Michaela gets real about ankle screws, Thailand surf searches and a sentiment we can all relate to: There’s no place like home.
Tell us about where you live and what you do and who you are. All the things.
Well, I grew up in San Diego – way the fuck out in the mountains of Jamul. Cell phone service just became a thing out there. My dad grew up surfing in San Diego and I wanted to learn so he showed me. Once I got my license it was game over. I’m still really bad at it, but it’s fun.
You’re a person who travels all over the world. You recently lived in Thailand for a year. You’re going to Nepal this spring. What keeps you coming back to surfing?
It’s actually hard to explain. I think there’s just something about surfing that makes you feel like, I don’t know, there aren’t really any words to describe it. It just makes me feel centered again. And every time I have a bad day or bad week or boyfriend or friend problems, I go in the water and I just forget about it. Maybe it’s because I’m a water sign. I just feel calm in the ocean.
Did you surf in Thailand?
No, but I looked for surf a bunch of times. I went down to the south islands and I saw potential at one point, but it was just bad timing. It was super stormy and there was no form or anything, but I did make the effort to look.
Searching for uncharted surf in a foreign country… nothing like San Diego. Did you feel adventurous?
Yes, especially because it was the trip I did by myself. I saw some waves and was just wishing so hard for a little right to come through with any shape to it at all, but it never did. This was in Koh Lanta in Thailand.
So you had to go a year without surfing. How was that?
It was really hard adjustment in the beginning, but then I found other ways to utilize my time. In San Diego, if you want to surf you just go. If you want to rock climb, you just go. If you want to camp in the desert, you just go. We have it so easy. But where I lived in Thailand, you only have so many options, and a lot of people don’t know what you’re trying to say, so you just find other ways to spend your time.
Is surfing something you think about when you’re traveling?
Oh my god, yeah. I can’t wait to go back in the water again. When I get homesick its not for San Diego, its for the ocean. And burritos.
Is there anywhere that you’ve traveled that you’ve surfed abroad?
Belize and Costa Rica. Belize was very beautiful. One day during sunset we brought beers to this local and he took us out. It was the most magical day ever. But to be honest, when I travel, I don’t really travel to surf. I just want to see other parts of the world – and that other part of the world might not have surfing. But that’s ok with me because San Diego is a pretty good home base for that.
If you please, talk a little bit about the surfing community in San Diego. You grew up here – is surfing a social thing for you?
It is a social thing, but also, it’s a gathering of like-minded people who may or may not be social at all. Everybody enjoys their time in the water, and the water draws people that have similar mindsets and outlooks on life. For example, I can’t stand sitting on the couch everyday and not doing anything. I find these people in the water — and they love the same things.
Then there’s the part where you fall and they make fun of you… and then they fall and you make fun of them. It’s like a big circle.
Who do you surf with now?
This loser over here. This cool person behind the camera. I feel like sharing waves with friends – well, nothing is more fun. It’s the best. And then they try and jump on you and knock you off your board and it hurts. But it’s still the best.
In one word, what was it like learning how to surf?
Painful. I broke my ankle surfing, and I still have a screw from it. This was when I was first learning, so I was 12 or 13 years old.
Why did you even continue? What kept you from saying, “Forget this sport, I’ll just find something else to do”?
Because that’s not how my brain works. If I really like something, I just can’t stop. Even if it seems like it doesn’t really like me back.
Did your dad surf with you?
He watched and laughed a lot. He was there to support and coach me along the way, but when I fell and broke my ankle he just started cracking up with a cigar in his mouth. He said, “Get up, get your board,” and I was like, “No no, I cant walk. This is big.” But he pushed me to keep going. That was cool.
Does anyone else in your family surf?
Just me and my dad, but he hasn’t surfed in a long time. He actually made his first board at Tourmaline and then he lost it off the roof of his car on the 8 freeway.
Oh my god. That is my nightmare.
Yeah, me too. It was this big log. I don’t know the after part or what happened next, but that’s my biggest fear ever.
I’m curious about what advice you would give to other ladies looking to learn how to surf.
Don’t learn from a boy or boyfriend. Meet other girls. Take lessons. Fuck it, who cares, take a lesson. Create your own group of girls to go surfing with, because in my experience, boys take you out when it’s closing out and six feet over head like, ‘yeah stand up and go’. No, that’s terrifying when you’re learning. You want it to be a fun experience so you go back again. So my advice is, introduce yourself to other girls.
Who cares if you suck, or who cares if you caught a bad wave or had a bad day? Just keep going. If you break your ankle, fuck it. Just get a screw in there, heal it up and go again.
Do you talk to other women in the water?
All the time. I’ll compliment their wetsuit or their board or if they had a cool wave or apologize if I almost killed them. That whole thing about “surfing sucks don’t try it” – it’s just to keep people out of the water so everyone gets more waves, but I don’t care about that. If you wanna surf, go surf – it’s a fun thing to do. I see mothers and fathers teaching their daughters and sons I just think that’s the coolest thing ever. In my own life, I’ve met some of the coolest people surfing. It’s a good community.
Any last words?
I think surfing has definitely made me a better person. You’re bad at something for a really, really long time and it’s a very humbling experience. It teachers you perseverance. Eventually, you meet all these people and then you sort of figure out one day that you kind of, a little bit know what you’re doing. You fall a lot. You get hurt a lot. You get scared a lot. But that’s really good for you.