Kelley O’Hara is a World Cup champion and an Olympic gold medalist in soccer, but she called something else “the best feeling ever” — surfing.
The 2016 Olympic hopeful, who also enjoys biking, is a true outdoorswoman.
O’Hara, a Georgia native, said she discovered surfing during her time at Stanford and later started hitting the water with U.S. women’s national team member Tobin Heath.
“Tobin and I lived together in L.A. between our junior and senior year because we were playing for — I don’t even know what league it was in — a team there, and we just went every single morning and would just go,” O’Hara told Newsday during a media tour to promote Coppertone. “We were terrible, but we loved it. We loved being in the water, and kind of just got addicted to it.”
For O’Hara, riding the waves is an escape from stadiums filled with tens of thousands of fans.
“It’s very calming and it kind of is just like a really good reset for me. It’s nice to just get away, be in the water, be in nature,” she said. “It’s just nice to step away from everything. You can’t have your phone there, you’re not competing against anyone. You’re just in nature enjoying it. It’s the best feeling ever.”
O’Hara was limited to 561 minutes over seven matches in 2013 because of an ankle injury, but the setback had its benefits.
While she was rehabbing her ankle, O’Hara, who currently lives in New Jersey, lived in Park Slope, which is when she got into biking.
“I would bike from there across the bridge — the Manhattan Bridge, not Brooklyn [Bridge]. That’s brutal to bike over. Do not do that,” she said. “Actually, everyone should bike over that once just to experience it. But then I would bike to the Upper East Side because I would do my rehab for my ankle there. . . . Then once I was a little bit more mobile, I would just kind of do whatever. I used to bike a lot in Central Park, and I would just do laps of that. It’s a pretty good little loop. That’s one of my favorites to do, especially during the fall with all the leaves changing and stuff. It’s gorgeous.”
While surfing and biking take O’Hara’s mind off soccer, that’s primarily what she’s thinking about now with the 2016 Rio Olympics less than 100 days away.
O’Hara was a member of the 20-player CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiying Championship squad that took gold in February, but the team gets cut to 18 players for the Olympics.
“It’s my main goal at the moment, to make the roster, and then hopefully once that happens, win a gold medal,” she said. “It’s a very competitive roster to make, but knock on wood, I’ll be there.”