In our Surf Stories Series, we explore the lives and origin stories of some of our favorite surfers, artists, musicians, activists, and surf photographers!
January 21, 2022
Welcome back to our Surf Stories! To kick off the New Year, we got a chance to chat with one of our favorite community surf group leaders, Kait! She helped found a local surfer women's group (follow them on Instagram @girlswhowannasurf) to foster a welcoming, fun and supportive environment in a typically male dominated lineup.
Let's start at the beginning! Where are you from?
My dad is retired Air Force, so I grew up moving everywhere across the country. He retired in Seattle, Washington where I went to high school but moved to Southern California while I was in college. Seattle is my home but I am grateful to call California my new home (and escape from the rain!).
Glad you're here! What is your current occupation and how did you get started in it?
I currently work for an accounting firm and have been in the accounting world the last four years. I realized I have a knack for numbers but also a love for people so I decided to get my MBA. I started grad school this last fall and I have enjoyed networking and gaining exposure in the business world. I hope to use my MBA to lead me in the direction where I can use my accounting experience and turn it into a leadership position, but who knows where it will take me!
How/when did you start surfing?
When I was in elementary school, I had the chance to try out short boarding. However, living in Washington meant surfing was rare and not as popular as California. To help with my love of water, I was on the high school swim team, played water polo, and a lifeguard. After I moved down to Orange County, I had friends who recommended I get into surfing because they knew I was such a fan of the beach, ocean, and swimming. I started out short boarding and in early 2020 decided to give long boarding a try – and haven’t stopped since!
How has surfing affected you/ your life?
Surfing the last year has become a huge part of my life thanks to the friendships I have gained from the nonprofit I help run called Girls Who Wanna Surf. I met my surf BFF, Cindy, at Blackies summer of 2020 and we realized us girls need to band together in the water! Obviously other ladies felt the same because we have over 600 members in the Bay area, LA County, Orange County, and San Diego County who regularly meet for our surf meet ups, participate in community beach cleanups, get educated on surf etiquette/safety, and even change out their surfboard for our skateboarding/snowboarding/skiing events.
Organizing events and meeting so many new people the last year has helped me feel like I finally am part of a community. Growing up and moving around my whole life made me feel a bit of a nomad and out of place, but surfing has helped me feel grounded and part of something special. Sometimes I just need to paddle out by myself to feel peace and help me meditate. Sometimes I want to paddle out with 30 of my GWWS ladies at San Onofre and chat in the lineup. Regardless of the circumstances, I can honestly say that surfing has changed my life and brought so many positives for me.
What inspires you?
The people that surround me are my inspirations. The ladies I surf with have told me life stories and advice that I will always remember. My family is there for me and loves me no matter what. Their journeys have truly been encouraging and help push me to always progress up and remember that life is about love and giving.
You got that right. Any fun surf or ocean related stories (epic wave, major wipeouts, aha moments, funny stories, etc.):
The first time surfing with my boyfriend was almost my last. We went out surfing at Doheny State Beach and it was his first time on a long board. While paddling out to the lineup, I was giving him some advice on transitioning from a short board to a 9’6 long board. He popped up on his first wave and the board launched below his feet – straight towards my face! I dove under water to avoid it and swam up to his face white as a ghost, thinking his board nailed me in the head and knocked me out! Luckily, it didn’t, and now I have learned to give him plenty of space in the lineup.
My other favorite funny surfing moment was when I was surfing at Blackies in Newport Beach. I remember paddling for a wave and suddenly feeling a sharp pain in my foot, and my mind immediately jumped to sting ray. I raised my foot out of the water…and realized a fisherman from Newport Pier caught me on his line! The hook had gotten stuck in the sole of my surf booty and luckily only barely snagged my skin. He began to pull on his line, obviously thinking he caught the biggest fish of his life, and not realizing he caught a poor surfer girl instead. My friends yelled and yelled at him and finally I pulled the hook out of my foot. I have no idea if he realized what happened or to this day thinks he almost caught a whooping pounder.
Omg! What a story! Can't say we've ever been caught by a fisher line LOL. Last question- Any advice/tips for surfing newbies?
The biggest piece of advice I can give to newbies is to have friends who want to join you for your surf seshes. Having people you can call and meet up with makes surfing even more fun, especially when you can laugh in the water together. A squad out in the water can help support you with “paddle for the wave!” and “scooch back a bit on your board!” and other helpful advice that can really make a difference while learning the ropes.
Kait rocking her DoGood rashie with us at San O!
Great advice! Thanks so much, Kait! We will be catching up with you soon and definitely catching some waves! For more on Kait and the gang, give @girlswhowannasurf a follow on Instagram and join their Slack chat for meet ups!
Photo credits: @thekatcreative and @jordananast
November 5, 2021
For today's Do Good Surf Story and #Feature Friday, we are interviewing one of our fav South African surfers and content creators, the beautiful and talented Zia Suarez!
