Sirenas del surf surfer girls smiling on the beach

Sirenas del Surf, a Wave of Sisterhood in Ecuador

Sirenas del Surf is a surf community and blog for women who surf or want to learn how to surf based in Ecuador. This group aims to encourage women to get together and surf together. Below you can read more about how Iva, founder of Sirenas, came to the idea of founding her group and website.

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Today I write from my soul. Sirenas means so much to me, not sure I will be able to put into words my feelings.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Sirenas del Surf means Surf mermaids in Spanish. It was an idea born during the pandemic, like many other good things. It was a rough year, but many of us found inspiration and decided to do something good with so much time isolated.

I asked myself: -What can I do if I cannot surf?

So, I started a blog for women who surf or want to learn: Sirenas del Surf, a wave of sisterhood.

I narrated my experiences about fears, wipeouts, surf etiquette, choosing the right board, and so on.

Later, when the pandemic was getting less severe, we were able to go to the closer beach with my friend Yami.

We met with Yami by divine coincidence. ✨ I was looking for someone with a car to drive to the beach (there were no buses allowed at that time, of course), and Yami was looking for someone to teach her to surf. Voilà!

We escaped every weekend of this pandemic and had the best times of our lives, in a remote fishing town in Ecuador. Free of masks, and with few locals.

We surfed. We laughed. We drank mate. We watched sunsets. We became sisters. ☀

And I found more inspiration to create content and motivate other surf girls, that we all soon would be on the water together.

Long story short, I quit my job, moved to the beach and started working on growing this community and giving surf lessons.

Now, I look back in time, and my heart explodes with joy. 🥰

surfer girls dancing on the beach

I created Sirenas with 2 purposes:

  1. Encourage other girls to not surf alone – organize meetings, make contacts with those who are in the same town or city but don’t know about each other. Sometimes I receive messages from women saying thanks for helping them find their crew even if they are in other countries! Inspiring these women to to communicate in the language of the ocean makes me happy–Creating genuine bonds with love, free of envy or competition.
  2. Give the amazing experience of surfing to those that never have had it.

When you focus on giving, life brings you back better:

I got my surf girls crew, and not only in my spot, anywhere I go someone contacts me to surf or just to have a coffee in the city. We are not alone. We just need to talk to each other. To seek each other.

surfer girls in the water in ecuador

From the women I taught to surf, I get new genuine friends. They teach me more about life, empowerment, empathy, fears, patience, compassion, and that even though we don’t know what the other person is going through, we can see how much surfing helps them. I learned that surfing is therapy, even more for those women that are having a tough time.

I don’t know about you, but I used to think there were not many women that surf, because I learned here in Ecuador where there are more men in the water, I was always alone, in fear, thinking if I should paddle to the lineup or stay in the white wash.

And now I discovered that we are so many! We just need more communities for women who surf to form networks.

It’s the greatest sisterhood.

Peace & love, sisters!
Sea you on the water! 

Iva, Sirenas del Surf.

*All Photos Courtesy of Sirenas del Surf

Product Review: Surf Soap

Ah surf, sand, salt and summer sun! Sounds like sunny lyrics to a saccharine summertime song, right? Or maybe a not-so-sweet au natural exfoliate and dehydrator. There’s a reason why people often label their attitudes (especially post-break-ups) as “salty.”

Want to avoid turning into a human prune with a salty ‘tude to boot this summer? Read on.

I’m going to need rehab to quit my addiction to this stuff.

Salty suds do have a way of being baked into our hair follicles and skin and though we hear those sayings about salt and sand being the way to personal freedom, I’ve got to admit as a surfer girl of going on 19 years, the salty grime left over from a surf does tend to have an itchy, dry and unpleasant aftereffect that leaves me feeling like a California Raisin on her way to looking like my dad’s leather couch.

No thanks!

 

Remedy: Surf Soap

 

Built out of a love and respect for the ocean and a desire to help surfers smell good, feel good and arrive at their 9-5 not looking like a dried prune after a dawn patrol sesh, Surf Soap was born. Kayla Pearson founded Surf Soap with the mission to give the world hair and skin products that do not contain crazy chemicals and silicones, are biodegradable, ocean and reef-safe and plastic-free. Right down to the biodegradable packaging labels, Kayla gets it. Read my Q&A with Kayla.

surf soap better butter black tin

Does it get any better? Better Butter FTW

My hair is as long as it’s ever been and booooy does it love to get tangled, especially when I’m surfing decent waves. After using the Rehab Balm both before and after I surf, my long locks actually DON’T look like a rat’s nest. In fact, thanks to the Rehab Balm, I can actually use the Surf Comb in my hair without it getting stuck mid-brush and my hairs do smell super pretty. Remember: A little goes a long way with this product! But I’d cover myself in it all the same.

