26 January 2011

Andrea on Liquid Salt (an Online Publication)

Liquid Salt published an interview with Andrea. It's, in a word, amazing. The entire article is reprinted below.

Andrea Kabwasa

by Mary Mills · 8 comments

Andrea Kab­wasa is a Cal­i­for­nia surfer, artist, and teacher who exudes stoke every minute of the day. The joy she feels while surf­ing is evi­dent in the style and poise she exhibits on every wave. Andrea exem­pli­fies all that is right about this thing we call “surf­ing.“

What was your life like grow­ing up?
Our fam­ily trav­eled a lot when I grew up. Every cou­ple of years, we would pick up and move to a new, and very dif­fer­ent, part of the world. It’s all kind of a blur really—except, of course, for bits and pieces that stayed lodged into my long term mem­ory… like watch­ing my par­ents danc­ing at a friends party in Ethiopia. They seemed really happy. Or drink­ing fresh spring water squirt­ing out of a cliff in a jun­gle on our way to our fam­ily clan’s main vil­lage of Aten, Congo. I remem­ber jump­ing into the Kwilu River in Kik­wit. My sis­ters and I loved rid­ing the river’s cur­rent. My aunts would always scream hys­ter­i­cally that hip­pos and alli­ga­tors would eat us. We never believed it. Our dad said it was just superstition.

I also have mem­o­ries of always want­ing to be close to my sis­ters, Celine and Flo­rence. Celine gave me back­bone and exuded fun. Flo­rence always let me sleep in her bed when I was afraid at night. I remem­ber mak­ing my first free throw shot at a local park in Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia. It sur­prised me so much I lost my breath. There are so many ran­dom, and not so ran­dom, mem­o­ries scat­tered through­out my life grow­ing up.

When did you get your first surf­board?
Age 32. That was the year of major epipha­nies for me.

What was the feel­ing you had when you first stood on a surf­board?
I can’t remem­ber really. I do, how­ever, remem­ber how I felt afterwards—happy. I had for­got­ten what that felt like, to be truly happy with­out a care in the world (even if it was only for an hour). Need­less to say, I was hooked.

Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young woman?
What is young? I feel younger now than ever before. When I was 12 and under, I looked up to my sis­ter Flo­rence. At around 13 to 20 years of age, I looked up to my sis­ter Celine and my mom. Between 20 and 30, I fell in love with artists. Charles White? His fig­ures felt mon­u­men­tal to me. Jusepe de Rib­era? His intense sub­ject mat­ter and mas­ter­ful fig­ure paint­ing blows my mind. Basquiat? His paint­ings speak to me for their child­like style. Yet, at the same time, the paint­ings are com­plex and lay­ered, like jazz music. Basquiat cracked that secret “kid” code. I envy that.

Of all the places you have trav­eled to, what place in par­tic­u­lar stands out and why?
France, South­ern Baja and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia are all impor­tant to me for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. France stands out because of the trau­matic board­ing school expe­ri­ence. It haunted me all my life. Surf­ing and coun­sel­ing was the cure. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia is the only loca­tion that has truly felt like home to me.

South­ern Baja stands out as my place of rebirth. I had the longest noseride in my life in Baja. It lasted so long that I closed my eyes, looked up to the sky with my hands raised to the sky and said “Thank you.” This ride changed me inter­nally, com­pletely and for­ever. I found my heaven here on Earth while surf­ing. I feel so blessed, hum­bled and grate­ful for this oppor­tu­nity to feel pure hap­pi­ness in the midst of all the trou­bles that are occur­ring in our society.

Who or what inspires you?
Cre­ativ­ity, music, the ocean and wave riding.

What is the great­est thing you have learned in your life?
That is a tough ques­tion for me… I tend to look at life lessons in non-hierarchical terms. In my view, the act of learn­ing is organic. I know that all lessons learned, lead to a health­ier and hap­pier me. If I had to choose a con­sis­tent theme in most of my life lessons, then it would to value “change”. Surf­ing is all based on move­ment and learn­ing how to adjust/adapted to change suc­cess­fully (with­out fight­ing it).

Do you have any regrets or wish you had done some­thing dif­fer­ently?
Stu­dent loans. Oooooh, I regret them so much!

What are you most proud of?
Another tough ques­tion … I guess the moments in life that show me that any­thing is pos­si­ble. I feel hap­pier within myself these days. I’m proud of that.

