In our Surf Stories Series, we explore the lives and origin stories of some of our favorite surfers, artists, musicians, activists, and surf photographers!
If you have anyone with an interesting surf origin story, let us know and we will make it happen! Thanks for reading along and supporting always!
June 23, 2023
Today's Surf Story is a real treat! In the spirit of telling stories of inspiring folks that we want to shine a light on, we interviewed Lisa Alfano (@womenwhotri2surf), an inspiring 61-year-old surfer who began surfing at age 57 and runs retreats for women ages 50+ who want to re-discover their active selves and claim their power.
DG: Hi Lisa! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started surfing.
Lisa: I live in Portland, OR; moved here in 2004 from the east coast. Technically since I bought my board is when I consider I started surfing - 4 years ago when I was 57. However, I did a week long surf camp in 2014 in southern Spain yet didn't get back in the water until 57 when I bought my first board, the 5/4 wetsuit, booties and gloves, grabbed a surf lesson at a local break. How did I get started surfing – by doing the surf camp yet my thoughts register back to when I was a kid and used to see my cousin’s surfboard leaned against the side of my grandmother’s house. I was curious then but never acted upon it. Fast forward, 2014 surf camp then 2019 fully hooked! Starting my triathlon training at 50 started me down the path of challenging myself physically again and despite there being a 7 year lag, surfing was the next challenge that I knew would not only challenge me physically but mentally as well.
DG: That's amazing! What does surfing mean to you?
LA: Surfing means courage to me. Surfing means community and support and encouragement from complete strangers who end up being life-long friends -both in and out of the water. Surfing means that I get to challenge my body and mind every time I suit up and get into that body of water with my board. I know this saying is overused but it’s true: Surfing is Life! It means I get the chance to meet new people who have something in common with me. Some of the benefits of surfing are the same as I’ve mentioned in what surfing means to me. My mental capacity for extending myself and being scared gets put out there with every wave and that allows my brain to focus solely on the moment. Connection with others, primarily women, is a benefit that is so powerful, strong and very much needed. Surfing means freedom and joy to me. I am truly in the present moment when I am on that board. The benefits are more spiritual and mental than physical for me. The chatter and to-do lists and life challenges are no longer present from the time I put the surfboard on my car till the time I put it back on and get home. Surfing brings humility and connection.
DG: Totally agree. Surfing is so powerful and has so many benefits physically and mentally. Speaking of physical benefits, how do you train and stay in shape in your 60s?
LA: The training and nutrition focus I have incorporated into my life these past 11 years as a triathlete is the plan I use to maintain fitness as a surfer. The one exercise which I consider surfer-focused are the burpees, yet everything I do is to maintain both my triathlon and surfer lifestyle.
My training plan overview: Swim 2-3 times/week and beginning around May I am in open water as much as possible; Bike 2-3 times/week, however this season biking has taken a back seat for some reason; run 3-5 miles twice a week; functional strength training and weights. Nutrition - I try not to eat much processed sugar; I’ve been told at my age and with a recent osteoporosis diagnosis to get a lot of protein into my diet so I supplement with pea protein powder smoothies (non dairy milk), veggies, hardly any red meat by choice and very little processed foods. My diet since I could remember follows more of a mediterranean style diet. I am an Italian-American so I had the privilege of growing up with Italian-focused homecooked meals (and lots of the best pizza!)
DG: Who doesn't love pizza? And thank you for all those tips for diet and fitness. You are honestly way more active than I am lol. Are there any barriers you've encountered as an older surfer?
LA: I don't believe I've encountered barriers as an older surfer except for the ones I place on myself. The challenges of being a beginner surfer in the lineup with surfers more experienced than me is a challenge regardless of one's age.
DG: Any fun stories/wipe outs?
LA: Gratefully, I haven’t had any wipe outs. I do remember being caught in a washing machine type of white water when I first started surfing. My friend and I shouldn’t have been out in the water but there we were and the white water waves just kept on coming and were big and swirling around me. It wasn’t funny at the time! Fun stories- Seeing my friend Sarah surf with her yellow kayaking helmet on - I always know where she is! Surfing with a group of women who joined me for a session from my Meetup group - one woman never got on her board via the pop up and she did that morning. I was there to see her face light up -it was awesome! Surfing at one of the best left breaks ever with one of my dearest friends for her 50th bday -for 2 glorious weeks; the 2nd week 9 of her dearest friends joined us and we had the most wonderful, fantastic, fun time together!
