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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mercedes Maidana: Big Wave Surfer & City Girl


Growing up, I associated the company Patagonia primarily with their Snap-T pullover fleeces. All my friends had them and I desperately wanted one too. Little did I know that Patagonia was involved in more than just hiking, camping and climbing gear and supplies. It's also a great surf company.

Last week, I had the chance to hear one of Patagonia's Surf Ambassadors share her story at the Patagonia store in Soho. I love that Patagonia's Surf Ambassadors outnumber the number of Ambassadors in any one of the other sport categories.

Mercedes Maidana was a city girl from Buenos Aires who first tried surfing in her early 20s after a bad break-up. On a trip to Brazil with a friend, she borrowed a surf board and headed out into the line-up. As she lay on the board, she felt all the balled up anger and energy release from her body and she experienced pure joy - her first glimpse of happiness in 7 months. A one-week holiday turned into a three-month adventure. She fell in love with surfing and there was nothing else.

Since then, she hasn't stopped. She's traveled the world, chasing swells and catching waves. Ultimately, she settled on the North Shore of Oahu and her home overlooks one of the most storied breaks in the world - Sunset. She has been pursuing her dream of being a professional big wave surfer. She's been nominated for the Billabong XXL Girl's Performance Award - which honors to biggest ride on a wave - in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and won third place in the Women's Big Wave Exhibition at Nelscott Reef in 2010.


Mercedes is a super sweet, bubbly and gracious woman - not exactly what you would imagine as a big wave surfer. Surfing big waves has been a male-dominated pursuit - searching out the biggest and baddest waves out there. We're talking about 10-20 feet on the face of the wave. It takes a lot of a guts and nerves of steel as well as a hard exterior to take the beating by the waves. 

But really, I love the fact that Mercedes started surfing later in life (See??! It is possible!). She shared some great stories and humbling experiences, like being stuck underwater in a reef cave at Sunset, on the way to achieving her dreams. She trains hard - favoring high intensity interval training like Insanity and Asylum workouts, yoga, swimming - and generally tries to stay as active as possible. 

The biggest message that I took away from her story is the power of visioning and articulating your goals. Once you find your joy and it's something that's in your heart to do, there's no denying it. Eventually the right doors will open but it's on us to move towards those doors and to be prepared for that day but also provide the space to allow it to happen.


I had a chance to ask Mercedes a couple of questions about surfing and her outlook on life.

Are you seeing more women out there surfing big waves? Do you encounter much resistance as a woman? 
There are more women surfing big waves each year, at least that's what I witness in Hawaii! I encountered some resistance in my beginning years in the big wave lineups, but as the men who surfed there saw me over and over again, and they saw that I wasn't a weak surfer in the water, they totally embraced me and most of them helped me progress in the sport. When men see that you are so focused and you put so much effort in what you do, they appreciate that and they open up. I think that it's mostly the fear that they have that if you are not well prepared, you may become a hazard in the water or put someone in a risky situation. But if you can prove that you are just as strong as they are (or at least try), they know they don't have to worry about you and they don't have to take care of you in big waves.

How do you handle it when someone says to you "You can't or shouldn't be doing this" or, when you were starting out, "You're too old"? 
I kept myself focused and I tried not to give my power away to other people. There are many voices outside of us and inside of us that tell us that we are not good enough and not ready enough. And we may always have those voices speaking to us. What matters is how much attention we give to these voices and how we let them influence us in our day-to-day lives. If we have a desire coming from our heart, those voices might hurt for a little bit. But eventually, the desire is stronger and it is is on us to follow it and honor it, whatever our calling may be.

Who are your role models and/or mentors? 
So many people influence my life in positive ways: a lot of Waimea and Sunset Beach surfers that helped me grow as a surfer and set a high example of respect for the Ocean and others. I could mention Clark Abbey, Darrick Doerner, Greg Long, Jamie Sterling, and the amazing ladies that charge big waves such as Maya Gabeira, Keala Kennelly, and Savannah Shaughnnessy. There's also Yvon Chouinard who sets a great example of how to do business in the world while giving back and respecting nature and others (and go surfing in the meantime!).

Many of my readers are new surfers or those wanting to give it a try. What advice do you have for someone just starting out? 
I would tell them to persevere, as the beginning is always the hardest part! Once you figure out how to catch the waves and turn your board, it just gets easier and more fun all the time! I would also suggest that they take a few lessons at a surf school as they will learn the basics and get to practice in the right equipment for beginners.

What's one piece of advice that has stuck with you through the years? 
My meditation teacher once told me: "Live in the loving, live in the now, live one day at a time, one breath at a time." If we could do that we live in heaven on earth.

