Author Archives: Rebecca Heller

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!



Leave a comment

Filed under General

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under General, Pros, Surfing, Videos

Surf Documentary: It Ain’t Pretty


A documentary about the challenges and triumphs of female big wave surfers, IT AIN’T PRETTY follows the quickly-growing women’s big wave movement, as well as exposing rampant sexism in the water, in the media and within the surf industry.  An Official Selection at 2016 DocFest and Sydney and Hawaii Film Festivals, as well as an audience favorite at numerous film festivals, this compelling doc makes its home entertainment debut on all leading digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Comcast.

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Book Review: Tides by Jonathan White

tidesTides is Jonathan White’s romantic look at the motion of the sea.  As surfers, we can all relate to the love, power, and majesty of the ocean that White explores in depth in his new book. As a writer, sailor, educator, and marine conservationist, White takes us around the globe from France to China to Panama to the Arctic and back again exploring tidal changes and the effects they have on the land and people. One particular chapter is about Mavericks, the big wave spot off the California coast that responds in its own finicky way to the tides and swells. Despite the abundance of scientific information, Tides becomes a surprisingly  fascinating and highly readable book because of White’s deep love for the ocean.

Buy it now on Amazon.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Book Review: The Aloha Shirt by Dale Hope

Aloha Shirt BookDale Hope’s love letter to the aloha shirt can be found in the updated and revised edition of The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands released by Patagonia. 385 pages are filled with stories and imagery of the beautiful patterns and celebrated history of the iconic shirt. Surf legend Gerry Lopez  introduces the book with his own connections to the aloha shirt and offers us a bit of the history. Lopez writes, “Dale’s meticulously researched book will reveal not only a rich history, but will also serve to stimulate the reader’s own ongoing immersion into the spirit of aloha.” The book takes us further by highlighting the pattern makers and tailors who pave the road for this fashion trend. With literally hundred of images, historic documents, and black-and-white photographs, not only do we learn about the aloha shirt but the history of the Hawaiian islands as well.

For example, did you know:

  • That Aloha Fridays originated in 1966, the Hawai’i Fashion guild convinced the local businesses to dress down on the last day of the work week?
  • Duke Kahanamoku had his own line of aloha shirts and may have been responsible for the straight cut along the bottom of the shirt, allowing people to wear the shirts untucked without the tails hanging down.
  • Hollywood loves the aloha shirt, and it has been featured on and actors and singers throughout the decades, such as Elvis, Bing Crosby, Montgomery Clift, Tom Selleck, Sean Penn, and George Clooney.
  • Rell Sun designed the Pataloha shirt for Patagonia in 1993.

Dale Hope writes in the Prologue: “This history of such a marvelous cultural icon, so evocative of the spirit of its home, is woven with the mystery and allure of Hawai’i and the stories of those who have lived there.”

This book is a treasure for anyone who loves Hawaii and the lifestyle and fashion that come from such an enchanted place.  Purchase your copy here.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Just Say No to Spray Sunscreens by Peggy Hall

sprayI just got back from a restful, healing trip to the island of Kauai…a favorite place to enjoy perfect blue skies,
warm water, and breathe in toxic chemicals…Wait…what? Sorry to say that last line is true!

That’s because so many people are duped when it comes to using sunscreen, that they are literally spraying the air with cancer-causing chemicals in an attempt to “protect” their skin.

Here’s what I mean…and why it’s important to you.

Spray sunscreens have become all the rage for some reason (marketing and advertising at its “best”)–which which for the life of me I cannot understand.

Now if you are cringing as you read this because you, too, have been duped into thinking that you are doing something good for yourself–don’t take it personally!

Of course you can put whatever you want to on your skin–just please don’t expose me and other innocent people to the harmful fall out.

Here’s why I personally stay as far away from spray sunscreens as possible.

First of all, when you spray on sunscreen at the beach or pool, most of the product doesn’t even land on your skin. Instead, it is carried off by the wind (to land on me!) and worse–to be breathed in by innocent bystanders.

Why is it so bad to inhale spray sunscreens?

Well, some of you might be old enough to remember when aerosol sprays were banned because they were “destroying the ozone layer”. (Sort of like vintage global warming.)

These days, the sunscreen sprays are far more harmful because they are loaded with cancer-causing chemicals that, when sprayed, create a carcinogenic mist that carries these toxic chemicals right into your lungs, to then be directly absorbed by your blood stream, putting you at risk for lung disease/cancer, liver disease/cancer and other horrid illnesses and conditions.

Sunscreen sprays are are especially harmful to children, whose immune systems are still developing. That means these innocent children are breathing in toxic chemicals that their delicate lungs and liver cannot filter out.

And people wonder why there is such an increase in illness, disease and issues with early puberty, later infertility etc…

The fact that these spray sunscreens contain cancer-causing chemicals  is not my opinion — it is fact.

Read the facts for yourself at

Now grab your sunscreen (yes, even that expensive one you thought was “natural”) and compare it to this list of toxic ingredients.

KEY: Look under the list of “Active Ingredients” — this means the ingredients are active, doing something to change the skin or chemicals in your body.

Oxybenzone: Increases production of free radicals; increases the incidence and frequency of skin tumors
Homosalate: causes severe acne, skin irritation, skin allergies and inflammation
Avobenzone: unstable in sunlight; breaks down into chemicals which damage DNA
Octisalate: pushes more chemicals into skin for greater toxicity
Octocrylene: Increases production of free radicals that damage DNA damage and contributes to the increased incidence of malignant melanomas = CANCER
BHT: contributes to skin tumors and cancer growth
Diethylhexyl 2 6 Naphthalate: causes testicular atrophy
Parabens, including Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylrparaben, Ethlyparaben: these mimic estrogen production; cause problems with ovaries, testicles, infertility,  reproductive issues, thyroid problems.
Octinoxate or Parsol 1789: mimics estrogen in the body, hinders thyroid function
Methoxycinnamate: implicated in cardiovascular disease; make skin more sensitive to the sun, causes allergies; toxic to liver and reproductive organs.
Retinyl palmitate: A type of Vitamin A, when used with sun exposure, this causes more skin tumors to grow, and to grow faster

For now, ditch the spray and do yourself, the environment, and others around you a huge favor!

Living Swell creator Peggy Hall has positively inspired thousands of people just like you to experience an ocean of bright shiny health and happiness by simplifying the ins and outs of what it takes to be naturally healthy and radiant. Peggy is the featured health expert for the ABC Radio Network and is creator of the best-selling Yoga for Surfers instructional DVD series, and the pioneer of the global surf + yoga movement.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advice, Beach