Mary Osborne, winner of "Surf Girls," in 2003, and now, as a professional surfer and UN Ambassador.
At 21, Mary Osborne was a University of California at Santa Barbara student with a promising future in broadcasting, but a much stronger passion--surfing--led her to leave school and pursue a professional career riding waves. Her parents dealt her the standard college dropout's ultimatum: You've got two months to figure things out, or we're cutting you off, and as luck would have it, within a week she got a call from MTV to be a part of "Surf Girls."
The long-boarder arrived in Australia and showed promise right off the bat. She was consistently at the head of the pack in the competition, and when the dust had settled, she was crowned the champion of the show alongside short-boarder Jenn Pollock. Her prize was a trip on the coveted "Crossing" journey, and the Ventura, California, native never looked back.
Now, Osborne holds the 2009 and 2010 titles of the Malibu Surfing Association's annual Classic competition. She became the first woman ever invited to surf the waves of China's mighty Qiantang River in 2010, and her environment preservation efforts--including a 33-day trek to conduct research on the South Atlantic gyre (a mid-ocean trash heap)--earned her the title of a United Nations ambassador. Take a look at what the wave-rider told Remote Control below and check out some video footage of her hanging 10.
What kind of memories have stuck with you from the show? Viewers might recall you getting into it with a fellow surfer, April, once or twice.
There was all kinds of drama, all the time. I wish I would have had a camera of my own. There was just constant stuff, and with so many girls, it's going to happen whether there are cameras or not. I kept my mouth pretty clean until I couldn’t put up with it any longer. I learned more patience than ever before while on the show.
In terms of competition, they were always changing the rules of it. At one point in time, I was thinking I was definitely going to be voted off. I didn’t really always know what was going on. You just had to be on top of your game as much as you could. There was a point, too, when I almost voted myself off, about two weeks into it. We were in Australia, there were cameras everywhere, girls were fighting, and I just thought "maybe this isn't for me."
Tell me about your experience on "The Crossing." What was it like to return home after it was over?
We finished the show in Hawaii, and I ended up staying for a couple of weeks. There was a month's gap, and then I went onto "The Crossing," which I had always wanted to go on. It was really, really exciting for me to be a part of that. [Afterward] I had no idea how many people had watched the show, and I was actually followed everywhere--more than I thought I would be.
How did it feel to be the first woman to surf the bore of the Qiantang River?
It was crazy! It was only the fourth year people had been invited, and they decided to invite a female along. That was a really big honor for me.
In terms of surfing, in general, it is so different. You've got one wave coming at you, and if you miss that wave, you blow it for the day. And then there are boats in the water that you're trying to watch out for. On the whole other side of things, you're dealing with government, which is controlling what you can and cannot do. Without the invite, if you tried to step foot there, you'd be arrested. It was pretty intense, and there were a lot of rules. I actually just went again, so now I can say I've done it twice.
After doing research on the South-Atlantic gyre, you were named a U.N. ambassador. Was that a goal, or did it just happen?
Yeah, everything's sort of been snowballing in the past few years. I was invited to go sail across the Atlantic Ocean--I love sailboats, and always wanted to be on one for a long period of time. And I was with 13 other people for 33 days, which was sort of a reality show unto itself.
It was certainly a test of patience and limits. There were a lot of scientists on the trip, and I learned a lot. It wasn't something I planned on doing. I was invited by a friend of mine as surfer who had a following who could help spread the word about environmental issues.
Across 33 days, I think I was throwing up the entire time. By the time it was over, I was about 20 pounds lighter. And when we made it to South Africa, I was told I was selected to be a part of the U.N.'s Safe Planet campaign to help promote environment awareness. They picked key people in different areas--actors, politicians--and I was selected to represent the surfing and ocean world. That I'm still working on. It's an ongoing project.
What’s next for you?
Every year gets crazier. I started a spray-tanning business a couple years ago. I have a surf camp for kids in Ventura. It's pretty busy, but it's really fun. The camp is seasonal and is mostly little girls running around with wet suits that don't fit them. And I have a few women's surfing retreats coming up in 2012--it'll be a big year for them.
+ Head over to Mary's website for more info on the former reality star, including her surfing retreat locations.
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Photos: MTV.com, Justin Bastien