 

Also, anyone else get that crusty dry-lip feeling after surfing for hours on end? Better Butter takes care of that. I got the Pineapple scent (b/c Kayla totally pays attention! <3), but it comes in Coconut & Mango, too. You can also order all three—see ‘Triple Crown.’ Does that include the World Surf League circus that comes with it? ;)

I also put Better Butter on my bikini line, fingers and tops of my hands after a surf. I might experiment with my eyebrows and lashes? Before you know it, I’ll be the Chiquita gal!

surf soap all in one purple disc of shampoo in a black tin

The ginger and tropic scented suds will make an Herbal Essences impersonator out of you.

Rehab Balm and Better Butter are now permanent products in my Trestles/Surf backpack.

 

During my post-surf showers, the All-In-One is a God-send. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed my shampoo/body wash this much. I have to use an additional conditioner just because my hair seems to be a conditioner black hole.

But, I joke you not—the first two times I used this product in my shower, I literally indulged like, we’re talking Herbal Essences commercial circa 1998 status, just minus the crappy ingredients and plastic containers—and yea, maybe the 90’s hairstyles and décor, too. Add in the All in One and I’m making my neighbors gossip for sure. I’ve never taken longer showers—my water bill be damned!

 

 

 

 

Check Out:

What I love: Everrrythinggggg. The smell, the feel, the way it actually hydrates my hairs and skin! Each product smells like a Hawaiian tropical drink. Each of these products really works. And trust me—I am a hair and skin product critic. And the best part—I rest easy knowing that what I’m putting on my bod and in my hair isn’t going to mess up our oceans.

Why: Their products are all reef and ocean-safe. They use eco-friendly materials for their products, shipping—plastic-free, vegan, ocean-safe.

I wish: I could buy in bulk

Price: $27-56 per product or set

Disclaimer: And yes, in case you don’t pay attention to my socials, Kayla is a friend of mine–but! I agreed to give her products a fair-and-square review and here it is.

No exceptions but, I’m not surprised– much like Kayla, her products rock my flip flops!

Check out Surf Soap.

 

Peace, Love and Don’tDropInOnMeOrElse

If anyone has been able to escape the craziness of the last few weeks (see: U.S. capitol & racist jerks), you might have noticed that there was a bit of a cat fight at Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore between two insanely talented surfer girls.

Local Pipe charger Moana Wong took off deep on a wave and was dropped in on by Brazilian professional surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb, who instead of riding the wave, straightened out towards the sand.

But this wasn’t just any cat fight—it was one that needed to happen.

Coming to you live from Moana Wong’s Instagram–this is what happens when you drop in on a local, brah. #socialmediasuicide

HERE’S WHY:

The incident brought to the surface an abundance of issues ranging from the obvious safety hazards of Pipe, local girl v. privileged pro, coaches blocking for their athletes and using social media as a platform to call each other out.

I’m sure we can dissect this six ways from Sunday, and I’m pretty sure you and your buddies already have or you let’s Stab’s report do it for you. But did anyone catch the fact that this sort of incident has happened a MILLION times over with guy surfers? Nah.

Yes, Moana had every right to call out Tatiana and Tatiana (and her coach) should’ve been way more careful since Moana had no other choice but to ditch her board and head straight to the reef. A fight on the beach later and up goes social media a la insults and canned PR-y responses—I guess it’s good for something, right?

Pipe is the most dangerous wave on the planet, and Moana had an unnecessary run-in with the reef, thanks to Tati’s “misjudgment” and “poor eye sight.” I call shenanigans. But Tatiana’s canned apology felt like her mom dragged her by the ear and forced her to Moana’s doorstep only having Tati make a half-assed apology when in fact Tati could take a page from Moana’s barrel riding prowess—anyone watch Tati in the Pipe Masters? Meh.

MY POINT:

All gossip girl shit aside, I’d like to implore surfers everywhere to think about how this has been portrayed in the media thus far: someone thought it advantageous to take a video of the two girls fighting on the beach hoping to get something juicy for the presses.

When I watched that video, it pissed me off. Thanks for capitalizing on an incident we’ve seen happen with surfer guys a million other times. Now because there are women involved, there’s suddenly surfer paparazzi.

What were you hoping for? A bikini wrestling match? Grow up.

