The surf community in New Zealand is pretty small, and female surfers within that community, even smaller. Having meet Mischa several times over the last few years, it has been a pleasure following her competitive surfing in both short and longboard divisions nationally, and seeing her OE travels in Europe through her personal blog. I admire her versatility both in and out of the water, and her passion for all flora and fauna of our local and global environment. Mischa is part of the new generation of female surfers taking the lead: independent, ambitious, and socially and environmentally conscious to do her bit for the world. Here is some insight into this super rad surf girl`s life…..
Kia ora Mischa – are you really a mermaid?? That depends on what you consider to be ‘real’? But for myself, yes I am really a mermaid!
Seriously, you spend a large amount of time in the water. Are you still competing? And what are your achievements in the water up till now? Yes, I still enjoy competing. Longboarding is more my focus now and I love to compete on the Hyundai Longboard Tour over the summer in NZ. Last year it was my first time winning the tour. I also still compete in short boarding but it’s no longer my priority. Achievements, well, there were many back in my grommet years before I decided to embark on university study. I won the Rusty Gromfest in Australia in 2004; I placed 4th on the Australian Pro Junior Series in 2006; and have represented New Zealand competing at the World Junior Surfing Championships in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Oh and last year I placed 2nd in the Nationals.
Not long till you finish your degree wahoo! Tell us about what you`ve been studying and what your world domination plans are…As for what I have been studying and world domination, well right now I am in my 4th year of studying towards a conjoint degree in Law and Arts, with one more year to go before I graduate. In my Arts degree I have majored in geography and in my law degree I am focusing on environmental law. It has always been my dream to one day work as an environmental lawyer, to represent and defend those who do not have a voice, that being the plants and the animals and Papatuanuku, our earth mother herself. I have always been driven by injustice and wanting the power to make bad things right again. The natural environment, and particularly the ocean, is my inspiration. I am really looking forward to this semester coming up as I`ll be studying ‘International Environmental Law’ and ‘Law of the Sea and Antarctica.’ It shall be very interesting indeed.
You grew up on Auckland`s rugged west coast yet your mother is originally from and last year you spent living, working and studying in Europe. Has that helped shape some of your personal identity? Yes, last year I decided to venture to the other side of the world and go on exchange to finish my geography degree in Holland. I did it as I wanted to not only learn about my mother’s culture and heritage but also to experience what life was like away from surfing, the beach and the bush. It turns out it’s actually a lot of fun and there are so many good, kind and interesting people out there. But at the same time it also made me realize how truly lucky we are in New Zealand and that I live a very, very good life here at home on the west coast. I get to have the beach, the bush, pumping secluded waves, space and privacy, yet also the excitement of the hustle bustle city, all within 30 minutes from my house! And the temperature here in NZ really is not so cold either.
What were some of the highlights of your time in Europe? The highlights, well in Holland it definitely had to do with the wonderful friends I made. It was a different experience for me to make new friends not based on the mutual love for the ocean and surfing, instead I made friends because our personalities matched, and that was really beautiful. Other highlights, well, Europe is a very exciting place I think especially for us Kiwis where it’s difficult to travel anywhere close and get cultural shocks or experiences. In Europe you can drive two hours and find yourself in a new country with a new language, new food, new ways of living. Also a highlight was gaining confidence and independence in myself, I went to Europe alone and although I made and met up with many friends along the way, I was glad to have done it all on my own as I was so open to new experiences.
Challenges were being away not only from home, friends and family for such an extended period but also those like-minded Kiwis. It was also a challenge when I first got to Europe as I had left behind the most perfect summer life in Piha and went straight into a dark, very cold European winter, where I literally knew only one person in the city I moved to! Also I didn’t really realize it until I got home but spending an entire year in foreign language countries it was really mentally exhausting, its like everyday, everywhere you go and everybody that you speak to, you can never fully express yourself the way you want to. I think the biggest challenge of all however was being away from surfing. Surfing is my way of expressing myself, to not only de-stress but to also be myself. I never realized how much I get out of surfing and what it truly gives to me until then. And now I know that yes I can live away from surfing, but I’m an incomplete person without it.
And the waves??? The waves in Holland were terrible, I’m not kidding they were literally terrible. But surfing there is not so much about getting sick pumping waves, its more the whole experience of going to the beach and being happy to just put your feet into sand and sit on a board in the water and make conversation with other people who also love the ocean.
The waves in France are amazing, the most consistent beach breaks that I have ever surfed. France, however, can become very crowded, especially in the summer time. In saying that though, although it’s crowded the actual standard of surfing in Europe is pretty low, so if you surf pretty good, and your confident, then it’s not hard to get waves.
