Surfing with your Heart: Deafblind Attorney Dares to Ride the Waves

“I can’t do that” is something you should never say.

Just look at Haben Girma, a deaf-blind American who graduated from Harvard Law in 2013. Today, she works as an attorney in California at Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. Oh, and did we mention she surfs ? Girma is a true testament of the human spirit, rising well beyond the means she was afforded early in life.

Haben Girma with President Obama. Photo courtesy of http://www.chambers-associate.com/

Haben Girma with President Obama. Photo courtesy of http://www.chambers-associate.com/

Born in California, Haben Girma is the daughter of an Eritrean refugee who was forced to flee her home of Eritrea in the 1980’s. Growing up, she was fortunate to have great accessibility to technology that helped her communicate, and learn just as well as many of her classmates. Although she credits the use of these technologies to much of her success today, her true success lies in her tenacious spirit.

With the help of Maui surf academy, she dared herself to ride the waves in Encita, California according to the Washington Post. Being deaf and blind, she usually communicates through a device that converts braille into sounds. Since she isn’t able to bring the device into the water, she communicates purely through physical cues with her instructor. Regarding her surfing experience she says: “Success comes about through lots of failure, and i’m not afraid to fall, i’m not afraid to get in the water, try something new and look silly for a little bit because in the end we’re going to learn something and develop skills in the process.” Despite her astounding barriers, she was able to surf the Californian waves with resolution and grace.

Haben is passionate about improving accessibility to communication technology to people with disabilities. As a lawyer she fights to make sure people with disabilities have a proper education. She stresses the importance of adequate funding, well-qualified teachers, and state-run deafblind projects. For her advocacy, she was named a Champion of Change by the White House, meeting and even hugging President Obama.

In an interview with Reuters: “One of the biggest barriers facing people with disabilities are negative attitudes. People assuming that people who are blind can’t do something, or people who uses a wheelchair can’t do something; but anything is possible.” says Haben Girma. Everyone in their life faces moments of adversity that just seem too difficult to overcome. When you feel this way, make sure to think of Haben Girma. She faces adversity with grace, aptitude, and inner strength.

If you liked this article, check out my blog for more surf news and inspiring stories. Thanks for reading !

Legendary Surfer Larry Gordon Passes Away

2016 started off on a heavy note for the surf world, as Larry Gordon passed away in his San Diego home at 76 years old. Founder of the company, Gordon & Smith Surfboards and Skateboards, Larry helped shape modern day surfing with his customized foam surfboards. As a surfer himself, he knew what other surfers would be looking for and what they liked.

Larry Gordon - photo courtesy of http://www.kelpfire.com

Larry Gordon – photo courtesy of http://www.kelpfire.com

When he was three years old, Gordon moved with his family from Illinois to California. It was soon after their move that he got his first taste of surfing and the local culture. As he grew up, he spent most of his time between the water and the local skatepark – intermingling with surfers, both young and old. He would continue to visit these spots as he got older, learning what people were looking for, and often giving hometown boys their first taste of sponsorship.

In the mid 1950’s, Larry met fellow surfer, Floyd Smith. They forged a close friendship over the years, often surfing together at the local beaches in San Diego. In 1959 Larry attended San Diego State University where he was a chemistry student. In between classes, he and Smith started making surfboards out of Smith’s garage. This was the origins of their company – Gordon & Smith.

Gordon & Smith, known as G&S, were one of the first companies to bring foam boards to their home town. They knew the trends that surfers were looking for, and Gordon began to experiment with different foam materials at Gordon Plastics, his father’s factory. Success soon followed, and allowed Floyd expanding the business overseas in 1965 to Australia. For the several years that he lived there, Floyd flourished the business even more, gaining a new world wide loyalty amongst international surfers.  He brought back different designs ideas and innovations when he moved back to the States.

Smith ended up selling his share in the business in the early 1970’s to pursue other interests, but still makes wooden boards in his garage to this day.

Gordon didn’t run away from a challenge though, even after the shortboard revolution of the late 1960’s pushed the G&S longboard out of fashion. This didn’t stop him from growing the business over the years. He continued to get top surfers to try out his designs and gained valuable feedback on how to improve his products. A variety of great surfers got their start into professional surfing by being apart of the G&S sponsored team. Many of them worked for the company as well, including Skip Frye – a San Diego surfing legend.

Larry led a group of surfers, who met every Saturday, until his body would no longer allow him to surf. He fought a battle against his body in order to continue the sport he loved. Surfing was his greatest escape, and he wasn’t going to let his ability to surf go easily. When he no longer could stand on the board, Gordon surfed on his knees instead.

