Author Archives: Rebecca Heller

Short Film: Blue Rise

Check out this new short film directed by Tristan Helias & Marin Troude. “We really wanted to make something original, a short film where everyone could identify with this mysterious, strong and enigmatic character. Between shadows and lights, a timeless and fairylike moment shot during the last glimmer, where woman and ocean become one.”



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Justine Dupont: Big Wave Surfer Dives Deep

justine_2_exc(The following is an excerpt from The Red Bulletin, read the full article here.)

Any trip Justine Dupont makes to the diving tower at La Teste-de-Buch near Bordeaux is a return to a bizarre world, a stark contrast to a big-wave surfer’s regular life; a still, peaceful parallel universe in which the churn and violence of the surface are left far behind.

Last winter in Nazaré, Portugal, one of the globe’s major big-wave hot spots, was no different. There, the waves—vast 100-foot-high slabs as tall as a city block and collapsing like dynamited buildings— are Dupont’s playground. And yet within seconds of a dive, and 30 or 60 feet down, she’s overcome by calm, cocooned by
 the deep and wrapped in a cloak of serenity. “You can’t hear a thing below the surface,” says the 26-year-old. “It’s
 as if time stands still. Plus, there’s this unbelievable three-dimensional freedom —a lightness. You concentrate on the here and now. It’s magical.”

Dupont has been practicing freediving twice a week for two years to learn how to react as calmly as possible should something happen while she’s in the water. She goes to the diving pool at La Teste-de-Buch as often as she can. Her trainer, Laurent Gamundi—an expert 
in freediving and underwater hunting, whose club, Biarritz Chasse Océan, has
 a diving course for surfers—watches over her while she’s there.

“At first, I had difficulty letting go,” says Dupont, “but now I feel totally liberated.
I used to think too much about the exercise itself and whether the time I spent in the water was long enough to prepare me for the conditions in the sea at Nazaré or at Belharra in the Basque Country.”

But the composure that the Bordeaux- born surfer needed developed over
 the course of her diving sessions, so improvements came by themselves. For big-wave surfers, this composure is vital for survival, simply because the essence of the conditions they face is always the same: tons of water slamming into your body, pummeling it with relentless force and hurling it like a rag doll into the torrent over and over again.

“You get cramps, you get battered, your diaphragm seizes up; your tensed muscles burn and stop reacting. It can really hurt,” Dupont explains. Yet somehow she finds these moments in the churning wave soothing. “It sounds odd, but I’ve often enjoyed those moments underwater because it’s just the sea and me. And the sea reminds me that it’s not me making the decisions. All I can do is prepare meticulously so that I can deal with the situation as best I can.”

Dupont explains that the greatest risk with waves that size is simple— drowning. “But I surf better and more calmly if I know there’s a safety buffer.”

All fears are taken into account from the very start, so they can be gradually overcome. For some surfers, the process takes several months. Dupont found 
it a lot easier. Her awe of big waves, which she’d had since childhood, has simply vanished.

When did she first surf big waves? “Last winter was the first time I only used a shortboard, and I spent a lot of time surfing big waves.”


Belharra, situated off the coast of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, is scheduled for this autumn, but the priority is Nazaré and its huge swell, which makes it the perfect place to pit yourself against monster waves and gain confidence. And to push your own boundaries.

Read the full interview at and in the October issue of The Red Bulletin – on news stands including Hudson News, Barnes & Noble, Target and Walgreens across the U.S. from September 19.

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Book Review: All Our Waves are Water by Jaimal Yogis

Everything about Jaimal Yogis new memoir All Our Waves are Water appealed to me. As a surfer, yoga teacher, and Taoist-at-heart I felt a kindred spirit in Yogis sequel to Saltwater Buddha. A man searching for enlightenment around the globe, Yogis travels to India, Bali, Israel, New York, and San Francisco. All the time Yogis is journeying inward trying to find that place of calm and focus, a place of nonduality where we are united with the universe. He finds that mostly in the ocean, and uses the ocean as a metaphor to which he constantly drifts back to find and ride the perfect wave.

Waves Water

“But the ocean tells its own story. We are merely rippling characters. the sea my respond to our please, prayers, strivings. They are part of the story–pushing and refracting back. But water will not be rushed. So relax. Be humble. Stay open. Look where others don’t. There are secret sanctuaries everywhere, places nobody can tell you how to find–places you won’t discover until you are there.”

Yogis journey of self-discovery is a mesmerizing read, ripe with religious teachings, yogic offerings, and mindful meditations. I highly recommend.

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Life Hack: Removing Tar From Your Skin

On a recent trip to the beach, I stepped on a large piece of  tar. Ugh. It’s happened to me many times before, and I had always scrubbed with nail polish remover to littIMG_4381le avail. This time Stef, Surf Like A Girl’s co-creator, suggested coconut oil and baking soda. We mixed the ingredients together and I applied it to my foot with the back side of a rough sponge. It came off immediately. I love that it is an all natural product rather than using something acetone-based, and it worked like a charm.

Mind blown.

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Let’s Talk Sun Safety!

As a mother and melanoma survivor, I am passionate about sun protection. But as a surfer and Angeleno, I refuse to give up the outdoor activities that I love so much. Before you grab your sunscreen off the shelf at the grocery store, check out these recommendations.

Just Say No to Spray

For the love of all that is good, please do not purchase spray sunscreens. I have a four-year-old who won’t stand still long enough to apply sunscreen, so I see the appeal of them (I really do!). But here are the facts: Some sunscreens contain toxic ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, retinyl palmitate and paraben preservatives.  Because of the fine mist, it is easy to inhale spray sunscreens. This is particularly harmful because the high-alcohol formulas can irritate the lungs and their ingredients can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Even the ones with the “good” ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can be toxic if inhaled.