We, as surfers, are an ever-growing population. Innovation and technology are ushering in a new form of surf culture by bringing surfing to the inland masses through wave parks and marketing tactics. More and more folks are arriving at our coveted breaks not knowing the rules or the locals. People who otherwise might not have a clue about your break might be dropping in on you next weekend. Rick Kane has never been more present!

I get it—it’s more crowded than ever and we’re grumpy.

But unless you like surfing frigid mysto reefs complete with submarine-sized sharks, it’s time to sack up and:

  1. Learn the rules of the road or actually listen to the rules of the road
  2. Be kind, unless someone almost kills or injures you

Otherwise, we’re all in for more incidents like these.

LASTLY

To the women surfers: it is up to each of us to rise above the anger, the privilege, the B.S. and support one another in and out of the water. In this case, it was imperative for Moana to call Tatiana on her shit as Moana could’ve been seriously injured or killed. Don’t hesitate to do the same—some people are just not aware.

And—don’t fall for the B.S. the press puts out there.

Peace, love and #Don’tDropInOnMeOrElse.

#TBT-My First Few Years of Surfing

My first time in real Baja, circa summer 2006.

I have changed over the years. And this year is no exception, if not the biggest year for some growth and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Cleaning and reorganizing always feels good, but sometimes from the proverbial dust, you dig up certain memories that you completely forgot about and have lingered in your boxes and books, buried beneath a stack of magazine clippings, articles and other career-oriented memorabilia.

Recently, in my crazy cleaning (what else should I do right now besides surf, amIright?), I rediscovered a surf journal I kept where I documented the first few years of my surf journey. I stopped mid-clean and prepared myself for a funny and nostalgic afternoon.

I started surfing in January 2004 at good ole SanO with a surf class and a hilarious football coach, who always teased me about being from Austin (UT -hook ’em) since he was an OU fan, and from that class, I met a group of friends. Ah the days of yore! Where Myspace WAS the social media, cell phones with cameras baaaarely existed and GoPros flat out did not exist.

Throwback to ‘Jackie’s Session Notes’ on Wetsand.com, circa 2005.

With a 9’0 Stewart longboard barely tucked under my arm, I  froze my tush off while innocuously learning about surf etiquette, paddling out, popping up and riding a wave…and not burning anyone in the process. Of course there is an entry in there where I got yelled at for my first time and was reduced to tears! Now I crack up thinking of how upset I was, even though it was my fault. But–in my defense, he was also a jerk. These days, I’d fire back at the jerk or just flip a bird and paddle away. :) Ah, lessons learned on a daily in the agua…that’s what I love about surfing: it is forever a journey.

Let me wax more nostalgia: 2005 was also the same year where I started writing for Wetsand.com. All the same, it was one of my first places I was published and wrote for consistently. And some of those adventures definitely stemmed from this journal and, on wetsand.com, would’ve been found in “Jackie’s Session Notes,” riiiight below the beginnings of “Liz Clark’s Swell Voyage” in the “Women Who” section.

My first few years of surfing were momentous on a daily basis and often heartfelt, although plenty of cracking up along the way.

Below are some excerpts I thought y’all might crack up about, too.

Here’s to a #ThrowbackThursday!

An Ode to Surfer Magazine

Surfer Magazine covers, man surfing green water waves, black text, man getting barreled

From my archives, RIP 1960-2020.

I saw the news first (& ironically) on Instagram from friend’s posts…

“RIP Surfer Mag”

What? No.

No way.

My heart sank and I immediate pulled a few issues I had saved out of my archives.

One of my very first editorial experiences I ever had in my career was interning at Surfer Magazine 2006-2007 under the direction of Chris Mauro, Editor-in-Chief at the time. I worked directly with mostly the Associate Editor, Alex Wilson, who taught me the finer things of transcribing an interview—I don’t think I’ll ever forget transcribing a two-hour long interview with pros whose first language was definitely not English. I was absolutely clueless at the time, but just came to work each and every day perpetually star-struck and stoked to be helping and watching these guys produce monthly mags …the one I would salivate for arriving in my mailbox, or would take a few extra copies from the staff.

I got to know the front desk lady, who was always so kind when I’d arrive every morning…the lines of glossy surfboards standing tall in the office—mostly guns. I’d stare at each of them trying to memorize the dimensions, wondering what kind of waves these beastly boards were for…I got to know each of the editors and where they were from and why they started surfing…they were a quiet bunch mostly, but it was definitely a boys club.

Chris Mauro, page of Surfer Magazine, Chris Mauro byline

Always looked forward to Chris Mauro’s writing.

