We chat to the German-born Canaries-based surfer about um windsurfing in high heels, why countries with no waves love surfing so much and Malia Manuel’s style
Tell us a little about yourself, where do you live?
I was born in Germany on a little island in the North Sea, but when I was two weeks old my parents took me to Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) where I grew up in a house right next to the ocean. I’m still based here and I love it, but I travel a lot.
When did you first start surfing and did you like it right away?
I was always on the beach and around the surf as my parents and sisters all surf, so already as a baby I was crawling around in the sand seeing them as little black dots out on the horizon. At the age of around 7 or 8 my dad took me out for the first time and I was pretty frightened and wanted to get out again. Then my sisters promised me some chocolate If I went surfing again, so of course I did it and then it really got me.
Your dad was a windsurfer, why did you choose surfing instead and can you windsurf too?
As a kid I used to always see how much more hassle windsurfing causes, it’s so much more material and you need a lot of factors to come together for a good session; also I used to hate the wind on the beach, getting sand in my eyes and seeing everything moving with the wind is kind of stressful, I much prefer the calm and the easy way of grabbing a surfboard and going in the waves. Having to spend some summers in the windy season here on Fuerteventura I did learn to windsurf though, and once I even got a model job where I had to windsurf in high heels! It was for a campaign for the Windsurf World Championships which were sponsored by a shoe company. It was super fun to get the chance to do something so weird and see that it’s actually possible 🙂
What’s great about life in the Canaries and is there anywhere specific you’d recommend we visited for a surf?
I still love living here because it’s great for surfing, it’s quiet with chilled people. You do have to travel a lot though otherwise you get island fever. If you were to come for a surf trip here I’d definitely come around September/ October. You can still surf in a bikini and the first winter swells start rolling in. There’s plenty of spots along the north coast and if you run out of wax I recommend you come by our family Surfshop “North Shore” In Lajares 🙂
How big does it get?
In the winter we get some big swells that come all the way around the coast and then Rocky Point -right in front of my house- starts working, it’s such an amazing wave! You want to be out there on a bigger board and there’s definetly a lot of power in the waves out there.
Do you ever get freaked out by big waves?
I do get freaked out when it’s really big, it’s a good feeling though when you challenge yourself and you go out of your comfort zone. As my boyfriend is a big wave surfer (Tom Lowe) over the last 3 years I’ve gotten a bit more familiar about being around big waves, to watch the way they move, the atmosphere when it’s big. As I mostly travel with Tom, when the waves get big, and he’s in the water, a lot of time I give it a try, it’s always good to know your limits but also to know how to expand them and challenge yourself.
For an almost land-locked country, Germans are pretty into surfing, why do you think that is?
I think maybe especially because of that factor people want it even more. They have got no or pretty bad waves where they live so they really crave warm water and real swell. On the other side I do believe it’s a lot to do with the fashion side of surfing that brings it in. The great thing now is that people can also do Stand Up Paddling, it’s such a good work out and it brings the surfing feeling into the cities and onto the lakes.
Which surfers do you most admire and why?
I didn’t really grow up with a lot of surf movies or surf mags, and I didn’t even know some of the big names in surfing before I met [my boyfriend] Tom and I learned more about the surfing scene. I find it hard to admire someone even just surfing when you don’t really know their personalities… so mostly I kept it close and look up to my family and people I’ve met travelling. I admire my boyfriend and all the crew in Ireland (Fergal Smith, Mickey Smith, Mitch Corbett) a lot because they are surfing crazy waves, there are such talented people there, filming, surfing, bodyboarding, doing all kinds of cool things but keeping it real and being down to earth -I like that. I do think Malia Manuel has got a beautiful style though.
Any other subjects or issues in surfing you’d like to chat about?
I think anyone who is having fun and surfing for the right reasons is cool! Don’t do it for the ego, for the fame or to show off, do it for the love! 😉
Janna is sponsored by Chiemsee Clothing, Vans & Xcel wetsuits, for more visit jannihonscheid.wordpress.com