Consider Sea Life

If you love the ocean and all its inhabitants like I do, make sure that you are using a natural sunscreen that doesn’t contain ingredients that are harmful to our coral reefs. Oxybenzone is a common chemical found in sunscreen that can contribute to the bleaching and disrupt reproduction and growth.

Do Your Research

The best thing to do before purchasing your sunscreen is to check out the Environmental Working Group’s website to find safer alternatives. As a bit of a sunscreen guru, I have tried many. I am not a fan of the thick and pasty zinc brands that don’t spread well. While I absolutely appreciate that they may have some of the best ratings on the EWG, they just don’t work for me. I also won’t spend a fortune on sunscreen. I just don’t have it in my budget to drop $45 on 5 ounces of anything. Also, I like a broad-spectrum sunscreen the whole family can use, so I can throw one bottle in my beach bag to share with my daughter and my husband.  Finally, it has to work well. I have tried some sunscreens that don’t seem to protect well enough, regardless of a high number on the bottle.

Wear SPF Clothing
Because if you really did it properly, it would take about a quarter of an hour to put all that sunscreen, I opt for SPF clothing. I have a pair of swim pants and a rash guard that I wear at the beach or in the pool. That way, I only have to put sunscreen on my hands, feet and face. I also don’t have to remember to put on the sunscreen 20 minutes before I go out in the sun. I make my daughter wear a long sleeve rash guard as well, even though she is starting to resist. With her little body, if I just have to put sunscreen on her legs, hands and face, I consider it a win. I also have a wide-brimmed hat that I wear on the beach or poolside. I appreciate that I look a bit like a beekeeper, but I am okay with it.


Seek Shade

Like I said, I love the beach, and won’t stop going. I also have an SPF-rated umbrella to sit under in the shade. Anyone knows there is really no sitting when you have a child–that is when the beekeeper outfit comes in handy. Now I can build sand castles on the beach or chase waves with my daughter with the best protection.

Go Early

Whether you are heading to the beach or pool, you know you need to get there early to get a prime parking spot or a lounger by the pool. Peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try doing a beach morning or a pool afternoon.

Have a great summer, don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen, and be safe and healthy everyone!



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Pear Shaped – A Short Film by Lauren Hill

Want to know what it is like to be a surfer girl? This pretty much sums it up.

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Interview with Filmmaker Dayla Soul

Headshot Dayla Soul Director IAP I recently watched It Ain’t Pretty, a documentary about the women who surf the heavy, and often well-overhead, waves at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. I loved the sisterhood of the surfers portrayed in the film and the ultimate message of the film: women overcoming challenges and sexism that are rampant in the surf industry. The film focuses in on Bianca Valenti’s journey from childhood phenom to big-wave charger. Seeing images of authentic women getting out there and ripping is inspiring. After watching the film, I had to reach out to filmmaker Dayla Soul to ask her a few questions.

What inspired you to make this film?  
I have been a surfer my whole life. I grew up on the north shore of Kauai where I learned to surf. Now living near Ocean Beach in San Francisco I have been surfing here for 20 years. I noticed other women surfing here would go out when it was fairly big. I would see them drop in to solid 15 footers. One particular women I would see actually getting barreled on big days turned out to be Bianca Valenti. I kind of wondered if there were any female surfing films of women that surfed here in Norcal. After doing a little research I only found one that was about Sarah Gerhardt and how she was the first women to surf Mavericks. The film was called One Winter Story directed by Elizabeth Pepin Silva and Sally Lundburg. That was pretty much it on women in Big Waves films that I found. I was perplexed because there are a lot of films on women surfing but they are usually in warm water surfing small waves in bikinis set to soft girl genre music. So one day after getting out of the water I was like, why don’t I make a short feature on couple of the girls surfing here and rent out our local theater? Long story short, it just spiraled into a much bigger story and project. I thought of the title before I even started filming. I was tired of seeing the same bikini images in surfing, and I wanted the title to represent that it is not always pretty. Sometimes it’s gnarly cold water in wetsuits!

What do you think is the most important message in the film?
My goal was to put out real footage on everyday dedicated surfers. Not necessarily professionals but super courageous women that surf everyday. To create images of women doing something that inspires others. Especially the youth. To use surfing as a metaphor in life to go out and get it!

What were the challenges in making this film?
Money was and still is a big challenge in filmmaking. I ran a Kickstarter early on that enabled me to buy good camera equipment. However, much of the film was paid for out of pocket. It was difficult juggling jobs while paying for the film. I’m happy that it is out there and finished. I’m not sure if I will make any money back, but I feel proud of the accomplishment and love that there is now a film that represents us in Norcal.

What is your relationship with surfing and the ocean?
I am married to the sea ! At times we battle, but we love each other. Surfing is everything to me!

What does it mean to you to “surf like a girl”?
A girl that surfs. Redefining what it is to be a women in the water is owning who we have always been. Taking back the view of being misrepresented in the world. Nothing has changed with us except peoples perspectives on what they think a girl can do. However it doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing those things all along.

Okay, tell us about your name?
My mom was a hippie and gave us interesting names. My brothers name is Corderoy. So that kinda how I walked away with this name. I was happy to find out about the band De La Soul in my 20’s. That kinda made me feel cool.

Any last thoughts?
The main thing I want people to get from the film is that anything is possible if you put your mind and “Soul” to it. Including holding the media accountable for images that misrepresent 90% of female surfing and give young girls a false standard to try and live up to.

Thank you, Dayla, for showing us what women’s surfing is all about–not string bikinis in crystal clear waves, but bad-ass women in full-suits, gloves, and hoods going out into macking, icy waves and totally charging!

Check out It Ain’t Pretty on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Comcast.

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