2004 Women's World Champion Sofia Mulanovich drops into Oceanside for a handful of waves...

On a random day in Oceanside last summer I rounded the corner and saw one of my favorite surfers walking across the sand. It's not often that you see 2004 ASP Women's World Champion Sofia Mulanovich surfing your local spot and lucky for me I just happened to have my video camera with me. These onshore waves don't look particularly difficult to surf but the sandbars were really messed up and everyone else that I saw out there was either getting caught behind on closeouts or simply ran out of gas when their waves mushed into nothing. Sofia on the other hand made the waves look rippable and fun. With a new crew of young rippers on tour, Sofia's name doesn't pop up as often as it used to but to my eyes at least, she's blowing the tail out the back better and more critically each and every year.


Kamalehua Keohokapu at Oceanside Pier

Popular surf media would have you believe that it's a small, elite group of surfers that are at the forefront of modern day high performance surfing on both long- and shortboards. However, walk up to virtually any spot and you'll discover underground rippers that are pushing the limits each and every day. Local girl Kamalehua Keohokapu flat out rips! She turns around and goes on the latest of drops and where most surfers would straighten off, she'll square off the bottom and just blast the oncoming section. With JettyGirl stickers on her truck and a warm Hawaiian smile on her face, any day spent shooting with Kamal is a wonderful day indeed!


My Friend Claire

In the US, summer officially kicks off in the third week of June. The JettyGirl calendar runs on a slightly different schedule though. My summer begins each year when I get the first phone call from my favorite Western Australian, Claire Bevilacqua. Yesterday was that day and I jumped at the chance to meet up with Claire in Newport Beach.

This may end up being incoherent and rambling but here are a few words that pop into my head when I think about Bevo...

RAW: I love that what you see with Claire is what you get. If she's sad, you know. Happy, you know. Irritated, you know. Amped, you know. If my photos stink, she'll tell me. If we score a good one, she'll make me feel like a hero. Maybe it's an Australian thing, I don't know, but what I do know is that Claire's raw honesty makes her refreshing to be around.

REAL: Face it, JettyGirl is not Transworld, Surfer, Surfing, even FOAM for that matter. We don't have their clout and the mainstream advertisers that claim their pages couldn't give two hoots what we're doing. However, when Claire runs across the sand to pass out an authentically warm hug, I don't feel like our little publication is playing second fiddle to anyone. And the "real" thing about Claire is that she'll deal with me wherever, whenever and without regard to who may be watching. I won't name names here but it's incredible how many surf stars act like they're your friend but will turn away from you instantly if "cool" people are around.

PASSIONATE about pushing women's surfing to the next level: So many times when I'm shooting, the surfers seem to have a safe "three to the beach" approach to our photo shoots. While it may be "good" surfing, it's hardly exciting ...I can practically eat a sandwich with one hand and casually shoot away with the other. There's no way I can do that with Claire. The second she stands up and starts generating speed, I'm doing my best to follow focus because I know something amazing is about to take place. I hear a lot of people talk about getting scores, etc. but Claire is the only one I've heard (repeatedly) claiming that she wants to entertain the fans. Claire may or may not ever become world champion, but along with Melanie Bartels and a few others, she has advanced women's surfing in considerably more ways than she's given credit for.

I'm sure there must be a generally accepted maximum word limit to blog-writing so I'll give this entry a rest. I could write a book about my thoughts on Claire but to summarize, in a surf world containing its fair share of phonies and forced-upon-us-flavors-of-the-month, Claire Bevilacqua is the real deal, a superstar and one of my favorite people on the planet.


Ten Toes by Kelly Nicely

It happened at midday (of course) but the best completed 10 I've ever seen came under the toes of North Carolina's Kelly Nicely. Quirky and seemingly disorganized at times (especially when it comes to locating a bar of wax), Kelly has pulled off what few people I know have ...a double major leading to two science degrees, a successful science career, and a nice home in San Diego County, all the while continuing to put in top notch performances in the water. Great surfer, even better friend.


Kyla Langen on a Cool, Yet Warm Morning

Sometimes the presence of a human being ruins a scene. But every once in a while we add to it. Kyla Langen is a great example to me of how we can properly co-exist with our natural world. On this dreary yet oddly warm morning, Kyla pauses for a stretch before paddling out for some cold ones.