I always looked up to Chris Mauro’s writing—he was the first person at Surfer I spoke with and the one who brought me on as an intern. I was taking my first journalism course at Saddleback College and Professor Mike Reed wanted us to interview someone in the profession you wanted to be. I wanted to interview someone at Surfer Mag and always knew who I wanted to interview, but was too intimidated. I asked Prof. Reed and he said, “go for the jugular.” My first lesson in journalism. He also told me to tell Chris that I was from Reed’s class.

Chris’ response: “Reed rules! I took his feature writing class. Yea come on in!”

I made friends with the advertising team—naturally, they are some of the friendliest folk, and met a fellow intern who became one of my best friends. We’d go for a surf together and get together for taco Tuesdays, sushi Thursdays and various party-esque holidays…I think I have a photo somewhere of all our costumes.

I also attended Surfer Poll a bunch. :)  The Academy Awards for surfing at the Honda Center for a long time…standing within 5 feet of Andy Irons, Keala Kennelly, Greg Long…going to the bathroom and running into Carissa Moore…being able to name each and every surfer at the awards and watching their interactions while I sipped wine to placate my star-struck nerves…

Dave Parmenter, pages of Surfer Magazine, Everybody Surfs

I also admired Dave Parmenter’s writing.

The surf industry has experienced massive shifts almost on a monthly basis. It started with Transworld Surf in San Diego and then, who would’ve thought that Surfing Magazine would ever go under? Not once did I think that Surfer Mag, the O.G. surf magazine, would get the boot. It pains me to see—honestly, this was why I pursued journalism as my college degree. I wanted to write for a surf magazine, I wanted to write stories about women chargers, rippers, shredders…to bring to light that there’s more to a surfer girl than her bikini bod and “epic” bottom turns. Then I saw Surfer created Salted and it looked so tempting, I wanted to write for them so badly, but my story ideas and pitches never seemed to fly.

Within those years, it was when I realized it didn’t matter what you knew, it was, just as in most things, who you knew. I was shy and still am, but I’ve definitely gotten better about my shyness. I would constantly rack my brain for that elusive, can’t-refuse feature story for me to write for Surfer, but one of two things would happen: they didn’t like it or they liked it and had someone else write it.

Surfer Mag editors eventually stuck me in archives and I learned a lot about surf history by pouring over the old issues from its very FIRST one published by John Severson called “The Surfer” in 1960…an issue that was wrapped in plastic and only available in a certain editor’s office.

Surfer Magazine section, Curious Gabe, Surfer Magazine page with green layout

‘Curious Gabe’ also rocked!

It wasn’t until I interned for Surfline that I actually got to write some stuff (thank you, Darlene Conolly <3). When I started my long freelance career, my editors often type-casted me as the “surfer writer,” with which I had ZERO issue. Despite the fact that I never was published in Surfer or Salted, I got to write about the Nike Lowers Pro and the Hurley Lowers Pro and the U.S. Open of Surfing for several years in a row. I also got to photograph it and got to rub elbows with some of the surf industry’s most legendary photogs…Jeremiah Klein, Dan Merkel and Aaron Lieber…to name a few

This life is a journey, shit happens for a reason and though it really saddens me to see Surfer Mag go, I know that necessity is the mother of invention. Surfers need a publication to froth over…it can’t just all be TikTok, YouTube and Instagram…this is a time of reinvention and creativity. Something will come of this craziness. I can only hope that Surfer Mag pulls a musician thing and has a “comeback” tour or a revamp.

If they do, you can bet your balls I’ll be pitching to them.

page of Surfer Magazine, Masthead for Surfer Magazine, Interns

One of the first places my name is in print

I’m not sure why exactly print continues to suffer…since 2009, why publications, ones we trust and know, are being pushed aside for digital platforms and sketchy ads proclaiming the “true story?” Why does fake news thrive and those seasoned pros, like Surfer Magazine, get thwarted?

In essence, I’m sure there are things and conversations the general public wasn’t privy to, who knows? I do know that I am forever grateful for my many experiences working with Surfer Magazine. This experienced pushed me into the journalism and writing realm and that has served me well to this day. Thanks, Surfer and Chris Mauro.

Though back then it was a boys club, nowadays, I love watching how the magazine and the industry in general are evolving into just a “club” and that is what I had always hoped for.

R.I.P, Surfer Mag.

A 6-Hour Tour: Trestles, Crowds, Waves, Bruises

Ah Trestles—my go-to, my getaway to get away,

During this quarantine thing, I try not torturing myself by looking at my long list of surf trips…especially since the world does not want Americans near their shores right now…but this past Saturday, Trestles brought the surf trip to me and bunch of other heat relief-seeking folks. Indo be damned…well, for now.

