‘Ugh I Need a New Hobby’ Series: sporty girl Emily Lowman shares how learning to surf connected her to her new home

1. Tell us what prompted the big California move.
After college at the University of Florida, I moved to Atlanta and had various jobs, from sales to interior design and a few things in between. I ended up getting involved with an organization called A21. A21 stands for abolishing slavery in the 21st century and it is an anti-human trafficking non-profit. A position opened up with A21 in their California office and I moved out to Newport Beach May of 2017. I am the Fundraising Coordinator for A21 and I absolutely love my job, getting to work with our supporters, with our global team and on our campaigns. The environment of A21 is incredible and I live with 4 girls I work with and a lot of my best friends in California also work for A21.
California is an amazing place and so many people who live out here are from somewhere else so there is this incredible culture of inclusion and family where you can meet someone for 5 minutes and then you are invited on their friend group’s next hiking or surf adventure.
2. How were sports a part of your life growing up?
Huge huge part of my life. I played about every sport I could; I even did jump roping competitively in elementary school haha. But I focused on track, cross country and soccer throughout my grade school years and did intramurals in college. Loved it all and a large portion of all my free time growing up was spent doing sports, at practices or games.
3. Have you always wanted to get into surfing?
Most definitely. I think after I saw Blue Crush I was hooked. I used to buy surf magazines and imagine living in California or Hawaii, being sponsored by Roxy and becoming a pro surfer. So naturally, when I moved to California I was like ‘okay let’s do this.’ Childhood dream being lived out in adulthood haha, minus the being sponsored by Roxy and becoming a pro surfer part but hey who knows, maybe one day.
4. What were some challenges you encountered trying to take up a new sporty hobby?
I think you have to be alright failing very publicly. Especially with surfing. When you are learning to surf you are basically just getting humbled by the ocean every time you attempt to catch a wave or even paddle out. And when you take a fall in surfing it is not cute. Everyone watches you fall down the face of the wave, your board flies up in the air and after you finish going through the rinse cycle you come up looking like a wet dog gasping for air.
I really had to learn to laugh at myself and not be afraid to fail in front of a lot of people, which, is hard to do when everyone around you has been surfing since infancy. In surfing you are considered a beginner for 2 years because it can be so challenging. The waves, winds, and tides are different from day to day so mastering it is not an easy feat and I have a loooong way to go lol.
Also, with a full-time job, it is hard to go every single day and when you grow up doing sports it’s like 50% of what your life is dedicated to, during the week and on the weekend. However, in adulthood you do it as you can and as your schedule allows so that consistency can be hard to achieve and the learning curve can seem steeper because you are progressing more slowly.
5. How has surfing helped you get involved with the community?
It has actually been the greatest connecting point with people. Southern California has such a laid-back surf and beach culture. With that being said people are always at the beach or outdoors adventuring. People are serious about their goals but don’t define themselves by what they do for work but instead by their passions and the things that set their heart on fire.
When I first moved here I started surfing within that same month and shortly after I started, a ton of people at my work decided to join me and we started an A21 surf club. I quickly found out that from Malibu to San Diego people travel to surf with friends and surf different spots along the California coast. I have made so many friends through surfing different areas of Southern California and have gotten so much more exposed to the local community because of that, by being able to connect with people on a different level.
Getting up at the crack of dawn for dawn patrol and surfing as the sun comes up when you are paddling out in the pre-sunset glow is the best feeling in the world. I have actually gotten to teach at least 20 people how to surf which has been the most fun. Watching someone catch their first wave and get hooked is just the best!
6. What advice do you have for people trying to learn how to surf? Advice for any 20-something wanting to try a new active hobby?
Sounds simple but don’t be afraid to look like a fool or ask for help from someone better. You gotta pay your dues to the ocean before you can surf it lol and that looks like a lot of time tumbling under the waves. But it is so rewarding and have fun with it, even the parts where you feel like you are failing because eventually it’ll catch and you’ll get it. Also, surf with other people who are beginners as well as people who know what they are doing so you don’t feel like you need to progress faster than you are but also so you have people who can help you learn or correct you.
I watched a lot of surfing videos did research on boards and wetsuits. I had no clue about anything, lingo, wave courtesy etc. Get nerdy about it and dive in, no pun intended, but if you really want to do it research it and talk with people about it to learn more as you are starting up.
7. What’s your favorite thing about the California surfing culture?
It really is the best connecting point. A great way to get a group of people together and just have fun. It doesn’t even matter if the waves are good or not, sometimes it’s just fun to be in the water paddling around chatting and goofing off. Such amazing memories at so many different beaches with so many different people, catching party waves or getting kook slammed by waves way out of our league. You loose track of time and it’s like all your cares go out the window when you are out there.
The US Open of Surfing is held every year in Huntington and it is so fun to watch during this week-long event and meet surfers from all over the world and local surfers from California. So fun!
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8. Any cool west coast / surf lingo you’ve integrated into your vocabulary?
gnar gnar or shred the gnar
shocka (it is a hand signal but it means like radical or like hang loose everything is going to be a-ok)
kook (broader language for a newbie or someone who does something dumb)
kook slam (when you get destroyed by a wave)
drop in (the act of catching a wave, the first step is dropping into the wave)
grom (a younger person who is amazing at surfing)
dawn patrol (surfing as the sun comes up)
out the back door (when you are surfing and go over the top of the wave “out the back door” before it closes out)