Credit: Stefan Leitner
Ale is a charming woman that has a passion inside her for surfing. Originally from Mexico, she decided when she was younger to move in the USA. Not big enough for her, she moved to France and afterward in Spain. She then fell in love with the sport of surfing while working for Surf Rider Foundation and moved to San Sebastian, where she can surf any time she wants.
We decided to do an interview with her because of her talent that will make you want to travel. Taking a camera and going to shoot pictures isn’t that hard, but to do picture as you will see, this is pure talent that needs to be shared with everyone. She’s not only taking pictures of people and the ocean, she’s taking the soul of the world to share it and make you feel the moment. She doesn’t want you to be jealous of her life, oh no. She wants you to understand that you can do the same.
You see the pictures, you see the surfer out there?
It could be you.
Only if you want to.
I asked her a few questions (way too many – as usual) and she was kind enough to spend almost one hour with me over Skype.
Do you remember where you’ve met Akela Surf?
Florida, but mm … When you work in the surf industry, you kind of know everyone or a friend of a friend. I think we had a lot of friends in common, and then they put on their website that they needed some girl ambassadors. So, I contacted them and Servio saw that we had friends in common. It was surprising.
The world is such a small place! So, are you an ambassador for Akela Surf by now?
Me and Servio want a closer relationship than just the typical ambassador, we’re like in the ‘’what to do’’ phase. We want something that concerns more the business. But, I know their ambassador here in Spain, they are a couple of girls. In the end, I am telling you. The world is small.
Can you tell me a bit more about where you are from and how did you end up working in the surf industry?
I was born in Mexico, then I lived in the State. Then, I lived in France and I moved to Barcelona to study a master degree and I have been staying there for 6 years. I started to surf eight or nine years ago, when I was living in Barcelona because I was volunteering at the Surf Rider Foundation. They were organizing little surf camp and one day I was like «I would like to try»! At the end, I really loved it. The whole summer, we were travelling up North to surf because there is not a lot of surfing in Barcelona. Then, I don’t know, I just got a lot to do with the foundation. I was doing their marketing campaign, and one day they were looking for someone that speaks English, French and Spanish: I thought it could be me. I sent my resume and I got the job, so I moved to San Sebastian. It was really good because I wanted to surf every day. All the coast is really nice, there are waves and in thirty minutes you can go to France or Beirut. It’s really pretty, but the issue is that in winter it rains a lot.
Afterward, I worked at Surf Rider for three years. I was running the office for Spain and Portugal, it was super nice. I had to learn a lot and made a lot of contact in the surf industry. My contract ended up one year and a half ago, then I didn’t know what to do. I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua and see what’s going on, so I went to Nicaragua for three months. I realized that I didn’t want to go back to an office job. I was doing a lot of photography for a while because I studied at University in Graphic Design and Publicity, so you have Photography classes. I was doing a lot of photos back then and when I went to Nicaragua, I was working in this little hotel boutique and I was doing all their pictures for their social media. Photography became serious and I was shooting every day.
So, what are you doing there exactly? I think you’ve got a business going on there?
Yes, exactly. For my first year in Nicaragua, I really got inspired to do a lot of things and I started to do it, but way too many things. One of the things was to organize surf and yoga retreats.
Did you started your company by your own or you’re working in collaboration with someone else?
I have a business partner, I actually met in Nicaragua. She’s originally from Holland, she lived a lot of time in London and now she is in Bali. I decided to stay a little bit more in Nicaragua, two months more than her, to be there and be in others area to connect with people doing similar things.
How does it work to go on a retreat exactly? How much time is it?
It really depend on the place. Just right now, I’m working on a project to have a house here, in San Sebastian, to do a retreat for the summer. Normally, our retreat can be seven to ten days, but it really depends. But, in Nicaragua, this is 10 days. We propose some dates, you check it out and apply on the procedure online. I send you a PayPal form so you can pay the deposit and after you pay the rest. It’s about everything that are related with surfing: surf, yoga, healthy food.
How are the waves in Nicaragua? Are they better than Spain?
They’re amazing, it’s really cool! It’s more tropical. The waves in Spain aren’t that warm, but in Nicaragua, you surf in bikini all year long.
So, you’re doing so many things at the same time, I’m even surprised you have time for an interview. How did your projects all came together?
Last year was crazy because I wanted to be in everything: writing, organizing and shooting pictures. I was also working for some surf events, doing the communication and press. It was too much. So, this year, I’m trying to focus on big projects. I am still writing, but not that much, I’m writing more intelligently because I want to put my energy on the things that really matter, like my pictures. The retreat is a big project as well and maybe I could do some exhibitions this year in Europe. I would like to start in San Sebastian and Barcelona, maybe in France and Germany as well if it’s possible.
How were you doing last year to survive with your busy life, were you sleeping at all?
I was working all day long, but I was really tired. Then, I also worked for another platform, extreme sport platform. I was covering some surfing festivals for them, so I was doing that as well.
Woo, that’s almost heroic all the works you did! You also started your own blog, ‘’from where you’d rather be’’, what’s the idea behind it?
When I went to the Nicaragua for the first time, I wanted to start a Tumblr. I did one already in California, called «California mission», and the pictures are all in black and white. It went well, so when I went to Nicaragua I decided to start another one. But Tumblr is almost just images, you can’t really write a post about your experiences and I needed that. So, I started this site as a blog, it was mainly for posting pictures and talk about my experiences.
It’s more to showcase my adventures but also my work and what I do. I just started planning the retreat and usually, I put the information for the retreat on there. It kind of developed as a business brand, ‘’from where you rather be’’, it speaks. It started approximately one year ago. The good thing is that I have tons of visitors so I’m super happy! I don’t have many fans on Facebook, but I have a lot of visitors monthly. I think a lot of people like the pictures and they like to see them. In winter, a lot of people write to me that they’re going to Nicaragua because of my pictures, it’s really cool!