Where are you off to for your next adventure? 
I am growing my business in the self-development industry, working as an Abundance Coach, writer and motivational speaker. My bliss is to help people live their dreams and I share with them the tools and principles that I applied in my life to live my dreams. I want to spread a message of living an abundant, joyful, fulfilling life! I am now in Hawaii, working and keeping an eye on the storm models, because when some big perfect swell pops up somewhere in the world, I would love to go and keep improving myself in big waves! Thanks to Patagonia I am able to live my dream and grow as as surfer and as a person.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to meet Mercedes and hear her story. I loved hear her absolute enthusiasm and passion for surfing and the euphoria she describes from being out on the water. Thank you Mercedes! You can follow Mercedes on FacebookTwitter or on her blog.



{P.S. This isn't a sponsored post or anything. I was invited to attend the event and ask Mercedes some questions. I just really loved Mercedes' story and love Patagonia.}




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43 Comments:

At July 18, 2012 at 4:59 AM , Blogger Angela @ Happy Fit Mama said...

Very cool! It's always so nice to hear about women who succeed in male dominated industries. Thanks for sharing! I'm still working up the courage to try surfing! :)

 
At July 18, 2012 at 6:21 AM , Anonymous Katie @wishandwhimsy said...

Wow! What an awesome opportunity to speak with a woman who inspires you! I love that she started surfing later in life, too. It's never too late to be the person we were meant to be. Love it!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 6:26 AM , Blogger AmyC @ running escapades said...

Surfing is one of the sports that look powerful, scary, and beautiful all at the same time.

Mercedes is truly inspiring!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 6:38 AM , Anonymous Lisa@RunWiki said...

What an amazing opportunity to have met Mercedes. She sounds like someone we can all learn and grow from. You know that recently I used surfing as a metaphor on overcoming some difficult circumstances in my life. I love that you surf, write about and share your sport. Surfing seams so natural and real, just you and the force of the wave.. anything could happen, anything is possible... just like life.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 7:02 AM , Blogger Cotter Crunch said...

wow! very cool! I wish i could go see her surf now!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 8:18 AM , Blogger Krysten said...

WOW AWESOME! Such a cool story and great interview!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 8:26 AM , Blogger The Preppy Girl in Pink said...

First of all, love her story!! Second of all, love that she just went out there and did it. She didn't listen to anyone about her sex, age, skill level. She just did it. I wish her much success on the waves and in life. She is a wonderful example to share with my girls!
By the way, how cute is that photo of the two of you?!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 8:27 AM , OpenID Ilene, The Fierce Diva Guide to Life said...

Mercedes, you are super inspirational! Thank you for the great reminder of the importance of visioning, living one breath at a time, and the need for us to banish the voices of doubt that interfere with us chasing our dreams. I can't wait to read more about you!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 9:05 AM , Anonymous Meredith @ Dare You To said...

GReat that you pointed out that she started surfing later in life -- wasn't born and bred. It's so important to remember that change is possible at any stage, and we can always try and love new things!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 9:32 AM , Anonymous Laura @ Mommy run fast said...

That's awesome! What an inspiration... love the tips on visualizing, and the "live in the loving, live in the now"- thanks for sharing her story!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 11:35 AM , Anonymous Cat @ Breakfast to Bed said...

Awesome!!! So great that you got to meet her!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:18 PM , Blogger Christine said...

She is super inspiring in all that she's accomplished but I particularly love her approach to entering into such a male-dominated arena and dealing with it with dignity.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:19 PM , Blogger Christine said...

It really is never too late. One of the things that she shared was that there were many voices in telling her that she couldn't do it but then realized that many of those voices were her own fears and a big part was owning those fears and overcoming them. She is an incredible lady.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:20 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Me too!! One day, right?

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:21 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Krysten! She does have a great story and I'm grateful to have had a chance to hear it and to share if with you all here.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Especially with something like surfing - all the pros have been surfing pretty much since they could walk. To enter into a sport at a "late age" and be able to achieve a dream of surfing professionally is pretty amazing. It's so true - it's never too late and you never know you're going to love something unless you try.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:23 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Aww, thanks Kristen. Mercedes is an incredible example to share with your girls. I love hearing stories like hers and how she was able to make her dreams happen - not just by wishing and praying but by working hard for it.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:23 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Me too!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:25 PM , Blogger Christine said...

