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2020 in review...

A shifting, turning, unraveling year full of questions for both ourselves and the current systems. A year of awakening! Thankful for these life changing events that halted the schedule and took away all distractions- giving time and space to focus on life and community around us.

My year started in China… Yep! I travelled to Hainan, a small island off the coast of mainland china to compete in a WQS 6000 held at a wonderful left hand bay which, to my surprise, was covered in coconut trees, abandoned buildings and horse roaming free. I had an amazing time adventuring through waterfalls and running along the strange coastline. Throughout the stay, I saw the beautiful effect surfing had on this laidback community… the connection to the ocean inspired a care for the land and sea with beach cleanups organised at local surf schools. A responsibility that comes naturally when you love something… I feel hopeful that surfing can shift minds and save our earth.

Luckily, the dates of this contest were just a couple weeks before COVID was discovered and I got home in time for the Single Fin contest at Burleigh Point.

A spread of beautifully aged pre 1980 boards, varying in sizes and colourful tints with a fin to match, lined up along the famous Burleigh hill in celebration of the history of surfing. I got to join the lineup of groovy women and young girls styling and dancing their way through the long canvas with cheers from the crowd on the beach.

From one comp to the next I flew down to Sydney to enter a WQS 1000 but this time with the company of my brother Yani. The past 3 years I’ve been following the qualifying series and for the most part, I was by myself. Exotic locations and even more exotic dialects with situations that I look back on and have no clue how I handled… So when family and friends come along for the journey, I am so beyond happy. I love surfing with Yani and working together as a team, supporting and looking out for one another, especially in a contest. Once the comp was over we explored around Maroubra and lapped up the freedom before heading home and preparing for the Global Wave Conference.

I was so excited to be a part of this important conference, connected by waves with people all over the world and uniting to create positive change. When I was 15, I organised a paddle from Snapper Rocks to Currumbin Alley with friends to raise awareness about protecting surf line ups and coastlines from big developments like cruise ship terminals and casinos. Led by surf legend Andy Mckinnon, we campaigned to have the beach stretch and already fragile ecosystem of the Southern Gold Coast protected by a World Surfing Reserve. With passion and hard work, a lot of politics and absolute dedication from Andy- we did it! Now we get to celebrate with people who protect the ocean all over the world, a wonderful week filled with amazing talks and solutions to the looming future and hope for this next generation. I spoke about the Women of the Sea project and how it inspired me and reconnected a tie to the ocean that we all hold… a Mother, a nurturing, powerful mother of all life. With Akkiko (Women Of The Sea pt.III) I also was reintroduced to a connection that has been present since before I was born…Mangroves. On World Mangrove Day my mother had visited Bahia De Caraquez to reforest a mangrove ecosystem from destructive prawn farming and met my father. My mother then wrote music to bridge her work as an environmental activist Akkiko planted mangroves in a pattern to protect and fix her woven natural fibres from strong currents, a beautiful interconnection to the river and the sea. Read more here:

During the conference I met Michael Stewart from Sustain Surf and he introduced myself to SeaTrees, a non for-profit committing to wiping out carbon emissions by planting mangroves, kelp, coral and more sea trees, sequestering up to 5 x more emissions than a rainforest. He then invited me to head over to West Papua to visit a new reforestation area in a remote island, working with communities to learn more about this incredible tree and not only see the benefit on a global scale but on a local one too. I was beyond excited to get to see this process and be a part of such an amazing initiative.

It felt like another world, untouched ecosystems and healthy coral beds underneath powerful waves, a canopy of green engulfing the many atolls. Small, remote communities of smiling and open hearts greeting us like family- excited to see a surfboard shape. It made me daydream about exploring surfers traveling around the world finding new breaks, it made me realise that there are still wild places… it gave me hope. We visited the area for the reforestation projects and learn more about how mangroves are planted (simple placement of many beautiful ‘propagules’ in tidal sandbanks) and how they protect exposed islands from erosion, tsunamis and wild weather. To learn more and to wipe out your carbon footprint:

It was a big wakeup call into the emissions I was responsible for and if there was anything I could do to lower them… Eating plant based and seasonal foods when I was on the road or in the air was something I tried over the 2 last years of travelling full time but I knew I had to do more… This trip definitely relit a big part of me wanting to do more for the planet.