Do you remember the first time you bought a camera? Did you expected it was going to be a big part of your life?
Well, the first camera I got, my father gave it to me. He bought it when he got married with my mother 30 years ago, and he gave it to me while I was in school. I still got that camera and it’s really amazing because I’m the person who loses everything! But this camera, I still have it. I hope I’m not going to lose it in the future and it’s a really cool camera, it’s a Minolta. I still use it, it’s very good, but only for some pictures. Usually I’m using digital. When you have films, it’s kind of expensive.
What are the biggest influence in your art? What’s your favourite thing to shoot?
Surf and travel. I really like surf shots, but I enjoy portraits as well. It’s all ocean inspired. I like beautiful people: beautiful girls and surfers just hanging out near the beach, with the ocean, having a good time.
What’s on your last memory card?
A shot in Nicaragua of a girl I know. She wanted a picture of her and at the end it turns out really good! It wasn’t plan, but I really like the shot. I was living in a place for two months and we were friends, she knew I was going back and she asks me to take a picture of her. She said ‘’I’m now young and beautiful’ and want to remember it. They were big waves that day so you can see the ocean and the waves breaking. Nicaragua is unique.
You travelled to a range of places, where do you want to go next?
San Sebastian is a place to be during the summer and there are a lot of things to do. You have the International Film Festival, some music festivals, France is just 30 min away and you have a couple of surf competition going on over there as well. So, I’m going to be here for all of this and I want to go in Bali after, for the winter. I have never been and my business partner is now living there and she doesn’t stop telling me ‘’you really have to be here, this is your place’’. I will probably go there for 2-3 months and after in Nicaragua. And, then, going back to Europe.
What would your dream assignment be?
When I started to take pictures, what I really wanted to do is to go on an adventure with girls that surf. Maybe pro or maybe not, but I would really love to go to the Maldives with 10 girls, take pictures and document it all. I could have another blog only about the adventure, just girl stuff you know. I really love to shoot surfing girls, but I don’t know why, I have few shots of girls. The guys are always out there.
Do you think that girls are less present in the sport of surfing? Why’s that?
It’s always more men, but everywhere you go it’s like this. I think the sport is changing, before I don’t think a lot of women were like ‘’I’m going to try to surf’’, it’s such a macho sport and if you see the marketing, it’s really macho. You see all these guys ripping and shredding while the girls you see in the video are just hanging at the beach with mini bikinis. From last year, the industry is changing and right now they’re focusing on women’s skills, it’s different.
Also, you see a lot of boys travelling with their buddies, but there’s not enough girls doing the same. I think it all starts when you are a girl who surf, you don’t have a lot of girlfriend surfing with you.
Do you like to surf in big waves or you rather choose smaller one?
I surfed some scary waves, for me! Sometimes you hurt yourself, depending of a lot of things. Once, I was in Nicaragua and it was pretty big, like eight ft., and I was really struggling just to be alive you know because there were big sets coming and let’s say my duck dive isn’t perfect. So, at the end I get a few waves and a big set’s coming. It turned out my boards and I got the fin in one of my arm, so I cut myself and I went out. This is really common. I opened my head too, my nose, my chin. I’m very aware that when I go in big waves, I am scared because probably I’m not trained as I should be. I think this year, I want to train more in Apnea so I can become more confident whenever I go in big waves.
What do you find the most challenging aspect of the job?
I think the hardest part is to be able to just go whenever you want to go. This is like a real commitment. ‘’Ok, I am going to work for this long and after I will go away’’. It’s not like an office job that you can just go and come back. The lifestyle I choose is more difficult in that term: I have to drive a lot of project, propose them, I have to fight for them, but then I can go whenever I want. It’s one thing for another. I don’t enjoy being in office, but I see why this is so comfortable. The routine is good, but I’m just tired of that. I really like to work more on my things, my project. I want to do it for me, not for other people.
What is the scariest thing that happened to you while traveling/surfing?
While travelling not really because I’m really sociable and I speak English, French and Spanish. But during surfing, yes. There are two times I got scared. The first one is the one I told you about earlier. But the other one is during this year. My leash wasn’t working properly so I lose my board in the middle of the ocean. Two sets were coming and the experience of losing my board made me panic. I felt nude. I know how to swim, but I panicked and a surfer came to rescue me because I was totally panicking and super tired of fighting with the waves. When you don’t go with the flow, that’s what happens.
What is about surfing that makes it so appealing to a photographer?
I think it’s because I surf so I just want to share the feeling. I see the waves and I see the people surfing, I’m super stoked! Just wishing I was there and I want to keep it for other to see. Sometimes, I am shooting and I am thinking ‘’I’m going to leave my camera right here and go’’, but sometimes I need to tell myself that I can surf any other days.
What’s the most important thing about photography you’ve learned so far?
I think it taught me how to connect with people. For me, it hasn’t been difficult. It’s always harder at the beginning, but I’m trying to connect with the subject before. And, then, I just go and shoot. Whenever they see a camera against their face they feel like it’s ‘’really happening’’, so some of them can be really nervous or stiff, but they get used to it.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This is hard, it’s so far! Maybe I see myself with a surfing family, going here and going there. Doing our business with a guy and one child.
Maybe in Bali, who know?
Maybe with an Australian, that would be great! They’re really nice people.
Thanks for your time Ale, talking with you for a moment was great and you are such a beautiful woman, inside and out.
Having a tons of your pictures with me shows me how talented you really are.
Maybe I will see you in Nicaragua next winter, your pictures gave me inspiration for surf trips!
We are proud to have you on the Akela Surf Team.