Life Moves On... An Interview with Harley Rose Taich - Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine - Jettygirl Blog - Photo by Chris Grant

Life Moves On… An Interview with Harley Rose Taich

Life Moves On... An Interview with Harley Rose Taich - Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine - Jettygirl Blog - Photo by Chris Grant

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What would you do if you were forced to stare at a blank wall for six months? No reading, no movies, nothing. Add in another year’s worth of daily nausea, dizziness, and migraines …how would you be feeling now? I can’t even imagine it, but that is exactly what happened to La Jolla’s Harley Taich when she suffered a brain injury midway through 2011.

The road to recovery has been a long journey and looks less like a straight line than a series of hills and valleys. I met Harley in late April of this year and although she was still experiencing a number of symptoms, she was smiling, surfing and enjoying life again. On a typical day we would meet up and film, head back to her beautiful hillside home for lunch with her dad, and then drive back to the beach for an afternoon session. During that stretch of time I saw secret spots, witnessed gnarly waves I’d avoid at all costs, and listened to stories of big barrels, pro surfing dreams and the heartbreak of life-changing injuries.

Harley was busy preparing for the Surfing America USA Championships as she had just received an injury wildcard entry into the event. Attempting to get back into the groove, she entered a few local surf contests as a warm-up and won both of them handily. Her nagging physical symptoms were still there, but she was charging and looking forward to returning to the national stage. Judging by the powerful and on-rail surfing that I witnessed, Harley was more than ready to compete for the title. Unfortunately, as often happens in tales of heroic comebacks, six days before the USA Championships Harley was surfing on a new board in dumpy, wedging peaks when her foot slipped off during a critical maneuver and her board slammed straight into her head. Lightning had indeed struck twice …Harley had received another concussion.

While her competitive surfing dreams have temporarily been placed on hold, I have no doubt that you will be hearing the name Harley Taich for years to come. Whether that comes by way of surfing or by generously helping other young athletes with head injuries is a story that’s yet to be written. For now though, read on because Harley has a lot to say… –Chris Grant

Jettygirl: You live in a beautiful part of San Diego. What makes La Jolla such a special place?
Harley Taich: I am very fortunate to have grown up in La Jolla, it is such a beautiful place. La Jolla is special because we have such a variety of surf breaks. We are also super close to Mexico and can go down there and score uncrowded waves. Some of La Jolla’s beaches remind me of Hawaii. We have a lot of white sand beaches and when the water is clear and the sun is out, it is absolutely beautiful.

Harley Taich at home in La Jolla. Surf photos by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.I’ve only been down here a few times but it seems like a really tight-knit surf community where everyone knows everyone else? Did your parents grow up surfing the same spots you surf today?
La Jolla definitely is, especially the reefs. The Windansea and Big Rock crews are tight knit and there is definitely a hierarchy in the water. Everyone knows their place and when everyone is out it is hard to get good waves. I grew up surfing with just boys I looked up to (Skip, Jake, Fano, Lucas, Owen, Joey and Brady). There was not another girl surfer out of La Jolla beside myself so I had to work twice as hard but they all pushed me to take my level higher and I thank them for it. My dad was born in Northern California but moved down here when he was 16 years old, almost 35 years ago, and has lived here since. We both have grown up surfing the same breaks and it is cool because he has taught me all the lineup spots at our reefs and where to surf during storms and certain swells, winds, and tides. My dad’s passion has always been for big waves and he never wanted to miss the biggest waves of the year. Black’s is one of the few spots besides Little Makaha and The Cove that will hold the biggest rideable surf in Southern California. People come up to me all the time around here and tell me how they used to check on me when I was a year old as my dad would leave me on a big sand mound at Blacks and go out for hours. For sure all the time I spent at the beach waiting for him to get out of the water made me only want to get into it more…

Every time we’ve traveled to other areas of San Diego, I would get the sense that you were just itching to get back to your home breaks. Without giving away secret spots or locals-only waves, what makes La Jolla surf different than the surrounding areas?
Yeah, I love surfing other breaks up the coast but La Jolla always seems to be better and the water and atmosphere down here is just so much more beautiful in my opinion. We also have a lot of kelp beads so it keeps the wind down. We pick up North and South Swells and we have all these different nooks and crannies that on any given day produce world-class barrels by anyone’s standard, powerful and hollow.