After the trip I flew straight into 2 competitions on the East Coast, a whirlwind of emotions and questions arising in myself about what I was doing and if it really brought me as much happiness and purpose. I went home to celebrate my birthday with my family, failed another driver test and packed up for what I thought would be another wild month on the Qualifying Series.

But first, I had an incredible opportunity to visit my family and return to my birth country of Ecuador, South America with Billabong for a special film about my roots and my first home. It was a huge couple of years brainstorming and planning and it felt very surreal to be able to see places that held rich memories collide with my surfing world and be able to retell important stories of conservation from deep in the cloud forest, all the way to the coastlines. Throughout the trip, we got to support local environmental groups and initiatives, supporting conservation in Intag with huge mining threats as well as reconnecting with family who I have not seen in years... You can watch the full version here.

During the trip, covid had just kicked off with many countries beginning to shut their boarders, including Ecuador, with situations escalating day by day- no one really knew what to expect but that staying safe was a priority.

When I arrived back to Australia is was recommended (not mandatory) to isolate in our own homes with exceptions to exercise. I had lived with my Grandmother, Mother and brother on the Gold Coast for the past 7 years and decided to head straight down to the eco house in Northern NSW for some much needed rest and recuperation.

As I sat in this big shed, surrounded by the Bundjalung National Park I really had the time and space to look inwards and reflect on emotions that I've had to push down due to the stress of schedules and more... It took me a while to learn how to release and notice how hard I had been trying at something that didn't bring me the happiness I thought it did.

I surfed a lot. I had to overcome blocks almost everyday like surfing alone, paddling into bigger waves and wild wild weather... But when those cyclone days came, the rainbows weren't far behind. Surfing with new friends, joined by dolphins and beautiful sea eagles... It became my joy again but for a different outcome. I wasn't dazzled by the competitive scenes anymore and did it for the feeling, following my heart.

Around this time I met Nash... A beautiful soul with chocolate curls and a big smile that melted not only my heart, but the whole community. We surfed and spent nearly every day together and everyday since! We are constantly learning from each other but it's safe to say, I've learnt how to truly love, both myself and others. Nash is my best friend and I just can't believe how lucky we both are to share this life and love together.

Nash came into my life, then came Taka. I'm not sure why I decided to adopt a young working dog, maybe a combination of company in the big old shed and an exciting thought where I wasn't traveling full time, but here he was, just down the road- free to a good home on Gumtree. Now he is our baby with energy overloads and little tantrums, the cutest smile and sweetest heart. We love him so much and are so grateful he is with us on this big journey.

2020 really wanted me to lay down and take a big big rest, looking back on a trip to the snow with Transfer Mag, Nash and I travelled down with a goal to give snowboarding a go and enjoy the beautiful country surrounding. It was such a lovely introduction with olympic athlete Jess Rich showing us the way. Just as we started getting our head around it, the trip ended with a crash, bam, smack on a big ice sheet where I lost control and decided to slow down on my right hand... I didn't feel it in the moment but as I came to a stop the pain started to rise and paramedics were called. The whole crew came down and Jess reassured me, I felt comfortable enough to let the tears run as I was told about the break and the pain ramped up a few notches. I was give the 'green whistle' and wrapped up in a blanket, tobogganed down the slope like a human burrito... I can't thank everyone who cared for me enough, I'm so grateful! Nash took care of me in every way and it really blew me away how much he was willing to go out of his way, a couple months of washing dishes, cooking food, cleaning the house and dealing with big emotions from Miss Pacha.

