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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