Sometimes, A Photo Really Does Say A Thousand Words

I've been complaining lately because I strained something in my hip. I truly have no idea the depth of challenges other people face. Two remarkable individuals, Summer Romero and Danielle Burt.


A Summer of Sofia

I think I ran into Sofia Mulanovich exactly four times last summer so it's probably a bit overambitious to claim last July and August as the Summer of Sofia. To me though, it could have been something as little as one chance encounter and I would have titled this entry the same.

Sofia is a legend, pure and simple. The entire country of Peru stands behind its first ASP World Champion and although it's been a few years since that title, Sofia's stature in the surfing world continues to grow and grow. I have always been a fan of hers and ever since JettyGirl was launched in 2006, I've hoped that our paths would cross one day. In 2009, it finally happened...

Chance Encounter #1 - One of my good friends, a Puerto Rico legend himself, was out here last summer when the film "Dear and Yonder" rolled into town. I knew he had a crush on Sofia and we had heard that she would be at the premiere. Like a couple of dorky, star-struck teenagers, we approached Sofia in front of the La Paloma and asked if my friend could have his photo taken with her. She graciously accepted and my friend was on Cloud 9 the rest of the evening.

Chance Encounter #2 - While standing on the beach at last summer's US Open, Sofia approached me before a warm up surf and said something to the effect of, "Hi Chris, I'll be staying here for a while so let's get together and shoot." What??? Sofia Mulanovich knew my name? Actually, looking back at it now, that's the only thing I remember about the contest.

Chance Encounter #3 - Surprisingly cold Lowers. I had sent her a text message that we'd be at Lowers and lo and behold who should show up but Sofia, Paige Hareb and Ornella Pellizzari. One of the biggest differences between shooting regular rippers and surfers from the WCT is the sheer speed in which they surf with...and it's especially apparent when I'm shooting from the water. On Sofia's first wave I knew I'd need to step up my game as she blew above the lip, rotated and disappeared down the line before I had a chance to focus the camera.

Chance Encounter #4 - This one was planned. After Sofia left me a voicemail, we decided to meet up in Oside. After a 15 minute session we decided to pack up and caravan down south a bit. Hours and untold miles later we ended up at a ridiculous spot in Carlsbad. Knee-high and blown out, the girls made the most of it but the highlight of the day was when the lifeguard kicked Sofia out of the water for swimming in the surf area...which at the time was only populated by Paige and Ornella.

There you have it, the Summer of Sofia. No double-page photo spreads, no in-depth interviews, no earth-shattering revelations, but to me the summer was huge because I was finally able to meet one of my favorite surfers of all time. And in contrast to the bitter disappointment of meeting legends who are actually kooks with good PR people, Sofia is the real deal...an incredible ambassador for her country, a fun-loving soul, and truly one of the best surfers I've ever seen up close and in person.


Smoother Than Smooth, Rebecca Woods

There are a handful of surfers who if I could, I wouldn't mind surfing just like them. Australia's Rebecca Woods is one of those surfers. Bec has the smoothest of smooth styles and competitively-speaking this may be to her detriment sometimes. Similar to Parko on the men's side, Rebecca's surfing is so effortless that I'm sure the judges sometimes don't see how truly on edge her turns are. I've only had the honor of shooting with her a few times but Bec is definitely one of my favorites. I hope when she cruises through town next summer we'll be able to connect sooner than the 15 minute session she sneaks in before her plane takes off.


Her Hero and Mine, Jessi Miley-Dyer

(I apologize to anyone who has already read this somewhere before. It's an old Facebook post but the image still makes me happy whenever I happen upon it.)

My absolute favorite moment from 2007's US Open is little more than a point-and-shoot snapshot. To me though, it speaks volumes. Jessi Miley-Dyer spends a few moments on the beach with a little grom surfer girl and gets a fan for life. Jessi might not have known it but as soon as she walked away, the elated little girl ran and jumped into her dad's arms and I could see her excitedly jabbering away about her new hero. It really warmed my heart and reminded me that the best things about surfing don't always happen in the water. Cheers to you Jess :)


Surf Mat to the Rescue

Perhaps one of the more ridiculous days in the short history of JettyGirl was the first time I met up with Schuyler McFerran. It was a clean, crisp day at Cardiff and Schuyler showed up with her favorite board, a big 'ole orange single fin that just screamed "PHOTOS!" when set against the deep blues brought on by the Santa Anas. Not to take anything away from the regal lineage that has passed through it's lineup over the years, but Cardiff also suffers from a larger-than-average ratio of middle-aged buffoons who should probably be learning elsewhere. On a decent day, the spot can be downright dangerous due solely to the crowd.

