Set to become the first AfroLatin to win a world title, Lauren L. Hill writes about Nique Miller's natural talent
Dominique “Nique” Miller was enrolled in swimming lessons before she could walk. Her mom never learned to swim and was determined for her daughter to avoid the exclusion she felt at the beach or pool. "I feel like I had a deep connection to the ocean from the beginning, in large part due to my mom never having that opportunity," Nique explains in She Surf. "I think maybe it’s where I felt most comfortable and calm because my mom had me doing it before anything else in my life, being in the water."
Raised between Michigan and Texas, Nique identifies as AfroLatin. Her father is of African-American descent and her mother Mexican-American. Nique’s childhood was spent in southern Texas, with her mother’s extended family, playing soccer, lacrosse, running cross-country, and track field athletics. When her family moved to Michigan during her teenage years, Nique continued to excel athletically but felt the weight of being one of only four dark-skinned students in a predominantly white Michigan high school.
Although she has fond memories of swimming in the Atlantic and combing the beach for shells with her family, Nique admits that it was moving to Hawai‘i—for a cross-country and track scholarship at the University of Hawai‘i—that allowed her to finally feel a deep sense of belonging. "I have never felt more like myself than here in Hawai‘i. It was the first time in my life that I felt accepted for my skin color and wild hair," she explains.
"Growing up on the mainland, it wasn’t that cool or great to be the ‘dark kid,’ but here the darker the better!" Nique couldn’t resist the magnetic pull back to the ocean. The birthplace of surfing culture swept her up with its bare-footed, easy-going island time and rich cultural diversity. She got on her first surfboard in Waikīkī when she was 18 and learned by eyeing the best surfers in the line-up and mimicking their style, positioning, and maneuvers.
Today, Nique has a style all her own. The goofy-footer is only 5'2" tall, but her graceful longboarding approach creates a queenly perch. She hangs ten with nimble shifts of weight, both powerful and statuesque, and her ability far exceeds the relatively few years she has called herself a surfer. Nique entered her first surf contest with just a couple of years experience under her belt—and placed in multiple disciplines.
She favors her two 9'0" high-performance nose riders and a heavier 9'2" log for the rolling rights of Pops, Threes, and Kaisers—her favorite waves in Waikiki. She’s been especially successful competitively on her 6'10" high-performance stand-up paddleboard, on which she finished fifth in the world in 2018.
Despite identifying as a 'mellow person,' Nique says that she approaches her surfing with focus and ambition. Most days, she is in the water twice a day. "I take surfing very seriously, even though I do it for fun and relaxation. I try to make every surf session a training session. I like being fully focused when I’m in the water and trying to catch a lot of waves and perform high-quality maneuvers" to prepare for competition.
Her goal is to win a world title. "I would really love to be the first AfroLatin woman of color to win a world title. I think it would be really inspiring to young girls to see that it is possible, even in a sport that is mainly white," she says. Nique lacks neither talent nor drive, but funding her competitive schedule has been the most frustrating hurdle to date. In professional surfing, sponsorship provides the majority of funding to help aspiring surfers pay for the expensive travel costs of getting to contests around the world. This is especially true in longboarding and stand-up paddleboarding, where the competitive tours are less established and provide minimal prize purses.
Like many up-and-coming competitive surfers, Nique holds down a full-time job to fund her competitive travels. She managed to find a job that allows her to blend her love of the ocean with her photographic studies from the university as a photographer for a surf school. "For many people, it’s a once in a lifetime experience," Nique says. "It always makes me so happy to be the one witnessing it and capturing this monumental moment for them. I love seeing the joy and happiness on their faces." Plus, the job keeps her in the water for long hours, paddling and surfing around the student surfers. In other words, her work also doubles as cross-training for that world title. Having found surfing later in life, she has wasted no lost time in dedicating herself to the sport and looks set to create a legacy on water.
Nique Miller is one of the most exciting individuals in today's surf culture, discover which other personalities are breaking waves through She Surf.