3-year-old surfer makes waves worldwide

Story about local kid who enjoys the sport ripples around the world as international media pick it up

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comSeptember 9, 2013 

Todd Gailey had just finished a 700-foot rock climb to get to the summit of an 11,000-foot peak in Yosemite National Park last week when he noticed that he had a message.

“I got a text message from the secretary at work, saying, ‘“The Today Show” is trying to contact you,’” said Gailey, a 35-year-old captain/paramedic with the Morro Bay Fire Department.

So while on a surface the size of a dining room table, he called a producer for the show in New York, who wanted to film Gailey and his 3-year-old son Triston — whose surfing exploits went viral after a story was published in The Tribune — the next day.

Gailey said he’d do it, but first he had to climb down a mountain. And in the morning, Triston had to participate in his first soccer game of the season.

“So we had a 9 o’clock soccer game,” Gailey said, “and they were waiting for us at (Morro) Rock.”

Life’s been a little crazy since Triston became a surf celebrity.

The Tribune article featured the youngster surfing in Morro Bay, with photos and video to prove he could stand on a board and glide. The story of the cute little California surfer with blond hair and a penchant for squirrels was distributed immediately by The Associated Press and published by newspapers and websites worldwide — even in landlocked states.

One buddy sent Gailey a text that read, “It’s 6 a.m., I’m here with my coffee and my paper, and here you are, surfing with Triston in the Livingston, Mont., paper,” he said.

But the attention didn’t stop there.

The London Daily Mail tabloid contacted the Tribune to get permission to use the video posted on SanLuisObispo.com. ABC's “GMA Live” — Good Morning America's digital post show — and “World News with Diane Sawyer” also asked to use the video, and “The Today Show” sent a camera crew that spent two hours filming at Morro Rock.

As news of Triston continued to trend, you could read about the “Thomas the Tank Engine” fan online at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, Newsday, Yahoo! News, MSN and dozens of other English-language sites. You could also read about him in Spanish and French.

Back home in San Luis Obispo, Gailey said other parents greeted the newfound celeb with new eyes. But Triston wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was about.

“He’s pretty clueless to how big it’s gotten,” said his dad, who showed Triston the photos in The Tribune and explained how “The Today Show” was making movies for television. “You can tell he’s still 3 years old because he’s like, ‘Yup — that’s a picture. What’s next?’ ”

Even before Triston went viral, he and his dad were back in the water. In fact, the two caught some waves in Morro Bay the day after their Tribune interview, several days before the story was published.

“Right after school the very next day, we went out surfing, and — oh my gosh — he got some of the best rides of his life,” Gailey said. “I pushed him into a couple of nice ones that were head high or just overhead on him.”

The conditions weren’t ideal for “The Today Show” shoot Saturday. But Triston did catch a few waves for the piece, which is expected to air this weekend.

His dad, who had mentioned his son’s surfing to a Tribune sports reporter before the hype began, never expected the story to get so much attention.

“It definitely shows how hungry the world is for good news,” he said.

Watch Triston surf

Todd Gailey, a firefighter from San Luis Obispo, recently took his 3-year-old son, Triston, for a surf session in Morro Bay.

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