Schuyler had just paddled out and in the course of 5 minutes, no joke ...this is what happened. First wave comes in, Schuyler turns around and gets her feet wet on a clean inside right. Second wave, a SUP snakes a shortboarder and holds his oar against the poor surfer's chest so he can't get past, and continues to do so for 100 yards or so ... the worst rip-off job I've ever seen. Third waves rolls in as Schuyler paddles by me. Lo-and-behold three out of control gents jockeying for position fail to get to their feet but succeed in running over Schuyler and end up putting a large gash in her board.

Fast forward a few minutes, an unfazed Schuyler sprints to her car, pulls out a surf mat and saves the day with laughs and smiles to spare.


Twelve Months with Kyla

There is no way to say this in simpler terms other than to just spill it. JettyGirl simply would never had gotten off the ground without the help of Kyla Langen. I can still remember my phone call to her when the idea of JettyGirl came to me. I knew Kyla had done some writing for other publications so I nervously called her with the general concept and asked if she'd be willing to do some work to help get it going.

By the time the first twelve months had passed we had conducted a dozen lengthy interviews, spent numerous hours of late-night transcribing, organized good and bad photo sessions, went through a bit of controversy, and finished off the year with empty pockets but great memories.

As I reflect back to the beginning, I know in the deepest part of my heart that without the soulful, curious, surf-stoked Kyla Langen, JettyGirl wouldn't be where it is today.

About this photo...

This image was taken during the San Diego fires of October 2007. Two days earlier our family had packed away a small amount of treasures and documents for a quick escape from the flames which were two hillsides from our home. In the end, the winds shifted and smoke and ash rained down on us instead of burning embers. Sadly, hundreds of families in San Diego were not so lucky during this firestorm.

As often happens in life, there are two sides to every coin. In this case, the same fires that wrecked people's lives resulted in atmospheric conditions that were a pleasure to shoot photos in. As the smoke subsided a bit I met up with Carlsbad's Kyla Langen to shoot an evening session. The surf was marginal so we didn't get any great surfing photos but Kyla saved the day with a quick flip of her hair.


A Little North of Absurd

(I haven't read up on the subtleties of blog-writing yet so please bear with me as I fumble through this first attempt at one.)

I'm a big fan of pro surfing, always have been. I know it's not always cool to like the professional aspect of surfing but since I enjoy watching other paid athletes competing in their chosen fields, it's a natural fit for me to sit on the sand and view the best of the best pushing the limits in surf contests as well.

Enter the 2010 ASP Women's World Tour which kicked off a week or so ago at the Roxy Pro held at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast...

This isn't a contest review so let's just fast forward to the Finals where Hawaii's Melanie Bartels met  up with World Champ Stephanie Gilmore. Despite the exciting lead-up to the Final, the waves were lackluster at best and Stephanie Gilmore started off where she left off last year, atop the winner's podium with a well-deserved victory.

Surfing aside, what caught my eye (and ear) most about the day was a live interview with Melanie Bartels as she left the water after the Semifinals. Following the joyous acknowledgement of making the Final and after graciously thanking her shaper and accessory sponsor, Mel looked into the camera and speaking directly to the "Surf Industry" (i.e. the surf apparel industry) asked something to the effect of, "Can someone sponsor me please?"

There was a bit of uncomfortable silence, some half-laughter and a quick conversation change by the commentators but the question was hung out there and now deserves an answer.

The ball is now in your court "Surf Industry." How will you answer Mel's inquiry? I ask as well ...how is one of the most talented females to ever ride a surfboard not sponsored by one of you? Is she not blonde enough, too Hawaiian for your taste or does she simply not kiss enough corporate behinds? If she donned a tiny bikini and extended out her bottom turns, would that help her case?

One of the world's most progressive female surfers is sponsorless and that is simply absurd.


About This Blog

Much of the time at JettyGirl, stories and photo galleries arrive more as snippets instead of full-on features. This blog provides a perfect place to give those items a new home. Thank you for your continued support of our little surf mag :)

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