By Vanessa Rivers
The first time I ever surfed was the summer after my Sophmore year in high school, on my first trip to Mexico. My friend Natalie and her family were vacationing just outside San Jose del Cabo and they invited me to come along.
San Jose has a long beach zone called the Playa Costa Azul (Blue Coast). On the Costa Azul’s southwest side, you’ll find the world famous Zippers and La Roca surf breaks, with competitions held every summer. Zippers and nearby La Roca are intermediate to expert surf breaks, and dangerous for beginners. This is a wonderful, tranquil part of Mexico, with long stretches of white sand beaches and amazing local cuisine served up at Zipper’s and Dante’s restaurants, or for more formal dining, at the Havana Supper Club.
On our first day in Mexico, Natalie announced she was going out surfing with her dad and asked if I wanted to join; I refused. I grew up on a ranch with horses and cows, not at the beach, so I didn’t think I’d be very good at surfing. I did watch Natalie and her dad, Reggie, from the shore for a while and was secretly a little jealous because it looked fun and Natalie was really good. But that alone wasn’t enough motivation to get me out there. Then about an hour after they paddled out, Reggie, who was kind of big and scary, paddled back in, handed me his board and said “Vanessa tanning is not a sport. Get off your butt and go catch some waves.”
I reluctantly picked up the board and made my way out to La Roca. I had no idea that it could be dangerous for beginners, but fortunately the surf is much lower in summer, and it was indeed small when I set out. Still, when I passed Natalie on my way out as she paddled back in to shore for a break, I had to smile at her to hide my fear: the surf may not have been huge, but I had no instruction and no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that Reggie and his family wouldn’t be proud of me unless I tried to catch a wave, so I was determined to stay out there until I did. Luckily that didn’t take very long.
I was on a 10ft longboard and the waves were only 3ft max, so I paddled and caught the first wave I went for, and to my amazement I stood up first try! I couldn’t believe I was up on a board just like that! I was so excited, I rode the wave all the way into the shore and was even more excited when I saw Natalie and her whole family standing on the shore, waving at me. I waved back, beaming with pride, just before crashing the board onto the rocks on the shore, grinding it into the sand. I stood up triumphantly with a huge smile on my face, knee gashed and bleeding. “Did you guys see me?!” I exclaimed. “I caught a wave! I surfed!”
“You’re crazy!” Reggie said laughing. “You thought we were waving at you, but we were actually screaming at you to jump off. You’re not supposed to ride all the way onto the beach! You’re supposed to jump off before you reach the shore, you dork!”
That was it. I didn’t care that I had crashed on the beach and hurt myself–I’d surfed and caught my first wave on my own, and I was hooked. That day changed my life.
Surfing has since not only led me around the world, but it’s also fundamental to how I make a living–I started a company that teaches surfing ( www.surflessonswithvanessa.com), as well as an eco friendly, super sexy bathing suit line (http://www.happyendingz.com). I’m proud to say that Happy Endingz is the first swim line in the world to be made in the USA out of 100% recycled nylon. They’re perfect for any beach activity, but there are lots of other brands I love too! Here they are:
Vanessa’s Eco Surf Necessities
Channel Islands Surfboards by Al Merrick: CI boards are my absolute favourite (I am currently loving my 5,9′ Dumpster Diver & 5,11′ Rookie) and am stoked they are now working on eco board designs made out of 60% post-consumer recycled EPS: http://www.cisurfboards.com/surfboards/the-ecoboard-project/
All Natural Surf Wax by Matunas: I was so excited when this eco surfboard wax came out because at the time there was nothing like it and this stuff works great! It’s all natural, nontoxic, biodegradable and packaged with recycled paper: http://www.matunasco.com
Eco-Friendly Wetsuits by Patagonia: Patagonia, the Ventura based eco lifestyle company, has long been the lead trendsetter in sustainable apparel and products for “silent sports,”or sports that are done individually, as opposed to teams. They make wetsuits from a variety of natural fibres, including rubber and veggie fibres, but also from recycled materials: http://www.patagonia.com/us/shop/wetsuits?k=6U
Bunny Jackson Eco Vintage Dresses by Jill Johnson: My friend Jill makes this dresses by hand in Santa Barbara, CA, and they are by far my favourite beach dresses on the planet because they are made with eco vintage fabric, so many of them are one of a kind. They are also extremely flattering and they are perfect for a day at the beach, or you can throw on heels and wear them out at night: http://www.bunnyjackson.com
They’re for guys, but Riz Boardshorts
look really cool and are made from 100 percent recycled and recyclable polyester. Their nature-based designs are digitally printed using water-based, earth-friendly inks, and the shorts can be returned and recycled via a“Rizcycling” program
at the shop. Even better, a percentage of Riz’s sales goes to the charity Surfers against Sewage
, an environmental group that campaigns for cleaner coastlines.
Eco Sandals by Sanuk: Sanuk makes some awesome sandals (the women’s Ibiza sandal is my fave!) and they recently came out with a range of eco sandals and loafers for men and women. I haven’t tried them yet but I am planning to order a pair when I get home to Santa Barbara next week. Not much need for them in London where I currently am. Get me back to the beach with some cute eco kicks! http://www.sanuk.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-SANUK-US-Site/default/Search-Show?q=eco
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