It IS truly powerful, scary, beautiful, amazing and exhilarating at the same time. The way that she described how the energy rolled off her body when she was laying on the surfboard and the bliss she felt - amazing. I can totally identify with that and I think it's one of the reasons that I fell in love with surfing from the start.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:29 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Lisa. It truly is an amazing sport. For me, being out on the water is one of the times that I am truly in the moment and I let go because you can't control the ocean, waves or mother nature so you have to let go of that control a bit, which, generally is hard for me to do in real life. I loved your post about surfing and overcoming difficult circumstances in your life. While we can't stop what life throws at us, we can decide what we do with what's thrown at us and how we can harness that energy and create something beautiful out of it, much like surfing.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:30 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Laura! I love that part to about "live in the loving, live in the now." So true.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:36 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Cat!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:46 PM , Anonymous Lindsay @ Lindsay's List said...

So flippin' cool!! I still need to try this surfing thing out - love that pic of her on the big wave!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:52 PM , Blogger Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl said...

What an awesome interview! So inspiring. And I love the answer to her second question. Kudos!

Now, if I could just make this happen - one-week holiday turned into a three-month adventure - I might be in bliss. ;)

 
At July 18, 2012 at 1:53 PM , Blogger misszippy said...

She is just so cool! Love her courage and spirit. Love that you got to meet her and you did a great interview with her. My favorite line in her video "I couldn't stop surfing." Awesome.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 5:43 PM , Blogger Fun and Fit: Kymberly and Alexandra said...

Her quote about not giving away power to others is so key! I am happy for you that you got to meet and interview her. GO FEMALE ATHLETES! http://funandfit.org/2012/07/the-klout-workout-perks-circuits/ Kymberly

 
At July 18, 2012 at 5:55 PM , Blogger Blond Duck said...

I've always wanted to surf!

 
At July 18, 2012 at 6:02 PM , Anonymous Angie (Losing It and Loving It) said...

Awesome! She is amazing. Great interview and I loved the video.

 
At July 18, 2012 at 9:13 PM , Blogger Hank @losing100lbs said...

Awesome.

 
At July 19, 2012 at 5:34 AM , Anonymous Jess said...

What an awesome post! I want to travel the world and surf! So inspirational. I love stories of people who have gone for it and are living their dreams. She must have nerves of steel to get on those big waves!!

 
At July 19, 2012 at 6:08 AM , Anonymous Miz said...

I ADORED THIS.
and I too am a long term long time fan of the SNAP Ts!

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM , Blogger Christine said...

You know, in all these years, I still don't think that I've owned an official Snap T! She has a pretty amazing story and I'm happy I got to share it here.

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:12 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Jess! I want to travel the world and surf too!! But maybe some waves that are a bit smaller than what Mercedes would go for :-) Hearing stories like hers definitely reminds me about going for our dreams and living our lives for ourselves. It was a great reminder.

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:14 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you! I loved the video too!

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:14 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Hank!

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:16 PM , Blogger Christine said...

It's a pretty incredible experience and so fun! I hope that get a chance to try it!

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:17 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thank you! She really does have an amazing spirit and a whole lot of courage and grace. It was so great to be able to meet with her and to learn a bit more about her story and surfing. I think that's my favorite line in the video! Kind of feel the same way :-)

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:19 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Isn't that a great quote? Because really, that's what it's about in the end. I'm grateful to have had the chance to meet her and learn more about her life and perspective. Love learning more from strong female athletes.

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:19 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Lindsay! Isn't that an awesome picture? She's totally charging it.

 
At July 20, 2012 at 11:20 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Thanks Christine! I know, she's worked against so many obstacles and stereotypes and I loved hearing how she managed all of that because it couldn't have been easy. Yeah 3-month adventure does sound like bliss to me right now!

 
At July 21, 2012 at 8:21 AM , Blogger Savvy Working Gal said...

What an amazing story and one I really needed to read right now. What an inspiration. Thanks for sharing - I am stopping by from SITS.

 
At July 21, 2012 at 8:32 AM , Blogger Leigh Powell Hines (Hines-Sight Blog) said...

Hi Christine. What a great opportunity to interview her. Her story is fascinating. I like patagonia, too. It's funny. I'm not really an adventure person, but for some reason, I like the comfort of the clothes. With my like of luxury hotels, and stuff, I think most people would associate me as someone that would like to be dressed all the time, but I prefer to dress for comfort so I have very few outfits that I can wear in the hotels unless they were in Jackson Hole, maybe. :)

 
At July 21, 2012 at 9:31 AM , Blogger Tina Kempa said...

Thanks for introducing me to another inspiring woman! I love the fact that she found this new love as a result of the loss of another. Instead of crying in a corner she went out and did something brave - as a result she found something she would never have known! What a great story!

 

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