Harley Taich duckdive in La Jolla. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
If someone gave you a free ticket to go surf any spot on the planet, where would it be and why? Similarly, if someone gave you a second free ticket to go to a place you’ve already traveled to before, where would that place be?
Wow, that’s a hard one. If someone gave me a free ticket to go surf any spot on the planet I would probably like to go to Micronesia, because I have never been there. I have always wanted to surf P-Pass. I have heard so many positive things and seen some sick footage and the waves there are the type of waves I thrive off of, hollow, fast, and powerful.

If I were given a second ticket to go anywhere it would have to be back to an outer island off of Tahiti. It is one of my favorite places I have traveled to and is so magical. I love everything about it including the perfect waves, crystal blue water, luscious green palm trees, and people that I have met there over the years …plus I’d get to surf with my friend Lanikai again.

Harley Taich throws a hook at Windansea. Surf photo courtesy of Jeff Taich.

Before your surfing accident, you were on a roll …winning contests, gaining sponsorships, and even making the US Team. Tell us a bit about the time period leading up to the contest at Pt. Magu.
Before my accident I was on a roll and I felt like I was on top of the world with my life. I was so hungry to improve my surfing and be the best I could be. I love surfing but ultimately I thrive off competition. Before my accident in August 2011, I had just made the USA team and I was so excited to go represent the USA in the ISA games in Panama and Nicaragua in hope of bringing home a gold medal. I had just returned home one day earlier from a month of surfing and training in Tahiti with a local girl Lanikai who was pushing my surfing to a whole new level. We were surfing everyday together for six hours a day catching hundreds of waves. Neither of us wanted to be the first one to paddle to the boat so we kept staying out until neither of us could even push up on another wave. Surfing with a girl who was not only my age but who I believe surfed better than most the girls on Tour was really good for my surfing and pushed me to a level I could never have imagined. I was so excited to bring what I had accomplished during the offseason back to competition that Fall. I really felt like I was going to be unstoppable.  It’s funny how life works out sometimes because I was there for a month and went over the dry razor sharp reef so many times with only a few minor scratches, and the day I get home to California, bam, I hit my head and was bedridden for 19 months.

Moments after Harley suffered a concussion.  Photo © Kelly SinkeldamIn the summer of 2011 your life changed in an instant. If it’s not too painful to discuss, can you describe what happened that day in Pt. Magu?
August 20th 2011, my life went from first class to cargo. I can only remember bits and pieces of the day that changed my life drastically. I remember how cold the water was and how fun the waves were. The sand at Point Mugu is very compact and hard unlike the sand at most beaches. I had made the final and was in a heat with three other girls. I remember taking off on a wave and then pulling into the barrel and ending it with a snap. What I don’t remember is what happened after that. I was told I went headfirst into the sand as the wave bottomed out. There was no water, just sand. I do remember coming in and coughing up so much sand that it was coming out of my lungs and nostrils, and it was quite painful. There was only five minutes left in the heat and I was winning by a wide margin and decided to go in before it was over because I didn’t feel well. I was walking up the beach and started feeling like I was going to pass out. A paramedic happened to see my eyes roll backward and helped carry me up the rocks and laid me down. It happened on a naval base so there were a lot of officers, paramedics, and lifeguards. I remember having fifty people hovering over me and I felt super claustrophobic. They wanted to take me to the emergency room after people had told them I hit my head. I was very combative and was screaming at them telling them I wanted to go up and get my trophy because I had just won the event. They told me I couldn’t which made me angry. I tried to stand up anyway but was so dizzy I had to lie back down. They ended up strapping me to a gurney in an ambulance and said they were going to handcuff me if I didn’t cooperate. I was told I kept repeating myself and was crying and screaming hysterically but I don’t remember that part. All I remember is that I didn’t feel normal and I didn’t know what was wrong. All I knew is I wanted to go home and be in the comfort of my own house. The impact I had when I projected headfirst into the sand was so hard that it tore the inside of my brain and left me with a Grade 3 concussion. Doctors have told me my case is one in a million and that people with brain bleeds or scull fractures recover faster than I have. In the last two years, I have been to eight brain surgeons (neurologists) and they all asked me the same question, “What part of my head hit first, the front, the back, or the side?” This important information could have helped diagnose which part of my brain was damaged. I felt so helpless because my father was not there to see it happen. My dad was in immediate contact with his good friends Chad Wells and Strider Wasilewski to see if they had seen the accident. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any information as they were out surfing themselves at the time.

