I believe in magic. Crystal clear, blue waters. The sound of the waves embracing the white sand like a long-distance lover. The sun, shining a spotlight on you. Adrenaline rushing through your veins as swell lines approach. Tapping into the nature around and within you to ride the infinite energy of the ocean and earth. Magic is a feeling. That is magic to me.

Surfing is something I spend so my time doing. But it’s not everything I am. It’s my best friend, an outlet. And it opens doors. This year has been insane. Surfing the CT at Keramas made everything feel so real. I would look around me and just think, “This is the level I want to be at, I need to be at, and I will be at.” The amount of dedication, focus and determination, was infectious and inspiring. I could see how those factors made the surfers get to where they are.

I’ve had some struggles. Doing things I’ve always dreamed of doing but not being able to enjoy them. As if being myself was not good enough. Whether it be my manner, how I looked, or my surfing. I just felt like my “best” wasn’t enough. With a perspective like that, you’re always going to be miserable. I’m going through the process of realizing that I am way more than what I look like. Way more than the things I have done wrong and way more than even my accomplishments. My worth is in my growth and what I can give to the world.

Growing up competing, I am grateful to have been able to travel to all these places, creating memorable times with people I never would have met if I had stayed on the island I call home. I didn’t have a huge competitive community in Bali, compared to the U.S. and Australia at least, so joining the QS events and surfing mediocre waves is a lot newer to me than most my competitors. But in saying that, I wouldn’t trade my trips to the Maldives, the Philippines, and my travels in Indonesia for anything.

I am committed to my surfing in all aspects. And surfing in lousy waves is a challenging new chapter. It pushes my self-discipline. I’ve learned that I can’t beat myself up if I want to continue to improve. Getting better at the little things like getting my board just that much more vertical, or speeding through sections I couldn’t make before comes with such rewarding feelings. It’s also comforting to know that there always going to perfect surf waiting for me back home, too. I can’t thank the gift of traveling enough for helping me gain new perspectives. I will always remember every surf trip I’ve ever had. I’ve grown up in a treasure chest of surf here.

Indonesia truly is my home. I would go crazy if I didn’t travel but I would go insane if I never came back. Indonesia is the only home I know, no matter what anyone may think of me, the way I look or how different I may be from the society I’ve grown up in. Here on this island, it’s not the people and how I’m treated that matters, it’s more of a connection to the ocean, the beaches and the nature here. It’s really special that I’ve found a place that whether everyone’s looking or no one is, I can be myself. It’s all perfect, in its own perfectly imperfect way.

I strive to travel and leave the places I go better than how it was when I got there, whether it be cleaning up the beach, expanding perspectives with the locals, or seeing their struggles and giving energy to contribute. The amazing thing is, I don’t have to wait a year, five years, or ten years. I have the opportunity to start right now.

While there’s been times where I couldn’t see things getting better and it was hard to identify reasons to keep going, I believe that there are experiences coming my way that are beyond my wildest dreams.

At the end of the day, I am where I am right now. I look at all the places I’ve been and the memories I’ve made, remembering that I did go through some trials. But they all have helped me realize that what I have with surfing and life is so very magical. Magic is a feeling. That is magic to me.

Words by Kailani Johnson Photography by Liquid Barrel


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