She’s 19 with a tiny but strong frame, and a mere three years of surfing to her name, but Casandra Castaños is one of Spain’s best surfers and charging up the European rankings. We thought it time to tell her story.
Words by: Claudia Almendros
Preparing to interview Casandra, it occurred to me that I knew virtually nothing about her. So I started doing the usual internet research, but all I could find were a couple of local paper interviews and loads of contest results. You’d think the lack of web content didn’t exactly reflect well on her, but it’s actually the total opposite. There’s no material because she’s simply been too quick for the surf media to catch up. She’s seen as one of Europe’s best young prospects, yet she only picked up her first board three years ago. We asked her to take us back to the start...
'Three years ago, I got a second-hand board and gave it a try. I slowly got addicted to the ocean and the magic of catching waves. Now, thanks to that magic, I can get some good tricks and good results, so that got me a good position in the national rankings, although I have some work to do to make it to a good international position.'
Wow, only three years and you’re one of Spain’s best surfers and 21st in the European rankings. Did you do any other sports before, or were you just born for surfing? Ha ha. Well, some of my friends say that the fact that I competed in rhythmic gymnastics for eight years might have helped me develop strength in my legs, balance, elasticity and control of my body. I also grew up playing in the ocean with my friends, catching waves on our boogie boards like all kids do. I’ve always liked doing sport in my free time.
Did you have a sensei who taught you all you know or are you self-taught? I first started with Dani Garcia, one of Spain’s best surfers, well known and loved by locals. He gave me a few lessons and the confidence that I needed to get in the water and start catching waves. Once there I got to know other surfers, started going to different spots on my own, improving and spending hours and hours in the water. I also watched videos of myself, which was very helpful, but I still have a lot to correct. And, of course, my parents helped me a lot.
We all know that at the beginning if you want to get a name in the surfing world you need to compete and get results. However, there are some surfers like Elise Garrigue who stop competing and make their careers as surfing ambassadors, and travel the world surfing for a cause. Which option attracts you the most? At the beginning I was super-motivated by competing. Nowadays I still like it but I am slowly realising that the idea of travelling and surfing as much as I can attracts me a lot more. Today I breathe surf, I live surf, I dream surf and I love surf.
So, what’s your goal? To be world champion! Ha ha, well that’s a bit far ahead. I’ll be happy to be good enough so I can enjoy the best waves in the world for a while and make surfing my profession. I want to be a ‘wave tamer’.
How would your dream wave be? I dream of having a wave right in front of my door. Right now I live by the port where there are loads of boats but also some open ocean space and I often dream that I look out the window and I see a perfect break right in front of me. I also dream that I surf harder and bigger waves.
Are you scared in the water? Of course I get scared sometimes. The ocean is very powerful and we have to respect it and always be careful.
How many hours do you spend in the water? I used to spend between eight and 12 hours a week in the water during school years and between 20 and 35 hours during holidays. Lately I’ve had to take it easy due to an injury so right now I spend about six hours a week in the water.
And what do you do when you’re not in the water? I go to the gym, play guitar and piano, and go skateboarding, swimming, roller blading, paddling, mountain biking and sometimes horse riding with my friends. I still haven’t had a chance to try snowsports.
Tell us about Santander and your spots. You don’t have to mention the names ;) The waves aren’t that good in Cantabria, but we have some exceptionally good little spots like Canallave, Santa Marina, Los Locos… once in a while we can get some amazing days there.
Spain’s Atlantic coast isn’t really known for its warm weather. Have you thought of moving to a place with warmer conditions? Yes, I have thought of moving to the Canary Islands many times. It’s close, it’s warm and they have great waves. But, until I finish my studies, I have to stay here.
How are the locals dealing with the hype of surf-tourism in your region? Every day there are more people in the water, which I don’t really dig, although I have to admit I kind of only just started myself. The problem is that people who don’t surf often don’t know the rules. It would be ideal if everybody knew and respected the rules, and beginners stayed in the areas where waves are smaller, slowly changing as they improve. They try to surf 1.5m waves on their first day, endangering themselves and ruining a good day for the locals.
Do you worry about the environment? Yes, I try to do as much as I can to respect the environment. Although I know it’s never enough, at least I take care of my surroundings. We all have to be careful and try to make it better.
Do you think the surf industry should be doing more to help protect the environment? I know they’re starting to care, but those little details are insufficient since it’s a big and very important issue that affects us all. The industry should make everything sustainable and use materials that are recycled, recyclable and organic, or at least non-polluting, and they should include ecologist messages in their campaigns. Surfing is closely linked with nature and all of us who surf should stop wasting our time and compromise ourselves to take care and preserve our wonderful planet.
Casandra is sponsored by Rip Curl, Wat Say Surfboards, Dakine, Surfcantabria.com y Norteimágen Fotógrafos.