Gordon is survived by his wife, Grace Gordon, his children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His daughter Debbie Gordon and son Eric have taken over G&S and will continue to run the company with the same values their father created. Larry Gordon is a true legend in the San Diego surf community and will be greatly missed.

2015: A Historic Year for Costa Rican Surfing

Image courtesy of : http://www.enchanting-costarica.com/

Image courtesy of : http://www.enchanting-costarica.com/

Costa Rica is a Central American country that many people don’t think of often.  However, 2015 has been a historic year for surfers of the small country and brought the eyes of world surf community upon them. The future holds a ton of promise, as the team won their first ever ISA (International Surfing Association) World Games title, and an eighth place finish at the World Junior Surfing Championship. Finishing eighth in the highly competitive Championship, that was held in October, was a national best.

2015 was lead by three charismatic and determined team members – 19 year old Noé Mar McGonagle, 22 year old Carlos Muñoz, and 16 year old Leilani McGonagle – the younger sister of Noé.   The three, along the rest of the team, have been dubbed “the golden generation of surfers” for Costa Rica. Every single one of them made a splash this year in the international community as Leilani finished 80th during the women’s international qualifications, while Noé Mar and Carlos finished in the top 50 of the men’s World Surf League’s Qualifying Series.  Besides this impressive feat, the three of them dominated Costa Rica’s national surfing circuit.

This is an exciting time for the country’s surfing community. With the emergence of the dream team, it has shown that Costa Rican is a country that can produce surfers who are talented enough to compete on a world level. They have created ties and a name for themselves among the best surfers in the world. Here are  three massive highlights for Costa Rica’s surf community in 2015:

The Golden Generation of Surfers

The rising swell of teenager surfers was what defined the year for Costa Rica. The majority of the top surfers in the country are under the age of twenty three. As these youngsters follow in the footsteps of the veterans, they have shown that they are on the right track to overtake them one day. Malakai Martinez has showcased this on several occasions with his circuit runs this year. He’s slated to be the next big thing in surfing, as he is already better than team leaders Muñoz and McGonagle were at the age of fourteen. However, he wasn’t the only one to make waves this year. Aldo Chirinos and Oscar Urbina showcased their talents as they won the 2015 national championships in Costa Rica. All three will continue on the path to greatness and are expected to compete in the World’s in four years.

Junior World Championship

An eighth place finish was a historic moment for Costa Rica surfers. Often seen as more competitive then the World Games, the Junior World Championship was launched the careers of the most of the best surfers in the world. With the country landing in the top ten, it has helped to validate their place amongst the surfing giants of the world.

ISA World Title

The ISA World Title brings the best surfers from all over the world to compete. Held in Nicaragua this past June, the team accomplished more than it ever has in the past. Not only did they compete against the best surfers in the world,  Noé earned a gold medal from his 9.93 point ride, while the team snatched it’s first team world title. The success made them overnight celebrities, gaining the praises from everyone, including the country’s President.

The Perfect Man Made Wave is Finally Here

There is one thing that every surfer is constantly seeking and has never able to find – the perfect man made wave. Many wave parks in the past have only been able to offer a standing wave – a wave that is created from a sheet of water that is pumped into a pool and over a barrier, which will create a continuous breaking wave. As a result of this, the wave will always stay in place but does not provide the same conditions that true waves create. It doesn’t move and there are no wave faces to ride. As a result of these differences, most surfers can improve their balance and learn to maneuver the board, but it offers no real challenge.

Surfers say the Holy Grail of waves is one that recreates the physics of an ocean wave – one that can move over the pool, rise up and break towards the left or the right. As a result of these physics, surfers can catch it, move with its motions or even perform aerial turns by launching themselves off the lip of the wave. It didn’t seem that it was possible to recreate something that was created by Mother Nature.

That was until this past Friday. Legendary surfer Kelly Slater and a team of engineers managed to make a wave pool that recreated the waves off the coast of Rincon, Puerto Rico – a popular surfing spot that are known to have head-high swells. World Surf League’s Chris Mauro has been quoted saying, “This changes everything”.

The team, alongside Slater, worked on this wave pool for just under ten years. They finished the project earlier in December, but decided to wait on the announcement of the pool until the 2015 world title holder had been decided.  Afterwards Slater, an eleven-time world champion, made it public via his Instagram account.

Slater wrote the following about the wave pool on his Instagram; “This is something I dreamt about as a kid. Through rigorous science and technology, we’ve been able to design and build what some said was impossible, and many very understandably never thought would actually happen. I’m proud to say we took our time to get it right, and the first fully-working prototype of the wave now exists (a huge personal thank you to everyone in our lab and on our team for seeing this through!).”