How did you spend your days and months following the accident? You must have been dealing with heavy emotions as you realized how much your life had changed. What were some of the things you were thinking while you were laying there for months without reading, computers, or TV?
Life can change within the blink of an eye so it is important to never take anything for granted and to live everyday to the fullest. It might sound cliché, but until you’ve been through an ordeal you can’t comprehend how true that quote is. I have always been a happy kid since day one, so stoked on life and living. I never thought I would have feelings of killing myself on a daily basis. I even attempted it. At one point I felt so defeated and abandoned. Not being able to surf, walk, and be a teenager was so hard for me especially since I had always been so active. I went month after month with no TV, reading, computer, or Facebook. I missed my junior and part of senior year at school, as it all stimulates the brain and caused me to have nausea, vomiting, and intense migraines. I literally lay in bed in a dark room with no lights, staring at the four walls that surrounded me day after day sinking me into a deep depression. It felt like I was a prisoner in solitary confinement in my own bedroom. It was hard accepting the fact that I went from surfing six hours a day, running six miles, doing yoga every night to being able to do nothing but lie in bed and listen to music.  All I kept asking myself was, “Why me? Why did this have to happen to me …there are bad people out there, why not them!!?” It was really hard for me knowing my fellow competitors and friends were moving on with their lives and surfing while time stood still for me. Those months were some of the darkest months I will ever have to face, but I have grown up so much and it has only made me a stronger person. I was able to take something so negative and turn it into something positive. I stopped looking at myself as a victim and tried looking at my situation in a positive light even though it was hard. I realized I may be able to help other kids and teens with similar situations and possibly start a support group and organization for concussion research. People and doctors really do not understand brain injuries. It’s not like a “torn this” or “broken that,” it’s your brain and there is no magic pill or cure to fix a concussion. All you can do is rest, stay motionless and wonder when you can be normal again. Because people look at you and don’t see a cast or bandage, they think you are fine. All the while, they do not see the horrible symptoms or feel the pain your head, eyes, and body experience. The doctors say that it is especially hard for athletes to deal with the recovery associated with concussions because they are accustomed to being active. It’s really depressing when you are not used to being motionless and especially not knowing if or when you can ever return to activity again.

When you were finally able to get up and move around, what types of activities helped you regain your strength and stamina? At that time, did you ever doubt you’d surf again someday?
Harley Taich shredding at Blacks Beach. Surf photos by Chris Grant - Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.When I got my migraines and nausea under control I started being able to do a little activity, but I had to avoid anything that would jar or shake my head, like running, jogging, and many other activities. Being how I loved being in the water and ocean, I started swimming laps at the local pool at La Jolla High School. This allowed me to be in the water but at this point I still never knew if I would be able to surf again. It wasn’t the ocean, but it was the second best thing. I started out only being able to do two laps and over the course of three months worked up to seventy laps which is a mile. I enjoyed swimming because it felt good on my body and it was a water-based activity which is where I feel most comfortable.  It was hard to do other activities like walking or yoga because when I’d get my heart rate up all my symptoms like migraines, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue would come on. Swimming seemed to be the only thing that I was able to do and monitor myself better.

As the weeks, months and almost years went by, I agonized over wondering if I would ever be able to surf again. Every time I tried I ended up slapping my head on the water only prolonging any type of full recovery. Doctors told me I would never be able to surf again because I couldn’t risk another head trauma and could have permanent brain damage for life. I realized that my condition was serious, but I wouldn’t let that control my life and I would prove them wrong. Surfing is my life and my dream and not being able to surf just isn’t an option for me. I will continue to keep fighting and make a comeback to just be able to surf again and ultimately compete again at a high level because surfing and its lifestyle is my life.

As with any accident, oftentimes there’s an outpouring of support in the immediate days following a life-altering event, but it doesn’t always remain for the long term. Who were some of the people that saw you through your most difficult times?
It was a very lonely time and some of the darkest of dark days in my life. My grandparents came down for a few weeks when I was at my worst and laid by my bedside and played board games with me. I wasn’t able to do much but it was nice to have the company. It’s funny because you realize who your real friends are when something bad happens to you and only a few friends come to visit or call. My dad was the one who was there for me the most and I am so lucky to have him as a father. He was definitely my rock and helped me get through everything.