I was whisked away to emergency and had an X-ray with recommendations to get a metal plate to help the realingment but luckily I had a week to travel back home and look at options closer to home. This is when the boarder closures of QLD was in full force and I went into surgery for 3 K-wires for 4 weeks and then began the long road of recovery. I had never been under general anaesthetic and had horrible headaches that lasted 2 weeks after surgery and it was very transformative in perspectives and ideas that I had buried down... As much as this injury put me out of something I love for over 13 weeks, it gave me a different kind of strength and courage to stand up for what I believe in and come to a big decision about my career.

I felt so comfortable and nurtured, Nash devoted every spare minute to helping me get through those down days and lifted me when I had the energy... I had never been so out of action and really had to come to terms with this burn out, but with the help of Nash and family- everything flowed exactly how it was meant to.

During that time, I partnered with the Ecuadorian Government as an ambassador for 'Action Shark', a campaign to conserve the vulnerable a-pex predators from overfishing and illegal shark fining... Educating about the importance of sharks for the health of all oceans... I was very honoured to be a part of this and to lend a hand in anyway and form.

I also joined the SurfAid team of global ambassadors, uniting surfers to provide services to communities all over the world. I had visited one of my favourite surf break and community in the island of Nias mid 2019 and loved connecting with local schools and doing what I could to support, whether it be a few books or a few boards- it all counts!

After 4 weeks of limited movement and a strange pinching sensation in my wrist- it was time to get my wires removed. It was an incredibly gruesome view with luges to metal rods sticking out of my wrist... Some squirting out blood and a strange numbing feeling in my bone... I shudder thinking how they got them in there!

The next day I visited the High Performance Centre to get ahead of rehab and training to get ready for the next time I can enter the water. I definitely couldn't be where I am today without the help and belief of the legends at the centre, another thank you to Paul for all the work and to Pete for the strength building over 6 weeks!

Following your heart can be daunting but liberating- trusting your gut and standing up for what you truly believe in... I have had the most incredible support over the past years in my surfing but it felt exactly right... to read more;

It was time. The days in bed, all the hours in the gym, endless walks along the shore and swims beyond the breakers... The first love intwining in the sea with an open canvas of water rolling through to touch the land, disappearing forever.. or so I thought. Getting back on board for the first time was incredible, filling with this sense of purpose... A realisation that this energy of a breaking wave travels through our toes into to our hearts- absorbing this scared feeling. One that is indescribable. Now that is pure magic.

I took it slow with tip toeing on a longboard, enjoying the ebbs and flows of smaller waves and unique curves. When I finally got on a short board I almost couldn't control myself, throwing what I remembered at lips, craving down sections and just enjoying the displacement of water I could create with a simple thought. I've never had so much fun!

Another exciting announcement was the partnership with Surfer's for Climate, a group dedicated to climate action with the help of the surfing community and the connection waterpeople have with the ocean and the planet earth, a group of like minded people doing what they can. I was so honoured to be a part of the legendary line up and it's been amazing to learn from everyone involved.

Last but absolutely no least, I took a big jump into a new lifestyle and experience... I decided to join Nash on a journey around Australia in a 1993 Troopcarirer with Taka by our side. Leaving with a purpose to reconnect with the land and ourselves, respecting and honouring traditional owners from the many regions we pass through and lending our hands (and paws) to environmental initiatives wherever we go.

It was hard to leave family and our home but at the same time it felt like this was exactly where we needed to be. The troopy was our home and we found friends and family throughout the travels- learning more about ourselves than ever before.

The freedom to move to our hearts content was something so special and empowering... We could have the time and space to grow within this new chapter of adulthood and enjoy the exploration of new waters.

We're constantly shedding old layers and evolving into who we are, hand in hand, side by side... I am so grateful to everything that has led me up to this point, no matter how many lessons, I'm here and I'm the happiest I've ever been.


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