My trusty Sub Scorcher

A perpetual heat wave has been hovering over SoCal, thanks to a once hurricane now-turned series of storms off the coast. In fact, as I type this, I’m probably sweating in a tank and shorts with my hair in a bun that’s falling out of my clip.

Coulda sworn I left the humidity in Georgia and Texas…Lawd, child!

Last weekend, air temps hovered in the high 80’s by the beach and water temps sat at a very comfortable 72-76 degrees all along the coast. Trestles and her warm water walls called!

There are times where the crowd gets to me, the wave frustrates me and the rocks irk me. But not this time. Warm water makes me invincible, right? :D

At 9:30 a.m., I paddled out, no wetsuit needed. Duck diving felt like heaven and even though the lineup was really crowded, I couldn’t help but smile to see a few happy faces out there prattling on about the water temp and the waves. Nearby, a guy and I joked about how crowded it was, but there was also a fair amount of space between each surfer…except me and this Aussie chick, who constantly burned and backpaddled me.

First burn—okay, maybe it was an accident.

Second burn—excuuuse me?!

On her third burn, I yelled at her, to which she stared at me as she paddled back out…and I had no trouble mean mugging her right back, my inner ‘Georgia Jackie’ blood boiling, but I resolved to just shaking my head. She disappointed me more than angered me. As women, we should be supporting one another in the water, not acting like assholes to each other. Sure, competition is healthy—but not flat out rudeness and greediness. I thought to myself, yelling at her more is only going to give her cause to yell back. Then I thought, maybe if I reason with her and tell her that I didn’t appreciate her practically dropping in on top of me even after she saw me paddling for the wave… Then I thought “Nah. If she can’t be a considerate surfer, there’s no way she’s a considerate human being and I’m in no mood to school someone who should already know the rules of the road.”

Her friend attempted a peace treaty with me and reassured me that she won’t be back since she lives in San Diego, to which I replied to him: “Good.” She stayed away and soon after I caught a few nice waves and did a nice frontside hit in her face, she and her all dude posse went in. Good riddance.

Fast forward and a few friendly faces show up, some I haven’t seen since before quarantine and my heart felt light. We sat at a peak, played with its walls, and drifted around Uppers and the 50 million surfers chomping at the bit for a bite of the peak.

One happy surfer girl

I took one wave towards the inside and as another wave was breaking, a grom dropped in and without looking in front of him, ate crap, unintentionally sending his board towards me. Never thought I’d do this, but I tried to put my board in front of me to block his oncoming board, but failed. Thankfully, the board wasn’t coming at me too fast. A scratch on the forehead and a few bruises later, I paddle back out and said grom apologizes, after a small schooling from my friend. ;)

Waves, more waves and then some more waves…new friends, old friends…soon enough, it was almost 6 hours before I called it quits. Attempts to reapply sunscreen 2 hours into my sesh failed and I justify the sun damage to being locked away for 2 months. Savoring every minute of this day, I thought as we all sat on the beach and laughed, sweated out butts right off, talked surf trips and life. Despite crowds and bruises, we made it a proper Trestles summer sesh…but for a minute, it felt like our own spot somewhere in Central America.

Now, to scratch that travel itch…

Can You Get COVID-19 from Surfing?

Hit the eject button on crowds for now.

I confess: Over the past several weeks, I’ve been surfing. What was a few times has now returned to my routine. It had been over two months since I got in the water and the first time back felt weird. It felt wrong and odd, I felt like some kind of social recluse committing a crime, but giggling on the way in all the same.

I went to River Jetties in Newport and as I dipped my toe in the luke-warm ocean, a sense of relief and paranoia struck me all at once.

If this feeling could be put into words, it might look something like this:

Ahhhhhahwawwwweeeeeummmmmhmm

(not) a poo barrel–sponger gets a clean barrel at Wedge in Newport.

Can you get coronavirus from surfing? It lingered in my mind, distracted me from catching waves as I drifted towards the rivermouth. My friend’s sarcastic line floated into my mind: “Where the poo meets the sea is where I surf”—referring to River.

The Surfrider Foundation wrote a comprehensive report and references several studies, both published and unpublished, that cite contradicting information—one German study says you can’t pass it on through poop and another Chinese study says you can.

Is it viable once in the salt? It’s been said that it can be passed on through freshwater, like lakes and rivers. But studies don’t have conclusions about saltwater. Also, when waves break, it creates an aerosol affect, which translates into tiny water droplets flying through the air and into your smiling mug, according to some speculations.