Harley Taich photos by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine

You mentioned that you’d like to help other young people who have suffered brain injuries like yours to avoid some of the mistakes and pitfalls you experienced. Do you have any advice that you’d give someone who just suffered a similar brain injury?
About two months ago this 11 year old girl came into my work at South Coast Surf Shop and asked for me. She had heard about my accident through word of mouth. She told me that she was suffering from a concussion and had been experiencing some of the same symptoms as me for three months. She had tripped on a rug in her own house and fell backwards hitting her head on the hard wood floor. I was able to share information that I had gained from experience and the eight neurologists I had seen over the years. The information I was able to give her no doctor had ever even come close to helping her understand her condition. I was able to help her and give her advice on what she could do to help her get better and put her on a track of healing. She was just so happy to have someone to talk to that understood what she was going through and I was the first person who understood which was refreshing for her and me. When people see me they look at me and think I’m fine because on the outside I look completely normal but what they don’t know is I am broken on the inside. Same with this girl, kids will look at her and think she’s fine but they really don’t know what we are going through and the symptoms we battle everyday. Knowing I was able to help her brought a lot of joy to me and made me feel good.

After my experience it has made me want to help other kids and teens who are going through the same thing. I’d like to start some sort of support group to bring kids and teens with concussions together. I am starting to turn my experience from something that was so negative into something positive. Everyday that goes by I am so grateful to be alive and breathe in fresh air. Having the goal of surfing and competing was the only thing that got me through day to day.  I have been battling this for two years and have made so many mistakes that I wish I could go back in time and do it over. If anyone is battling from a concussion I would advise them to not go back to activity until their symptoms subside and to stay off all electronic devices because it is too stimulating for the brain and crucial for healing. Also, for those of you who are in school, for me reading brought on migraines so I didn’t go to school for a year. I had trouble with comprehension, spelling, and reading and still do to this day since my injury. I would tell a person to just take time off school and let her head heal. I’d also recommend that people stay hydrated, eat a lot of raw organic vegetables, juice, take magnesium, fish oil pills, iron if you’re a girl, and make sure to eat little healthy snacks all day.

Now that you’re easing your way back into the ocean, have you had to modify your approach to riding waves to protect against another head injury? I know you crave large surf but does the thought ever cross your mind that maybe you shouldn’t be out there on those days?
Everyday I surf I am risking my life and brain damage, but there is no better feeling than being in the ocean and gliding across the face of a wave. The doctors still don’t want me to surf but I am going to anyways. When I surf I am cautious and aware. I don’t take waves that I’m not going to make the drop on and I make sure that if I’m going for a turn, I’m going to complete it. I thrive off the feeling I get in big waves, and hollow suck-up barrels. I used to want to charge Mavericks. I was never pushed, it’s just something that feels good.  I love the feeling of my stomach turning inside-out and actually getting worked. I know right now it’s not an option for me, but maybe someday in the future I can charge big waves again. For now though, I need to be careful.

What other interests do you have besides surfing? Word on the street is that you’d like to publish a cookbook someday. Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?
Harley's Famous Pumpkin Pie RecipeYes, I love cooking! For me cooking is a way to relax and challenge myself. I eat extremely healthy and am always coming up with new recipes that are good for my body and brain. (Click the photo for Harley’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe.) I make a grab cake that’s “to die for” according to my family. I love challenges and cooking is a way for me to push myself and see what I can create. I am working on a cookbook right now and hopefully will publish it within the next year. Besides cooking, I love watching movies and hanging with friends and my puppy. The things I love besides surfing are fitness-related, but right now I am unable to do a lot of those things. When I was able to, I enjoyed yoga, Pilates, running, and anything outdoors. I actually just wrote a children’s book on concussions that I hope to get published soon. If anyone knows any publishers or agents please let me know! (harleyrose95@gmail.com)

In the surf media these days, you’re more likely to see a top female surfer standing on the beach in a bikini than you are to see her surfing in one. Do you think women’s surfing is being portrayed accurately? If not, what changes would you like to see?
I think women’s surfing is being portrayed somewhat accurately. A lot of the media you read thinks it’s all being portrayed wrong. Having girls surfing in thongs has brought a lot of focus and attention to women’s surfing so in my opinion it really isn’t a bad thing.  All the women are absolutely killing it on tour and I love watching all the events. It makes me want to get back to competition soon and compete against everyone. As far as changes, I’d like to see more sponsorship of women based on their surfing ability.  I am not saying it is wrong for companies to reward for the whole package but it’s also sad to see really talented women who don’t have the “look” not getting endorsements at all.  In general, it seems like the surf industry is more hype driven for women. Ironically, the more money that moms and dads have to spend on hype for their kids, the more publicity and public attention just happens to come their way, regardless of their actual surfing ability. Then, the endorsements seem to follow. I’d like to see this change for sure, but it’s doubtful it will in the near future. Companies are making these people look really cool and are constantly seeking out what image they think the public wants to see in order to sell more of their label. I guess they call it branding.

