Holly Beck: An Exclusive Interview
December 28, 2010
Holly Beck is more than a world class pro surfer, she is an iconic figure in the surf community. She breaks down any stereotype of the pro surfer as she embodies the titles of an environmentalist, scholar, actress, and world traveler.
I was blessed to catch Holly for an interview immediately after one of her excursions to Nicaragua. With new stories and memories still swimming in her mind, she was more than thrilled to expose her most recent adventures. Constantly on the move, Holly considers herself “technically homeless” and therefore she generously agreed to conduct the interview over an Internet exchange. Although we have yet to meet in person, it is apparent through her actions and observations that she exudes kindness and creativity in the water and on land. Whether she is globe trotting searching for the perfect point break, aiding children in Nicaragua, or leading a surf retreat with Waves of Hope, Holly holds true to her motto “do it for the love.”
LT: Starting off with the basics, hometown and current city?
HB: Palos Verdes, CA. I’m technically homeless, so my current city is wherever I’m sleeping at the moment, which could be anywhere (this week it’s Portland Oregon).
LT: What sparked your love for the ocean?
HB: My parents aren’t really beach people but I did spend some time on the sand in the summer as a kid. In Jr. High I started actively riding shore break on a boogie board and fell in love with the ocean. I remember noticing the surfers and thinking that standing on a surfboard looked like a lot more fun. I asked my mom to learn to surf but she said, “no way. Surfing is for boys!” It took me a few years to save up babysitting money and find a surfboard and wetsuit at a garage sale, but once i did i never looked back!
LT: How did you become actively involved with non-profit work?
HB: When I graduated from UCSD in 2001 and turned pro, I suddenly didn’t know what to do with all my extra time. Rochelle Ballard (who was one of my heroes at the time) was running a non-profit called IWS (International Women’s Surfing) with the goal of representing the pro women surfers and providing more opportunities for them. I got involved and soon became president, a title I held for the next 6 years. I learned a lot about fundraising, web design, and organization.
LT: What is Waves of Hope and how did you become involved?
HB: Waves of Hope is a local community development program focused on improving the quality of life for the local community through education, development, and volunteer efforts. It was founded by some friends of mine who built an eco-friendly surf resort in Northern Nicaragua and wanted to use it to do good within the community. I support them 100% by helping to raise awareness for their cause and lend a hand whenever i’m in town.
LT: What’s so attractive about Nicaragua that you’ve decided to concentrate your attention there?
HB: Nicaragua is relatively close to the US, affordable, safe, friendly with good food and excellent waves. I also speak the language. Because of those things, it’s my favorite place to hang out.
LT: On a typical trip, how much time do you spend there?
HB: The length of a trip varies for me. I’ve never been there for less than 10 days or more than 3 months. The longer I’m there, the harder it is to leave.
LT: Sometimes the smallest change can create the biggest difference in someone’s life. This definitely holds true for your involvement in changing Roger from Nicaragua’s life. How did you meet Roger? What inspired you to help him?
HB: Roger is a 19-year-old local surf kid that I met while surfing. From the beginning he stood out because he had a great smile and was one of the most friendly, mellow kids. I’d always chat with him in the water and at one point I realized I hadn’t seen him surfing in a while. Finally he showed up in the water on a boogie board and I asked him what happened to his surfboard. He told me that he’d hurt his knee and surfing was too painful. He needed surgery but couldn’t afford it. The $1,200 price tag was way more than he could ever pay, even though it seemed cheap compared to US surgery prices. He comes from a very poor family that has endured a lot of tragedy and he’s such a nice kid that I really wanted to find a way to help him. I hired him to help me out in Nicaragua but I just didn’t have enough work for him to do to help raise the full amount. I moved recently and came across a ton of old surf gear that I needed to get rid of, so I had a big garage sale and decided to donate all the money raised to Roger’s cause. Between the sale and donations from friends I was able to raise the full amount for his surgery.
LT: You offer people the chance to join you on your surf adventures. What does the typical day on a surf trip entail?
HB: The surf retreats are so much fun! We surf, ride horses on the beach, play volleyball, eat really great food, boat ride through estuaries, check out baby sea turtles hatching, board down a volcano, and participate in projects with Waves of Hope. It’s a great relaxing but exciting adventure packed week where you can chill in a hammock or never stop moving depending on what you’re looking for. The best part is making new friends, encouraging each other to push your limits and improve your surfing skills in warm water and un-crowded waves. The next one is the first week of February 2011 and I’m planning another for the last week of March.
LT: Many surfers appreciate the joys of the ocean but few truly give back to the environment they love. What is so appealing to you about the life of a soul surfer?
HB: I’m still a pro surfer but I like to keep the soul in it. I competed all over the world for 7 years and just got tired of going to the same places every year and stressing over the competition. I wanted to travel to new places and actually have time to explore and interact with the people and cultures. It was the best decision ever and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity.
LT: Any advice for fellow watermen that want to follow in your footsteps and become involved in giving back?
HB: Do it for the love.
Aloha and a huge Mahalo to Holly Beck.