What mean­ing does surf­ing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Short ver­sion? Surf­ing saved my life. Long ver­sion? When I dis­cov­ered surf­ing, I was try­ing to recover from the psy­cho­log­i­cal effects and residue of an abu­sive rela­tion­ship. Surf­ing gave me joy and hap­pi­ness when I hadn’t felt hap­pi­ness in years. I will never for­get my drive home after my first surf­ing lessons. I was filled with a pure hap­pi­ness, the kind of hap­pi­ness that wasn’t con­nected to any­thing or any­one. I was sim­ply happy.

So, for me, surf­ing is hap­pi­ness, love and self-empowerment. The act of inter­act­ing with water cleansed my inner spirit. Before surf­ing, the lens from which I viewed life was pretty dirty. I was filled with low self-worth and, at times, I made some pretty self-destructive choices. Surf­ing redi­rected that energy in a pos­i­tive direc­tion. When I surf, I feel beau­ti­ful. I’m a start­ing to feel beau­ti­ful on dry land too now.

Did your art­work change when you started surf­ing? If so, in what way(s)?
My art work is a reflec­tion of how I feel emo­tion­ally. Before surf­ing, my art­work had a sad, emo­tional under­tone to it. Then, surf­ing allowed me to expe­ri­ence hap­pi­ness on a daily basis. As I began to heal within myself, so too did my art­work. Lately, I mind surf on can­vas. I paint my ver­sions of what I believe Par­adise would look and feel like. It’s fun to paint my surf dreams. The icing on the cake is when my surf dreams come true. That’s a total trip!

What brings you the most hap­pi­ness in the world?
Hap­pi­ness is those rare moments when you are so com­pletely locked in, that you feel like you are danc­ing in har­mony with life itself. Each wave has a dif­fer­ent rhythm and a dif­fer­ent dance. I like wave-dancing. It makes me happy.

Who are some of the peo­ple you feel are shap­ing the path for surf­ing today?
Cyrus Sut­ton is impor­tant. I love the “Surf Suf­fi­cient” posts on his web­site, Korduroy.tv. The site is all about help­ing you learn how to do-it-yourself. Learn­ing to surf suf­fi­ciently is a con­cept that I hope will help shape the path for surf­ing today and in the future. I also think style will always shape the path of surf­ing. Surfers that styl­is­ti­cally excite me are Derek Hynd, Tyler War­ren, Jimmy Gam­boa, Julie Cox, Joel Tudor and Kevin Connelly.

What is your favorite board?
I have three boards on rota­tion. My Tim Phares Fluid Drive (Com­bat Model) is my favorite. Thank you, Tim!! I am more of a fin addict than a quiver junkie. My fins allow me to breathe new life into my old surf­boards. I love fig­ur­ing out how a fin’s design, and/or place­ment, changes the feel of my ride. I have fun explor­ing how fins enhance my slid­ing options.

Your favorite surf spot?
To date, Scor­pion Bay, Surfrider Beach and Saladitas.

What’s your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is an Ethiopian meal eaten with friends and fam­ily. Ethiopian food is served in a huge round plat­ter and you eat with your hands. You grab the food with a sour, doughy, flat, pancake-like bread called injera. For the appe­tizer, veg­e­tar­ian samosas. For the main course, dorot wot, kitfu, awaze tibs, yel­low and red lentils, cooked cab­bage with pota­toes and car­rots along with fried trout.

What are you cur­rently lis­ten­ing to on your iPod?
My sum­mer down­loads included Lau­ryn Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind,” Xavier Rudd’s “No Woman No Cry,” Sublime’s “Doin’ Time (Uptown Dub),” Indigo Swing’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” Sade’s “Baby­fa­ther” and Kate Nash’s “Nicest Thing”.

What are you most grate­ful for?
I am grate­ful for my family’s love. I am grate­ful for the oceans and surf­ing. I am grate­ful for my drink­ing water. I am grate­ful for cre­ativ­ity. I am grate­ful for the stu­dents that I love to teach. I am grate­ful for South­ern Cal­i­for­nia weather. I am grate­ful for my friends. I am grate­ful for my planet. This list could go on and on. There is so much for me to be thank­ful and grate­ful for. Life is beau­ti­ful and I am thank­ful I have the oppor­tu­nity to expe­ri­ence it.

What’s next for Andrea Kab­wasa?
Some sort of change.

Pho­tog­ra­phy cred­its: Ken Samuels (top photo, surf­board art, por­trait). Bar­rel photo by Jack Hud­kins and soul arch photo by JD Massey.

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