Aotearoa, Land of the Long White CLoud. (FYI global readership: that`s the indigenous Maori name for New Zealand). Encompassing a series of points, about a third of the way down the West Coast of Aotearoa, lies a small but growing town, in the area originally known as, Whaingaroa. 1858 was the year this town “adopted” the name of Raglan, and it is here where one of Aotearoa`s top female surfers, Jess Santorik, grew up surfing alongside the likes of fellow ripper, Kelly Clarkson. Growing up as a competitive surfer, Jess is also a dab hand at transforming old surfboards with a knife and paintbrush. Inbetween winning heats and taking out finals she talked a little story with us….
Hey Jess, long time no see woman! How has your Kiwi summer shaped up this year? Have you been competing much? Summer has been a bit slow to be honest…I only had on bikini surf and it`s looking like I`m not going to get another 😦 It`s kind sad…but the waves have been super fun and I`ve been in the water a lot! Sometimes you can`t have them both, so I`m happy. I have done most of the comps this year, I hurt my back snowboarding last year – bad idea, and have a bit of trouble with it. But I placed 2nd in the Billabong Whangamata Pro so I must be on the mend. Raglan pro this weekend…
Growing up in Raglan, the epicentre of NZ surfing, how has that shaped you as a competitive surfer do you think? It has been awesome!! There is no place like home, it would have been better for my surfing if I had surfed the beach more, but it`s so hard to go to the beach when it`s pumping on the point. I seem to be doing ok though.
Your principal sponsor is Billabong NZ. How have they helped with your surfing career? Billabong have been amazing to me, very supportive, helping me out whenever I have needed it. It really means a lot to have them believe in me and my surfing – it pushes me to be better.
I remember at the women`s WCT festival in Taranaki a couple of years ago and seeing how different the Australian surfers were to the Kiwis when we were freesurfing – like sharks! Hungry and aggressive and what I felt was a stark contrast to our laidback Kiwi-ness (but I don`t compete so it may be different). How do you see the level of NZ female surfing these days- are we more hungry? I guess it depends on the waves. If it`s big it makes it much better and relaxed in heats, makes it more of a fair game but if it`s small it gets sooooo serious. Girls would almost need to cut their nails before a heat haha. But Kiwi girls seem to be doing the right thing. Girl surfing in NZ is only getting stronger and stronger. The up and coming girls are pushing everyone.
I know you`ve spent months in Indo over the past few years. Where have you been over there and where is your standout spot for waves? And good stories?? I love Bali sooooo much! It`s my perfect place. I like to go to Lakeys, it gets kinda crowded but that`s what you get sometimes. All I do in Lakeys and all you can do there is eat, sleep and surf.
Where else have you surfed – any favourites? I went to the North Shore in Hawaii, that place is so amazingly set up! Like 20 breaks in 4kms…it`s mental. The waves get so scary so fast – it can be 2ft all day and within an hour or maybe less it can pick up to 20ft…I remember checking the surf and it was about 3ft max, by the time I put my bikini on and got my board out of the car it was 6ft, after my first wave there were 8ft sets breaking. My 5’9 and very little bikini had to go in haha.
Tell us how you came to carving up old surfboards…I have always been super into art. At school it was all I wanted to do. A local guy, Arron Kereopa, is an amazing artist. I hassled him until he would teach me how to do it. I love his work, it`s unreal!
Do you exhibit often? I have my work up in Orca restaurant, Raglan. I also have a FB page: Surf carving by Jess Santorik. I also do commission pieces.
What inspires you to create? It would have to be my surfing family and friends. Everyone just loves it so much, always asking what I`m working on, telling me that they want to see more. It really is something special to create art out of nothing and have people love it and want it.
If we came and couchsurfed at your pad, where would you take us for Raglan-good-times? Raglan is filled with amazing places to eat! Coffee at Hobos, sushi for lunch, Orca for dinner (author interjection – the Seafood Chowder here is epic!), Yotty for a drink and a dance. Surf where the swell takes us. Points are always good but if its small then surf Ruas. Raglan life is good!
As someone who`s spent a lot of time in the water, what do you think is essential for any discerning female surfer to have in her surf wardrobe?? Girls always need a nice tight bikini with no loose ties that can come undone or fall off. If you find that you`re not getting any waves you could always use an old bikini and flash the boys…might stun them enough for a wave or two.
Jess Santorik is one of New Zealand`s top competitive surfers. She recently came first in the Rip Curl Pro in Raglan, and second at the Billabong Pro in Whangamata. If you are interested in her artwork, please contact us here.
Photographs sourced from Jess and the Surfing NZ website.