The creation of this wave pool brings so many new and exciting things in the future. For the first time, surfers will be able to practice with a wave that mimics Mother Nature. It will also provide a safe and stable learning environment for those who may not be comfortable in the ocean just yet.

View the video, which has gained over a quarter of a million views already, below:

The Best Winter Surf Spots

When most people think of surfing, they think about the summer, the sun, and the waves. But did you know the winter surfing season is just as big as the summer? The sometimes tough winter water conditions can be a challenge for even the most experienced surfer. Around the world, surfers seek out the best winter waves near and far. Here are some of the best beaches to catch a winter wave.

Gold Coast

gold coast russell wallace

This Australian beach has some of the best waves in all of the nation. Known for its consistent waves, which generally are in the morning when the wind sails from east. The beach is known internationally by surfers and fans alike for hosting one of the Association of the Surfing Professional Tour. Considered a surfer’s paradise for waves that can be as high as one to two in a week and almost as high as four foot a month.

Hanalei Beach

Hanalei Beach Russell Wallace

This scenic two-mile beach in Hawaii is home to white sands and surrounded by mountains. This surfer’s favorite gs some of the best winter surfing with a peak season for surfing starting in September and ending in May. The beach is so well-known in the winter time that world champion surfers and athletes call Hanalei home.

Jeffreys Bay

Jeffreys Bay Russell Wallace

Located in South Africa, Jeffreys beach goes from Cape Receife located east to Cape St Francis on the West. Not only is Jeffreys Bay one of the safest beaches in the world it also considered to be one of the world’s most famous surfing spots. The allure of the Bay is fast waves that new surfers and seasoned veteran surfers can enjoy. The waves in the winter can be as high as twelve feet, and the wind takes a swell in these colder months.

Rincon Bay

Rincon Bay Russell Wallace

Found in the Caribbean, and home of The 1968 World Surfing Championship is better known as the “Surfing Capital of the Caribbean.” Rincon Bay is made up of six beaches alongside the Anasco Bay. The beaches attract surfers from around the world for the chaotic Atlantic and soft, more gentle Caribbean waves that surfers have come to love.

Oceanside Harbor

Oceanside Harbor surfing

Located in Southern California in the middle of the SoCal Surfers heaven, Oceanside Harbor is one of the most well-known surf spots of SoCal. With favorable conditions that have the wind swelling from the North West, West, and South West. The beaches’ waves can break at a high as ten feet.

Best Southern California Surf Spots

russell wallace surfing

When you think about surfing, one of the first places that come to mind has to be Southern California. Southern California is home some of the greatest and most surfed spots in not only the USA but all of the world. The entire coastline is filled with top tier surfing, that every surfer in the world has to come surf at least once on their life.

Malibu

Located in Los Angeles County, this world class point break is home to one of longest waves around. Equipped with several points that get a little punchier as you move further north. One of the downsides is the huge crowds these waves attract. Both the sizes of these crowds as well as the lack of experience in some of the surfers, who also don’t demonstrate proper surf etiquette

Swamis

A world class surf spot in San Diego County, the right point break is usually best during the winter. The surf holds up, ranging in 2 to 12 plus feet. The crowds are bearable, but by no means small. The rights are absolutely perfect, and with that locals can be a little grumpy, but other than that Swamis is a must surf spot.

D-Street

Located in San Diego County, just north of Swamis in Encinitas. A nice sandy beach break is full of lefts and rights, and the waves are fast too. With the surf being a little more advanced, seasoned surfers can enjoy smaller crowds, and find others who know how to surf well.

Salt Creek

Found in Orange County, Salt Creek is one of the cleanest and most powerful lefts you’ll find in southern California. With two main breaks that provide drastically different experiences, the first is the The Point. The Point is a nice, powerful left, that allows for amazing maneuvers. The other is know as The Middles, and is also a great hollow break closer to the shore. Sometimes the breaks connect, and treat surfers with a long, speedy ride.

Blacks

Considered by many to be the best beach that Southern California has to offer. Blacks have three main peaks that provide some amazing waves with any swell direction. The world class break will pump out some amazing waves and barrels anywhere from two feet and as big as any surfer could imagine. It’s not uncommon for surfers to hit their biggest barrels while riding at blacks.

The Wedge

Found in Newport, The Wedge offers one of the most exciting and powerful beach breaks in all of Orange County. The wave is best with the south swell. A lot of bodyboarding and bodysurfing goes on here, but let it be known that you’ll always see a large amount of surfers as well. The big hollow lefts, almost break on the sand. The only real negative is that you need to be a pretty experienced surfer to ride this wave. If you’re just jumping into the water for the first time, this wave might not be for you.