How do you see the current state or level of female surfing? Internationally it’s getting pretty ridiculous, in a good way of course. When you see girls like Carissa, Coco Ho, Lakey Peterson and Malia Manuel, all busting airs and doing massive fin busts, it’s spectacular. I think about how far women’s surfing has come from when I was 13 watching chicks surf movies on VCR – they were probably surfing at the standard that I am at now, and today the girls are surfing like dudes.
In New Zealand, we have always had a really high standard of women’s surfing. I also feel that particularly with my generation we set a high standard, not only with Paige Hareb (who is undoubtedly the most successful surfer to come out of New Zealand) but also Jess Santorik, Kelly Clarkson and Airini Mason. We set the standard and now we have girls like Ella Williams, the Sansom twins and Sarah Mason who are absolutely shredding, and I love it. I am very proud of those girls and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for them.
And as a core waterwoman, what surfwear is rocking your world at the moment? Well, I do have a sponsor and although I do have an obligation to promote them, I do it with full genuine honesty, as I wouldn’t be representing them if I didn’t really believe in what they stand for. Sitka are a relatively new surf/lifestyle brand born on Vancouver Island in Canada. They have taken a different approach and stepped outside the square that almost all surf brands fit into. They are a straight up and honest brand prepared to take environmental responsibility for what they create. For instance, they build their stores from recycled wood, they use biodegradable packaging, for clothing materials they use organic cotton and bamboo, and they are also involved in a number of environmental organisations such as Sustainable Coastlines here in NZ. Sitka gear feels like its really been made with love. They care about the product and producing something truly quality. Check out their website and see what I’m talking about or visit their shop in Auckland: number 6 Osborne Street, Newmarket, Auckland.
In terms of the Sitka gear specifically, well, I have recently tested their latest bikini range and they are no kidding the best surf bikinis I’ve ever worn! The bikinis are made from Carvico which is the best swimsuit lycra fabric around, made in Italy, and also have environmental principles too. The bikinis stay on, they are incredibly comfortable, and they look very beautiful. The new range will be on sale at the Sitka store in Newmarket at the start of spring.
And if your looking for something more wintery then I can’t go past their hoodies which are the most perfect and ideal hoody anybody could own. You know those hoodies you just want to snuggle up and hide in? It’s probably been my most worn item this winter.
Besides from Sitka well I am LOVING the new feminine wetsuits that surf brands are now producing. It’s great that with women’s surfing we now have the option to look so feminine and it helps to promote the sport for women. I purchased a short leg long arm wetsuit from O’Neill before the summer and it was the best summer wetsuit I have ever owned! So comfortable, it’s perfect for the NZ summer where it’s not quite warm enough for bikinis, and with the short legs I had tan line free legs all summer!
And for surfboards then it’s definitely Craig Hughes from Raglan, by far the best shaper in New Zealand, if not the world! He is also the father of my Mermaid Sister and great friend Ariel Hughes.
Your favourite surf spot/destination: I have so many! I really loved Morocco last year, the waves were amazing, the people were nice, the food was delicious, and the culture was so vibrant. I also love the tropics, nothing quite like surfing in clear blue warm water over coral reef. I love Lakey Peak in Indonesia, that place absolutely pumps. I also love Tonga; although it’s not always so consistent it’s a nice chill island getaway.
In NZ, Shipwreck Bay is magic. I have also had a re-emergence of my love for Raglan since I started longboarding. Longboards and Manu Bay are such a perfect combination. And of course I can’t go past my hometown, Piha, my favourite place in the world.
Next surf trip: In NZ who knows! I love this country for the ability to have so many spontaneous surf trips to so many different secluded spots. Overseas, well I’m not quite sure either! Maybe somewhere in the tropics?
Top ten essential surf travel items:
In no particular order:
2. Surf Wax
3. 8 inch or bigger long board fin
4. A good book
5. IPod with lots of good music
6. Sun glasses
9. Good friends
10. My dog Kuta
Words you live by? I will be graduating at the end of next year and as I learn more about the commitments of the law profession I question whether it’s the right path for me. I also spend a lot of my time day dreaming, thinking about the world and how to maybe one day solve all its problems. I have no answers really. But the important thing for me is that I am still dreaming, thinking outside the square and constantly searching for inspiration in life. So those are my words to live by…
For as long as you may live you must dream, never loose the ability to dream.
Mischa Davis is a competitive New Zealand surfer and university student. Check out her personal blog, Mischa Mermaid, for more insight into this engaging and passionate young lass. Most photographs provided by Mischa: top shot in green rashvest taken by Craig Levers of Photo CPL (NZ); the underwater shot taken by Rebecca Law of Single Fin Photography. Three surf shots in pink rashy were courtesy of the Surfing NZ website.