First things first! Where are you from?
I was born and raised on the East Coast of sunny South Africa where I’ve spent most of my life in the city of Port Elizabeth. I also have Spanish heritage and I am currently living and working in Barcelona, Spain.
It seems you are always traveling and surfing! What do you do for work and how did you get started?
I work as a content creator, model and social media manager. It all started with the boom of social media, particularly Instagram. I really enjoyed photography and once I started posting high quality photos with a DSLR camera on Instagram nearly 5 years ago I had brands reaching out to me wanting to work with me as a content creator and model. I really enjoyed working with social media and offered to run some accounts as part of a monthly content package for some of the brands I worked with, since then I’ve learnt a lot about social media and now work with International clients managing and running their social media accounts on a daily basis.
How/when did you start surfing?
As a teen I was always fascinated and very interested in surfing because I was obsessed with the “old school social media” - magazines! There was this magazine in South Africa called SaltWater Girl and it was super inspiring and encouraged young girls to get into the surfing world.
When I was 13 years old I saw an advertisement in the magazine for a beginner surf lesson happening in my city, Port Elizabeth, so I went to the surf shop and registered myself and went to my very first surf lesson. We were even issued a certificate after the surf lesson to say that we “passed” our first surf lesson, and I went home and framed it! Haha! I was super proud/ stoked of this little achievement.
About a month later I started high school where I met my best friend, Rebecca. I told her about surfing and we decided to join the Roxy Learn to Surf Club together in 2007, this made it easier for our parents to do lift club to get us to the beach for our surf lessons as we didn’t live very near a safe surfable beach. Haha!
When I started university my surfing was put on hold for many years as I only focused on my degree. Now that I have more free time I’ve been trying to get back into surfing again by travelling to surf camps around the world!
That is awesome! What an origin story! How has surfing affected you/ your life in other ways besides work?
I feel a deep connection to the ocean from all the time spent in the water, which is why I can never live in a city away from the beach. Even when I plan my trips, I make sure that it will be a surfing destination. Surfing has also made me appreciate the ocean so much more and feel the need to protect it. Throughout my day I am constantly thinking of alternative ways to avoid plastic consumption, or i'll participate in beach clean ups whenever I can. It's made me a very conscious consumer.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I’d like to have saved up enough money to buy a camper van and just travel around Europe living the simple minimalistic lifestyle. I'd still like to be creating content for big brands but with more of an adventurous/ explorer perspective!
The simple life would be quite beautiful! Any fun surf or ocean related stories to share?
A funny story actually happened quite recently! I was doing a photoshoot for a surf brand and they needed some footage of me preparing for a surf session and one scene needed to be of me waxing my board. However I didn’t have any surf wax on me at the time and we couldn’t get hold of any so I had the brilliant idea to do that specific scene with a round bar of soap (closest thing to look like surf wax) anyways we got the shot of me waxing my board (with a bar of soap) and that was a wrap. I packed my board away and forgot about it. A few days later I went to Jbay for a surf session out at Point, quickly jumped into the water, paddled out into the line up and the first wave I caught I popped up and immediately realised as I was trying to turn my board that my feet were sliding off like something out of a cartoon movie, I wiped out soooo hard it was hilarious… I realised my board was all slippery and still lathered in soap! Haha!
OMG, that is HILARIOUS! Biggest lesson learned (life or surfing)?
Never stop working on yourself, and if you love surfing, never stop surfing! Consistency is key, each day do a little bit of something that will make you better than you were yesterday. This applies to surfing and in life. Surfing really tests your fitness levels, and if you practice regularly you will get better at it. If you can’t get out there, then practice on land, do push ups or cardio to increase your fitness to become better at surfing. In life I always make sure I learn something every day, by reading articles/ courses or doing 15 minutes on a language learning app, its not a lot of effort and doesn’t take a lot of time, but by being consistent you are slowly improving yourself, add all of that up and a year later you will see how great you’ve become!
Any advice/tips for young or aspiring surfers to improve their surfing?
Don’t give up, find surfing buddies/ group of other surfers that will motivate you and encourage you to keep it up when it gets tough! Surfing is NOT easy and there will be days that you wanna quit, but remember that the very next surf session might be the best time of your life and will be the next milestone of your experience as a surfer!
Definitely agree! Having a good group of surf friends that will help motivate you and help you improve is KEY. You never regret going out for a paddle! Last question (very easy!). Favorite post surf snack?
Banana Protein smoothie goes down SO well after a surf! And a hot cup of coffee.
Thank you SO MUCH for the thoughtful and funny responses, Zia! You are an absolute gem and we wish you nothing but the very best!
For more on Zia, give her a follow on her Instagram(s!): @zia_suarez, @presetsbyzia, @socialbyzia, and @travelwithzia.
If you or someone you know deserves a Friday Feature, just send us an email or DM on Instagram and we would love to hear your stories!