Member of the Month {October}

Michelle Camoin

1. Tell us how you started surfing. How old were you and what got you into it?

The first time I went surfing was when I was 16. My friend had met a guy at the Lollapalooza music festival in Houston, where I grew up. They took us to Galveston and we surfed off the pier. The surf-bug was planted when I caught my first wave on my first try on his shortboard.
But I really started surfing when I was 25 and spent the summer in Maine visiting my oldest brother. He let me use his 9’2” Stewart longboard. I went surfing every chance I got. Five months after leaving Maine, I moved to Leucadia and was officially addicted.
2. If you could go back in time to when you first started surfing, what lessons would you teach your former self?

a) Get to know and respect the powerful Mother Ocean through research and lots and lots of observation.
b) Pay for a set of lessons to get to the fun part of surfing faster. My brother’s lesson of “just paddle and then get up” was a little less than sufficient.
c) Spend more time on a longoard than you think you need to when you’re a beginner.  . After only surfing for 3 months in Maine on a big longboard, I switched over to a 6’ 10” fun board that was a given to m. I struggled so much on that fun board that I nearly gave up. When another friend gave me an old ugly 8’ 6” longboard, I discovered the fun in surfing. After a couple of years I was back to riding a 6’10” fish. I just needed that time to have a better understanding of the ocean and get confident with paddling and timing.

3. What are your thoughts on women's surfing in general?

Surfing is the most empowering and community-building sports I’ve ever done, particularly for women. When there are women in the water, the mood changes from a competitive vibe to an encouraging stoked vibe. Over the last 15 years I’ve happily noticed it’s increasingly more rare that I’m the only woman in the water. And I do appreciate having more colorful and feminine options than black neoprene.
4. What about SDSL do you enjoy the most? As a former President of the club, tell us about how the club has evolved since then.

My favorite part of SDSL is the community it has created. I might not still be surfing today if it weren’t for the friends I made in this club. Initially the club began because the founder, Jennifer (James) Simmonson wanted to find some female surf buddies. She posted a surf session on Surfline in February 2004. Apparently she wasn’t the only woman looking for surf buddies as nearly 40 women came that day.
Though the club started small with less than a dozen women, we instantly gained the support of surfing legends. Our first three anniversary parties included world-renowned surfers: Gary Linden, big wave surfer and shaper; Linda Benson, the godmother of surfing who was the first woman to surf the legendary big waves at Waimea Bay in Hawaii in 1955; and Jennifer Smith, 2X World Longboard Champion.
By 2011 when I was leading the club, we had become more involved in the surf community. We partnered with Fulcrum surf school incorporating surf lessons as part of membership, revived our SDSL Team to compete in the Coalition of Surfing Contests, and took an active part in advocating for a more positive representation of women in surfing.
In 2012 we created the first of two Board Shorts Surf Film Festivals, which focused on short films featuring women surfing (not lying on the beach). Many of the films were created by female filmmakers, including SDSL member Haley Gordon, whose film was also featured in the San Diego Surf Film Festival that year.
In 2013 Board Shorts Film Festival was held at Bird’s Surf Shed with featured guest Cori Schumacher, 3X World Longboard Champion and one of the main leaders in the movement for a positive portrayal of women in surfing.
I’m so delighted that the club is about to reach its 15 year anniversary with a strong, diverse membership of over 250 women (and men).
5. When your gills have dried, tell us about your life on land. What other hobbies do you have aside from surfing?

When I’m not surfing, I love getting out in nature camping, hiking, and sleeping under the stars. I can’t wait until my 2-year-old son is able to carry enough weight so we can all go backpacking as a family.
My husband and I are both super passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and educating others on how choices they can make to decrease their risk of cancer, infertility and other health issues. We both spending time working and volunteering for organizations like the Keep-A-Breast Foundation and Beautycounter, who educate on prevention through environmental and lifestyle choices.
6.Tell us about your gnarliest wipe out and what you learned from it.

My gnarliest wipe out was within my first year of surfing when I didn’t quite understand the power of Mother Ocean and what size waves were appropriate for my skill level. I tumbled over the falls and felt like I was held down under water FOREVER. In that moment I realized I am not invincible.
 A few years later I took a breath holding class with SDSL from Hanli Prinsloo, a professional free diver that trains big wave surfers. I learned how to relax my body, hold my breath, and efficiently use my oxygen.
Now I know the trick to count when I’m held underwater. I rarely get to 5. So what I remember as my gnarliest wipe out probably wasn’t even a 3 count.
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