PRO SURFER TIA BLANCO
AT THREE YEARS OLD, Tia Blanco was leaving her tiny footsteps across the beaches in Hawaii. They were usually the result of surf sessions with her father. The ocean was a loving place where the sun kissed her cheeks and the splash of waves made her smile. Sandy toes and salty lips quickly became associated with the familiar feeling of “home”.
“I didn’t particularly fall in love with surfing right away. I didn’t enjoy the cold water, but I loved the moments I got to spend with my dad.”
Home is a relevant term for Tia. Her father was in the Coast Guard. The typical military life of constant re-location was a normalcy for the Blanco’s. Fortunately, his military branch allowed them to always live near the ocean. When he got stationed in Hawaii, Tia was 12 years old and her introduction into surf competition began on the island of Oahu. I was considered a late bloomer. The girls I first competed against were so much better than me.
Discipline and humbleness are two traits that Tia carries strongly -- something that mother nature constantly reminds her of. To refine her craft, she surfed diligently almost every day with the support of her father encouraging her path. Her mother travels with Tia as her videographer, capturing all her competitions on video so that Tia could later critique and learn from it. Her boyfriend, Colt, is often by her side in the water. As a professional surfer himself, he inspires Tia to push herself to new levels.
The discipline she has for surfing carried into her school studies. Though she traveled often, she maintained straight A’s in school. In her sophomore year, travel became more demanding than ever as she advanced through competitions. The constant travel didn’t appeal to her teachers so she completed the remainder of her high school education online.
It wasn’t long before Tia was handed top rankings in multiple prestigious divisions, including back-to-back gold medals. At peaks in her career, she’s been considered one of the top 50 surfers in the world. Yet, before those gold medals were awarded, Tia seriously considered quitting the pro-athlete life.
The world of professional surfing is highly competitive. At times, it can feel like it’s being dictated by the nature of the waves. Even with relentless practice and excellent skills, the mental pressure to always be at the top of the game can be brutal and draining. Fortunately, for each low she hit, there was endless support from her family and friends (many that she’s had since kindergarten) that encouraged her to continue forward with perseverance.
“Everyone wants to be your friend when you’re winning and have all this success, but when you’re not, your family and your close friends are the ones who end up being there for you.”
As familiar as someone can be with the ocean, the uniqueness of each wave is a profound reminder that skill alone cannot make you a professional. There is a level of oneness with nature that creates an innate guidance system. It’s that guidance system that gives the appearance of effortlessness in surfers like Tia and Stephanie Gilmore -- one of Tia’s biggest influences and a seven time World Surf League champion.
A sense of balance and being grounded is necessary to Tia’s pre-competition mindset. Her daily routine of surfing is accompanied by a daily practice of yoga. To get herself centered, meditation is one of her most powerful tools. Sitting in silence or listening to a guided meditation from the Insight Timer App helps her alleviate the tremendous pressure experienced by athletes. This inner calmness quickly translates to inner strength and has become a competitive edge for Tia. Meditating before competitions has been an integral piece to her achievements of success.
Outside of surfing, her deep love for nature has given her tremendous awareness for how human habits impact our environment. Tia grew up in a vegetarian household. Her mother chose the diet for ethical reasons at the age of 12. She was inspired by her uncle Manny who was a holistic health provider and was passionate about not killing animals . She never forced her children to eat vegetarian, but since she cooked at home, it became what everyone ate. Tia didn’t develop a taste for meat and she never enjoyed the taste of fish either. From an environmental standpoint, vegetarianism aligned with not supporting species extinction, ocean dead zones, habitat destruction, and one of the biggest pollutants on the planet - the meat industry. After reading The China Study at 15 years old, she began a vegan lifestyle and has maintained that path ever since.
At 20 years old today, Tia’s accomplishments have given her a vehicle to share messages that she candidly believes in. She’s become a role model to other women and takes the responsibility seriously. Her voice for veganism and health are shared in articles across the web. In 2014, she won PETA’s “Libby” Award in acknowledgment for her work as a vegan ambassador. Not to mention, she has her own protein line with VeganSmart called "Peaches and Cream by Tia Blanco”. Outside of her plant-based lifestyle, her other passions are yoga, environmental awareness, and self-acceptance - all of which she speaks out about often. And she is currently taking college courses to prepare herself for what’s next after her surfing career.
Her surfing career has led into television and modeling. At 5’4 with an athletic build, she embraces her differentiating looks from that of a typical 6’0 model. Good health and self-love are the priorities of her beauty routine. Though her comfort level of being on camera doesn’t match that of being on a surfboard, her photos have no choice but to carry her striking beauty. Even though every photoshoot comes with synthetic makeup and lighting, Tia has a way of innately displaying her authenticity regardless. On TV, she helped raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital on MTV’s The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros.
“I try to inspire girls to be the best person they can be. To be healthy and do what they love every single day.”
The opportunities for this young surfer are just the beginning. In 2020, surfing will make its debut at the summer Olympics in Tokyo. Tia’s aspiration and determination are highly set. This new, unprecedented territory is hugely exciting for all surfers alike. The drive to attend the Olympics as an athlete has her more focused than ever.
Though she doesn’t consider herself to be from any one single place, her birthplace belongs to Bayamon, Puerto Rico. If she does qualify to compete in the Olympics, it’s the Puerto Rican flag that will be waving high over her head.
Whether that becomes a reality for Tia or not, the one certainty that remains is that surfing - competitive or not - will be a constant in her life. The inner strength of this young wave rider is well beyond her years and it will unquestionably carry her to new limits of success. Her talent and capabilities exceed far beyond the length of her surfboard. It’s easy to anticipate the opportunities of her future being delivered in a multitude of forms. Regardless of what the future holds, whether she’s being judged at a surf competition or by the epic force of nature, she will continue to gracefully ride each wave with reverence and love for the freedom of shredding.
BY MANDY BUDARE