Yummm taste that COVID-19 spray! Over the (small) falls at Wedge in Newport.

But that’s speculative.

From Surfrider:

At this point, the research community does not know if people can contract the COVID-19 virus from exposure to feces in recreational waters but the overall consensus is that it might be possible.

MRSA, e.coli and all those other fun germies can be caught through dirty water, so it sounds like we treat this as we would a sewage spill—don’t surf dirty water and stay away from people as best as you can.

But, tell that to 50 of your best buddies vying for the peak at Lowers on a Saturday morning.

Product Review: Akela Surf Bikini

Recent surf sesh at the River in Newport. Pandemic or no, I’ve always stayed 10 feet away from everyone, regardless. Just say ‘no’ to crowds, folks.

With some beaches slowly opening, the crowd is anything but slow to get to the sand and salt water. A good thing or a bad thing? If I’m coughing 5-to-10 days from now, ask me how I’m feeling.

Despite shameless “quarantine 15” snack guilt, I recently trekked to the beach to partake in some of the recent south swell/northwest swell in my new Akela Surf bikini. In a few words–this kini combines style and comfort (and some kick-ass vintage colors!) for a ripping good time in the ocean.

Reversible in Akela Surf’s ‘Escape’ collection!

Who: Akela Surf is a bikini and wetsuit company based in Canada owned and operated by a husband-wife duo. Their mission is focused on active women who are passionate about water sports. The Akela brand features five different bikini lines, an apparel line and wetsuits. Akela uses eco-friendly fabric, like EcoNyl and Repreve, to create their colorful ‘kinis.

They base their designs around sophistication, style and personal touch by incorporating soft anti-snag, quick-dry fabric, unique patterns and functionality for women in the surf. All their design is done in-house and an artist collaborates with the company on some bikini prints.

Akela wants women to feel good and have confidence in and out of the water. They also offer an ambassador program, and you don’t need to be a pro to be part of it.

Suh Stoked.

Check out:

The Escape Collection:

What I love: The style, the colors and the soft anti-snag material are the best!

Why: I want to surf, feel comfortable and look good doing it! Also, …been hankering for some vintage stylings–have you seen my Insta stories lately?? :)

I wish: there were more bikini designs and prints. The company works with a talented designer and I think there’s more to add to their collections. I really dig the ‘kini and it’s soft texture and vintage-like color pallet…more please!

Price:

$50-100 per piece

Learn more about Akela Surf.

Read Akela’s Q&A with me!

 

Ventura: A Change of Scene and Wave

Despite torrential downpours, I decided to stick to my plans and head up the coast solo for Thanksgiving. Turkey be damned. I crossed a few lakes and rivers on the 5 freeway north, tamed the 101’s penchant for stop-go torture and sat in bumper-to-bumper while heavy drops pelted my car window…once again, and are we surprised? I was determined.

If you’ve learned anything about me in my almost 10 years of “confessing,” I do not give up so easy, especially when it comes to travel plans and escaping the holiday’s choking crowds.

A cold, chilly C-Street.

I’m jinglin’ my damn bells out of the O.C. and oh what fun it is to ride on…the 5 freeway?….said no one ever.

Would Ventura’s chillier breaks hold anything less crowded? That was the hope as I peered over my car’s dusty dashboard at the rain-soaked Thanksgiving morning. The last time I surfed Ventura was in 2013 before my cousin’s wedding. I was anxious to be going back.

After conquering the concrete jungle’s arterial jugulars, Oxnard and then Ventura came into view like a breath of fresh farm air. Instantly my heartbeat picked up, a huge grin spread across my mug and I let out a small squeal of excitement to myself.
First stop on my list? C-Street, of course. It’s easy enough to find.

The parking lot had open spots—hmm bad sign? All longboarders hoisting their airplane wings out from their trucks—another bad sign? Out front were some fun waist-to-chest high rollers combing through, but what’s this? I spied a semi-chunky wave north of C-Street equipped with a chunkier crowd. Ventura point and the locals, it must be.

The next morning, the tide was too high for C-Street, so I relocated to the point. The point was crossed up and peaky from more downpours and wind the night before, so I settled for a less crowded option just north of the point. The lineup crowd was, shall we say, the strong silent type? Definitely no need for conversations, but occasionally I heard a few encouraging hoots in my direction… I’m pretty sure I was the only gal in the water.

Asking the name of the break quickly gave away my non-local status and questions ensued:

“Where are you from?”
Orange County.
“Where do you surf there?”
Trestles.
A few locals let out some grumbles.

