In our Surf Stories Series, we explore the lives and origin stories of some of our favorite surfers, artists, musicians, activists, and surf photographers!
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!