards over at the Mini Hostel next door,” I said.

“There you go! As a birthday present to yourself, go out and get laid.”

Read excerpt from part I: california

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