The water felt balmy compared to Ventura’s 40-degree air temp. It was the first time I busted out my wetsuit hood since Humboldt.

The rain-soaked Ventura Point

Easy takeoffs led to a nice shoulder every once in a while, if you waited for the bigger sets. The murky water and occasional kelp brushing against my legs had me on higher alert. I’m not a fan of not being able to see my own feet in the water. The inside definitely liked to thump ya, if you weren’t paying attention, which I’ll admit was hard to do since there were gorgeous snow-covered mountains within view. After eating shit a few times on the inside, I realized the water was only a few feet deep, so I stood to drool over the mountains. My heart soared—waves and mountains, how can it get better?

The morning wind, which had been a chilly northeast, had turned to an ugly west and white caps started to dot the horizon. Damn—it’s only 9:30? After deciding on one more wave, one local guy quietly let me know we were surfing “second point” and that Rincon was only a 10 minute drive north.

Found my afternoon plans.

After my last wave, my very neoprened-self left second point in search of a warm drink—a nice warm chai tea sounded like perfection. At this point, I’d welcome a warm chai shower as my numb fingers attempted to towel change in the now 48-degree air.

So necessary.

I don’t know how locals in Norcal …or Maine or Canada or Alaska… do it, I thought. I could feel my blood freezing as I attempted to change out of my wet bikini top, no free peep shows warranted. At least the water wasn’t cold comparatively. I’m waiting for the duck dive that makes my boogers freeze.

After touring downtown Ventura, I found my beloved chai and croissant, and feeling returned to my fingers and toes. I quickly left the tempting retail stores and jumped onto the 101 north towards Carpinteria. I had been this way many times before and have seen the Queen of the Coast both microscopic and gigantic. Judging by the conditions in Ventura, my expectations remained low, but hopeful.

Today, it was semi-microscopic, but occasionally, a decent set would roll through with a total of four people bobbing in the lineup. Done. Sold. I am finally surfing this place and quickly changed into my dry 3 mil, paddled out to a crowd of mostly longboarders and caught a few decent waves on my Russell retro quad. I can see how this place can make a surfer froth like a mad dog when WNW swells are off the charts.

A few rain clouds closed in and a cold wind blew. That was my cue.

In Terminator fashion, I thought: I’ll be back.
And next time, I’m hoping for bigger, better things, your highness.

Check out my Flickr album below:

Ventura, California

Watch my video:

Five Least Likely Surf Spots to Consider

If you are any kind of surfer, you understand that crowds have been and still are an increasing factor in your wave search. Some have quit surfing all together (NEVER!) while others play hookie in hopes to score two-foot mini-drainers. Those “sick days” no longer apply as more kiddos are now home-schooled and groomed to be the next Slater or Reynolds. Midday lunch session escape? Nah–you’re surfing with your boss and the marketing team on their Wavestorms and funboards at Creek, if you are so lucky.

“Hey, can you teach me how to surf?! I just got this 9-foot board and I don’t know how to duck dive it.” *bangs head against desk repeatedly*

Good luck, buddy ole pal!

Within the last decade, surfers have really pushed the limits to reach out to the corners of an otherwise round globe in search of their perfect ride with minimal crowds. If it has a body of water and some form of wind, there is wave potential, right? After my experience with the latest wavepark craze in Texas and coming out the other side mostly healthy, (albeit slightly worried–see ‘amoeba’ and ‘BSR Cable Park’),  I recognize that not everyone needs Trestles to feel satiated…well, except for me and 50 of my best friends on a Saturday morning.

I want to believe and know for a FACT there is a secret adventurer in all of us aqua wanderlusts…someone who’s been cooped up since the Endless Summer days and so desperately needs to get out of the park-pay-surf routine. If you’ve got the bengies, balls and/or brains, below is a list of options you might consider when scanning the discount travel interwebs.

Now, I wonder if Germany charges for board bags…

Antarctica

Is your surfing mission to solely avoid all people and/or crowds? While I might recommend an easier remote Baja trip, this blog is not about the typical and the easy, but more focused on the “WTF mate?!” reaction. If you’re hell-bent on being completely antisocial with a frigid ‘tude to boot, the approximately 11,000 miles of Antarctica’s icy coastline is your best…friend? Crowds will not be a problem here. If it ever becomes one, I quit. Even with my crappy screen shot here, you can see major point break potential. Chilean pro surfer Ramon Navarro was the first pro to brave the freezing waters of King George Island in 2014. If you’ve got the grapes (assuming you don’t mind frozen ones), I challenge you to surf the sub-zero temperature ranges while I venture to warmer parts unknown comparatively.