DG: That sounds great! I absolutely love getting stoked with good friends in the line up and seeing them get stoked! If you could tell the younger generation of surfers anything (surf or life advice or both!), what would it be?
LA: Do not wait to do something until you are: “in better shape, lose x number of pounds, can do x number of burpees, fit enough to do something (who defines ‘fit’ anyway!) Especially do not wait to surf, or do anything that you want to do or are called to do, because you think that you are too old!
- You are not too old, too thin, too fat.
- Do not listen to anyone who says you can’t do it because of xyz - there may be valid reasons why something can’t be done yet listen to your heart and gut first before making that decision.
- Include your supportive friends or coach or teacher or expert in the field to talk things out when you’re unsure of something.
- You are strong and powerful and are enough.
- Have compassion for yourself. Surround yourself with supportive women who accept you for who you are and who lift you up. Surfing is a wonderful community of many supportive and compassionate women - seek them out! Join a surf group of women.
- Surround yourself with women of all ages. Women are breaking down the barriers, stereotypes and rules meant to keep us quiet - continue with this movement and be an advocate, ally and accomplice to continue bucking systemic ageism, and any ‘ism’ actually. Just because a person is how society/American cultural norms deem ‘old’, ‘aging’, ‘fragile’, not rich enough, too poor, is not cis gender white,say screw that and recognize it’s been the man’s way of keeping women in ‘our place’. Remember that our place is everywhere and advocate for that.
- Your body is beautiful no matter what. It provides you with the sustenance, support and force to keep you alive. Nurture it and treat it with kindness.
- Take walks with friends who are supportive, good listeners and those who you can trust about intimate things - and be there and do the same for others.
- Surf till your heart’s content. Bathe in the magic of the ocean.
DG: This all such good advice. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today; it's been so inspiring and one of our favorite interviews!
To learn more about Lisa and her crew, follow her at @womenwhotri2surf and check out her website www.tri2surf.com.
May 5, 2023
We're back for another fun surf story!
Today's Surf Story features Erin Cross (@theerincross) - strong mama, surfer, and content creator. Read on to hear Erin talk more about surfing, motherhood, and living a life that you love!
Hi Erin! Tell us a bit about your background!
I’m originally from PG county Maryland but feel like I’ve always been a Cali girl at heart. I’m a new mama and it’s the craziest job I’ve ever had. It's also the best:) I’m a professional photographer and am in the process of beginning a new series for a local gallery.
California was calling! That's amazing, how did you get started in photography?
Since I can remember, I’ve always had a camera in my hand. Started with disposables and when I was around 10 years old, my father gave me his 35mm. And the rest was history!
Now to the surf and how you became Saltwater Mami! How/when did you start surfing?
Like every 12 year old girl with the Disney Channel, I was OBSESSED with the movie “Rip Girls”. I’d never seen girls surf and ever since then I had wanted to learn but we lived in freakin' Maryland! Haha so when I was 16 my father surprised me with surf lessons on our family trip to Florida. It was the best feeling I’d ever felt. I knew I had to move to the beach one day. Just took me 16 more years to do that haha. Moved to LA at the end of 2019 and I started surfing consistently with a surf group for people of color (@colorthewater). They welcomed me, taught me to surf, surf etiquette and provided a safe space in the lineup when not everyone is happy to see a new face in something that’s not theirs to claim in the first place.
You made your dream happen! How would you say surfing has affected you/ your life?
Surfing has been such an outlet of expression for me. Connecting to the ocean in a way where I have to surrender my all. Even on days where I don’t catch a single wave, I’m still deeply satisfied with its lessons.
The ocean is the best teacher. Now what inspires you?
My son. Just looking at him makes me want to be better. Everyday.
Biggest lesson learned (in life, surfing or both?):
I’ve always been raised that in life, nobody owes you anything. Everything you get, you’ll have to work hard, and most times harder than others. It may not be fair but that is life. I think about that every time I paddle out. Especially now that I’m so unconditioned since having the baby. I’m slower, I get gassed easier, my equilibrium is off etc. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never get better. But I have to shut the pity party down and remember everything is a process. You can’t beat hard work and consistency. One day at a time, one wave at a time.
That is absolutely right. Any advice/tips for people new to surfing (or parenthood or both!)?
Listen, NOBODY KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING WHEN THEY STARTED. Remember that. Being new is hard, but it’s also a perfect time to make as many mistakes as one can make. Because every single one will come with a lesson on how to not make it again.
Favorite hype song and post surf snack?
Hype song: DMX- Party Up
Post Surf Snack- California Burrito
Great choices! Thanks so much for your time and the great responses, Erin! Catch more on Erin and follow her for more fun content @theerincross on Instagram.
