Our Catamaran rocks listlessly somewhere in the deep blue Caribbean.
Malia Manuel, Nikki van Dijk, Tia Blanco and Coco Ho are hanging inside the boat, hiding from the midday sun. They spent the last three hours surfing a 4-foot, crystal blue wedge. All alone.
Over lunch they discuss Tia’s early morning barrel. That thing was sooo sick. Tia blushes. Thannnkks. (She’s the sweetest.) Conversation shifts to Malia’s mid-morning frontside air three (it was rad), Coco’s boyfriend Mark’s slopestyle Gold at yesterday’s X-Games and Nikki’s upcoming travel schedule (it’s hectic).
We’ve spent the last week here shooting these women for a portion of this year’s SURFING Swim Issue, and also for this feature. Because they’re beautiful, of course, but mainly because they absolutely rip. They’re four of the most talented females in the world today, and we wanted to bring them together to hear their thoughts on, well, a little bit of everything. Media. Social media. The CT. Being surfer models and model surfers. Their ultimate goals.
With lunch banter winding down and an hour to burn before the second surf of the day, I jump in the conversation.
SURFING: The surf industry puts a huge premium on looks. Look at us: Here we are shooting our annual SWIM Issue with the four of you. Do you ever struggle with that? Coco:
It is a gnarly topic of conversation. Like, where is the line drawn between being successful as a surfer and being successful at being pretty? My biggest thing is, I want to prove to girls that athleticism is pretty. Confidence, charisma and character will outshine beauty as “beauty” is so often defined. I somehow knew that when I was younger, but I think a lot of young girls struggle with it. Malia:
There’s a lot of pressure when you’re 14, 15, 16, because you’re trying to find yourself, make your mark in the surf world, and there’s so much competitive nature going on between women in general as far as looks go, but it’s been nice to have the tour and working to get better at surfing to draw myself away from focusing on just trying to be pretty. I feel like it’s coming around full circle now, where people don’t care as much about looks. To me, as long as you’re focusing on your surfing and your passion and what you’re trying to accomplish, that’s what matters. Nikki:
The industry as a whole does seem more accepting now than ever before. Tia:
I struggle with it sometimes. I’m really critical of myself. But I just think it’s important to love yourself and to embrace and take care of your own body, no matter what. It’s the only body you get.
How do you view men’s and women’s surfing? Do you view them differently?
Tia: I do. [laughs]
Coco: They’re definitely different.
We’re built different. We’re everything different. [laughs] But on that note, I think the men in surfing are the most supportive in all of sports. I’ve been around snowboarding and I’ve seen the dynamic and it’s not the same. The guys in surfing are supportive and helpful. They’re down to watch our heats and cheer us on. They take us seriously, and I feel like they are proud to see the progression in our surfing. And that’s just not the same in other action sports.
Nikki: And that’s changed recently as well, because of how good everyone is surfing. It’s cool — it makes me want to surf better.
Malia: Guys deserve everything they get, that’s for sure. And there are more of them — there are hundreds of good guys on the QS and the number of girls just isn’t there yet.