The Great Lakes

Not exactly balmy. Great Lakes for the win! Photo: secondwavemedia.com

Not exactly balmy. Great Lakes for the win! Photo: secondwavemedia.com

The Great Lakes are nothing to sneeze at–they hold 6 quadrillion gallons of water and are considered one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. First: have you ever even heard of anyone using ‘quadrillion’ outside of space travel? I haven’t. The lakes also offer more than 10,000 miles of shoreline, which, according to magicseaweed.com, is more than the U.S. West and East coast combined! Because of the Great Lake’s size, the fetch produces large, surfable waves–with the right conditions. Often requiring lots of neoprene and vasoline (protect that mug!) as well as patience and an interest in surfing in the snow, the Great Lakes can have good waves, but do you have the balls? Someone did and I wonder where he got them–The first Great Lakes surfer was a G.I. with a longboard, who was returning from Hawaii in 1945. According to the same site, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and northeastern shore of Lake Erie saw more surfers combing their shores throughout the 60’s and it now exists today–remember that part in Dana Brown’s “Step into Liquid” movie back in 2003??

See also:

Vans’ “Weird Waves Season 1

Surf Shop’s “Unsalted: A Great Lakes Experience

Red Bull’s “Surfing in the Great Lakes

Eisbach River–Munich, Germany

In the most landlocked of European countries, it turns out surfing is a thing in Munich, Germany–namely ‘River Surfing.’ The mile-long man-made Eisbach (aka: “Ice brook”) river is a side arm of the Isar River. Although at this point crowds MAY be a factor since pros like Mick Fanning have given it a go, the wave is not exactly ‘friendly.’  Also known as “E1,” the wave was specifically

Germans mean business about not just beer. Photo: Riverbreak.com

Germans mean business about not just beer. Photo: Riverbreak.com

created to be ridden by experts. Folks literally sit in line and take turns (imagine that!) for waves, so dropping in on someone is completely unacceptable. Not gonna lie: I would absolutely LOVE to hear an errant tourist get bitched out by a German local.

According to this website, the concrete baffles that support the wave’s flow can break your neck and the fast-moving current combined with a rocky riverbed will gladly take out your board that probably you paid a hefty travel fee. Is there ding repair in Germany? The wave and the crowd may be tough, but getting to the lineup isn’t: Throw your board in front of you and use the river’s momentum. But, beginners be warned: according to the site, if you’re a beginner, “just forget it.” However, there is a spot named “E2” that is supposedly more approps–not sure how the Germans view the Wavestorm crowd or how they define “beginner” while they nonchalantly slug “Das Boots.”

Clarks Fork River–Missoula, Montana

Brennan's Wave in the Clark Fork River, Montana. Photo: Sean Jansen

Brennan’s Wave in the Clark Fork River, Montana.
Photo: Sean Jansen

My longtime friend Sean Jansen wasn’t planning on moving to Montana, or planning anything that does not involve being outside and in nature. The San Clemente local-turned Montana resident is no stranger to thinking outside the box or shall we say, wave? With the nearest wave being over 2,000 miles away, Jansen has taken up river surfing in the icy waters of Clarks Fork River. Just as in any kind of wave, there is a science and adventure to river surfing and Jansen is no stranger to either. See his river surf explanation below:

The same winter storms that hit Washington, Oregon, and California keep marching inland after they hit. Once in Montana, those storms land as snow, coupled with storms from Canada. Once spring hits and temperatures rise above freezing, snowmelt happens and floods the river, hence the brown water. And river surfing is born.

Brennan’s Wave is the name of the wave and it is an artificial wave created by concrete submerged.

Silver Dragon–Qiantang River, China

 

I hate to disappoint, but this is NOT Game of Thrones…or were you already disappointed by that anyway? :) However, maybe I will take my cool braided locks and my future …Lost board, which will have Drogo painted on it, to China to surf the elusive and rare Silver Dragon -Qiantang River Tidal Bore. A tidal bore happens during specific conditions–the spring or fall tide and full moons. There’s even a festival dedicated to this occurrence known as “The Tide-Watching Festival” held on the 18th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar. The festival brings 170,000 people and has been celebrated for hundreds of years. The break is named the Silver Dragon because it is first seen from a distance as a stroke of silver on the horizon along the Qiantang River located in East China. The river and Hangzhou Bay are known for the world’s largest tide bore. As you can see here, the wave is really nothing to snub. It’s got some juice.Reminds me of a certain man-made wave in kicker country. Photo: npr.com