Where and how did you learn how to surf?
I've always surfed here and there, but I really learned when I moved to Puerto Viejo 9 years ago. One day a new friend of mine passed by on her moto on her way to surf and asked if I wanted to come. I hopped on the back, borrowed a board from the beach, and followed her out into the green waves. From there it was love at first wipeout. I went every single day, and eventually the local surfers, especially Dexter Lewis, took me under their wings and showed me the ropes. I think they mostly wanted to make sure I didn't get lost at sea, but surfing came easy to me. I started on a 6'4" and didn't realize the learning curve would be easier if I started on a longboard. ;)
What are your passions and talents other than surfing?
As a former teacher, I gravitate towards uplifting our youth. I collaborated in starting Wolaba Youth Project, a non profit organization focused on providing mentorship from the youth of Puerto Viejo. I also studied dance up until university, so I will not miss a moment to get on the dance floor!
We're super inspired by your community activism in Puerto Viejo. Can you tell us a bit more about the Wolaba Youth Project? What do you love most about this line of work?
The pandemic days made very apparent the beauty and strength of the youth that live here in Puerto Viejo. We also realized the opportunity of having a town with so many talented people willing to give their time to both inspire and teach our children. Wolaba Youth Project is a bridge between the two - hosting surf workshops, academic mentorship, scholarships, and more. I really have to give a lot of the credit to Dario Menendez, a Puerto Viejo native who was brought up here and really devoted all of his time and energy into making the project become a reality.
We know you've also been spending a lot of time on your passion project, Salty Afro Surf. What is the inspiration behind that project and what are some of your current initiatives?
I came to Puerto Viejo nine years ago because I was, and continue to be, drunkenly in love with surfing. What's special about this place is that our lineup is so diverse - so as a black female surfer, I fit right in. It was the first place I'd surfed where I knew it was okay to be myself. I found that the same level of comfort doesn't exist everywhere. Our mission is to break down the stereotype that people of color don't surf, because indeed we do. We host surf camps focused on providing a safe space. It took me five years to figure out what to do with my hair while surfing, or what bikini brands fit my body type, among other lessons, where I just couldn't find any resources. The opportunity to pass down what we've learned to others who will benefit is so, so special.
We're curious to know about your background in tech and dance - fill us in! How do you connect those worlds with your life as a surfer and the inspiring projects you lead?
I've been a dancer from the moment I could walk. My mom enrolled me in dance classes at an early age, and I grew up on the stage. I studied dance well into my adult life, and the art still holds a huge piece of my heart. Dancing taught me how to pour myself into something, and create pure, raw energy. It's the same feeling I have when surfing.
As for tech, I came into the field as a former teacher - after years in the classroom, I knew the importance of using technology to increase the quality of education for our students. When I'm not surfing, I'm building solutions for educators and businesses. It's something that also brings me joy, because it gives me another outlet to create.
What are the personal/professional achievements and life challenges you've experienced that have made you who you are today?
I always had this feeling that I belonged in the water, yet I was raised in New York City. Being in that environment really helped me understand internally who I was, someone with a VERY strong connection to the ocean. I was also raised by a very independent mother, who always pushed me to rely on myself, especially when pursuing dreams. When it comes to work, moving to Costa Rica, or learning how to surf, I always have the mentality of being able to do it on my own. It rids me of that feeling of having to wait for someone to teach me or mentor me. Of course, when that does come into my life, I welcome it with open arms.
What inspires you most about life as a surfer?
For me, surfing is the closest to our natural way of being. On land, our society has imposed so many norms that just feel...unnatural. In the water, we are at the whim of the ocean. Our experience in surfing is directly related to how we connect with the water. I find when going into the water with humbleness and connecting with her (the ocean,) I always enjoy my time in the water, no matter how many waves I catch.
What is your vision for the future of global surf culture?
I really would love to see a more diverse surf community worldwide. When I lived in California, it was eye-opening to see that I was the only surfer of color in the water most days. I feel like the surf community is at a point where we are evolving into something that speaks to everyone. This is why representation matters so much. I'd love for a young female of color to walk by a surf ad and see someone who looks like her. Imagine the possibilities if we provide the next generation with the gift of knowing they can do anything they want, free of preconceived stereotypes?
How can other surfers contribute to greater diversity and inclusion in surfing around the world?
I'm noticing that there are brands contributing to the movement, by highlighting different ethnicities, different body types, into their media. I think as we move forward, this will continue to strengthen our surf community. As we each pour a little more of ourselves into this love we have for surfing, we'll start to see how we are re-creating something really beautiful.
When you're not surfing, where would we find you?
In front of my computer trying to learn how to build a website or build code, or at the beach with my very rambunctious puppy, Kala.