Let us know an inspiring person you'd love to see next on our Strong Stories Series! Drop us a line via email, or FB or IG. As for us, we are now off to get a California burrito!
April 28, 2023
Back by popular demand: Our story series!
Today's feature is none other than @cariuma surf/ skate extraordinaire and all around awesome gal, Pauline Salas (@myworldaspauline)! We think you'll enjoy her sunshine vibes as much as we do. Read on for more on this sunshine, groovy gal based in Venice, CA!
Pauline skating in our Retro Floral Tube Top and Jazzy Bottoms in Marigold
Where are you from?
I am originally from France but I grew up coming to the US and moved to Florida for college. I am now located in Los Angeles, California!
What is your current occupation and how did you get started in it?
I currently model for different companies (usually with my skateboard) and also teach skateboarding lessons with my carver in Venice Beach, California.
Pauline skating downhill in her Do Good Retro Tube Top
How/when did you start surfing or skating?
I started surfing about a year ago but I’m still learning. My main thing is skating, even though I only started in November 2021, I completely fell in love with the sport and started doing it everyday! And I am so grateful that I am able to make a living out of it now!
How has surfing/skating affected you/ your life?
Skating makes me feel so powerful! It’s like I am one with my board! I started skating after a bad break up so it was like a therapy for me! I’ve found myself through skateboarding, and I've met so many amazing people along the way!
That's amazing! We love the empowerment that surfing and skating can bring to life and the inspiration it brings to women everywhere. What inspires you?
God’s creations inspire me! The ocean is so powerful and is one of the strongest things on earth! As a surfer, you have to learn to respect the ocean! And if I had to pick a person who inspires me, I would pick Bethany Hamilton!
Us too! Any fun surf/skate stories (major wipeouts, aha moments, funny stories, etc.):
A couple weeks ago, during sunset, I was doing my usual line in the snakerun and a tourist asked me to do a different line for the picture and even though I felt very uncomfortable, I still did it and, well, I face planted! It was scary but I only ended with small bruises and a busted lip! I was so scared because 4 days after the fall I had a big modeling job! Vaseline saved my lips LOL.
Pauline in our Pauline Surf Top! (named after her!)
Biggest lesson learned (life or surfing/skating?):
You can only trust yourself in life! And skate and surf for yourself and not for others!
Any advice/tips for newbies?
Learn how to fall! Don’t take yourself too seriously and HAVE FUN!!
Pauline skating the Venice Bowl in our Daisy Top
Absolutely! Favorite post skate/surf snack?
Dried mangos from Trader Joe’s and Acai bowls. Yummmm.
If you could listen to a song out there to pump you up to surf/ skate, what would it be?
Maggie May by Rob Stewart
Love it! Thanks so much for your time and the wise words, Pauline! To learn more about Pauline, find her on Instagram and TikTok @myworldaspauline or catch her skating and crushing the bowl at world renowned Venice Beach.
Who should we interview for our next one? Let us know!
Til next time,
April 7, 2023
Welcome back to our Surf Stories!
Today's feature is Sahara (@sahara.faye), a newer surfer (who is also amazing at surfing already!) from Honolulu. Learn more about Sahara below!
Hi Sahara! Tell us a little more about yourself.
My name is Sahara Faye Coleman-Mattes, and I am from Honolulu, Hawai’i.
When did you start surfing?
I started surfing last year and surfing is my favorite thing in the entire world. I wish I had found a love for it much sooner.
Sahara cruising by in our Pauline Surf Set! Beautiful shot by Brent Rand Photography
Well you are already killing it! What do you love about surfing?
My favorite thing about surfing is that while I’m surfing I can’t think about anything in my life except for what is happening in the moment.
We totally get that, surfing is a meditative sport. What inspires you?
I am inspired by surfers who are younger than me- they tend to be my favorite people to watch and sit out in the lineup with.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned so far on your surfing journey?
My biggest lesson so far is how much most people (including myself) underestimate the power of the ocean.
The ocean is powerful for sure! That lesson is something a lot of people forget about but so important. Any advice to new surfers out there?
My advise to new surfers is to never get unmotivated or uninspired by how far ahead anyone else is. Don't compare yourself!
Thanks so much for your time, Sahara! To learn more about Sahara and follow along on her surfing journey, you can find her on Instagram @sahara.faye.
Who should we feature next on our stories series? Let us know on Instagram, FB, or email and we will be sure to shout them out here! Keep surfing everyone!
January 21, 2023
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!