Harley Taich's quote about women's surfing sponsorships. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com

A month or so ago we heard the exciting news that you had scored an injury wildcard entry to the US Championships at Lowers. How did it feel to be mixing it up in heats with the top American surfers again?
I was only surfing for a month and a half prior to the contest at Lower Trestles after being out of the water almost two years. It’s funny because the last time I really surfed I was only 15. I was super excited leading up to this contest, surfing as much as I could and as much as my head allowed me to do. It is such a fun wave and to get to surf it with only three other girls is exciting because it is always so crowded!!! Six days before the event I was out at Windansea trying out a brand new board. The waves were dredging, hollow and lumpy. When I went to do an off the lip my front foot slipped causing my back foot to push my board directly into my face. It smacked me directly in the front of my head leaving me with a big lump, feeling dizzy and causing a serious migraine. I had re-concussed again and this devastated me! Just the thought of starting all over again in bed was a nightmare that I wasn’t prepared to relive again so soon. All the thousands of off the lips I hit and now this freak accident was the last thing I saw coming. After that, I was in bed all the days leading to the event and had terrible migraines that no medication including 1000 mg Vicodin could even help. The doctors wanted me out of the water indefinitely. The risk they said far exceeded any reward I would get. I was back in a depression and lost many nights of sleep.

I don’t know why exactly, but this contest meant so much to me. I really wanted to put on a good show as it was my last year in the under 18’s and I wanted to see how I could do against all the best girls from Hawaii and USA. I woke up that morning feeling terrible with my head pounding. I was nauseous and also a little dizzy. A few hours before my heat I decided that I would just surf my heat and not care if I won or lost, just to enjoy myself and do it for me. I had a really bad migraine so I took some painkillers that made me a little loopy and some nausea pills to keep me from throwing up. I ended up doing well and advancing into the second round, which was held the next day. I was kind of shocked I made my heat because I felt so terrible but all the adrenaline is probably the only thing that kept me going. In the middle of the night I woke up with this pain in my toe and it kept me up all night. I thought I sleepwalked and broke it in the middle of the night because the pain was excruciating. I had my graduation early that morning and my heat wasn’t until 5 pm. I barely slept that night. My toe just kept throbbing throughout the day, I could barely walk on it but I decided to surf anyways. My head was spinning as I was so dizzy as an infection was contributing to my symptoms on top of my new concussion. I surfed my heat with only the quarter of my ability and surfed as well as I could possibly do given my circumstances.

Later that night after the second day of contest my foot doubled in size and I ended up having a serious staph infection that spread through my foot and leg and I was in the hospital for two days. Unfortunately I didn’t advance but I was happy anyways and so stoked to have surfed even though I was taking a chance in prolonging my recovery time if I was to fall and hit my head on the water. I took a big risk, which wasn’t the smartest thing, but I needed to surf for my sanity and healing process. My body filled up with many emotions and feelings, including anxiety, joy and thrill when I was paddling out in my heat. I wasn’t scared of losing but I was surfing with a lot of caution and hesitation. I didn’t want to hurt myself but I did want to advance. What most people don’t know or understand about serious concussions with brain tearing is that once you have one it’s easy to get another and the next one is usually worse than the first and so on.

Harley Taich sequence courtesy of Jeff Taich.

In today’s climate, many surfers shun competitive surfing, but you’ve told us that you absolutely love surf contests. What do you enjoy about the competitive surfing atmosphere?
It’s true, I thrive off competing. I love putting on a jersey and hearing that buzzer go off. I get butterflies and I love that feeling and excitement of winning and even losing. It’s weird to say I like losing, but when I lose it just makes me want to win even more the next time. When you win a contest it’s the best feeling in the world. I can’t even explain the rush I get.

After people saw you ripping in the contest, many were surprised to hear that you suffered another head injury in the days leading up to the event. What happened? Have you received a clean bill of health now or is your new injury a more serious setback?
Many were surprised to hear that I hadn’t been surfing for so long, but only a few people came up to me that day—the Hawaiians, Tatiana, Kaoli, Kiana, and Bailey. I always looked up to the Hawaiian girls I competed with and always looked forward to competing against Tatiana, Dax, Mahina and Bailey for their surfing ability but most of all because of the camaraderie they seem to have. It’s funny because I was enrolled at Sunset Elementary School across from Pipe in 2005 and would had been living there all these years but my dad got injured at Backdoor and ended up having spinal surgery so we moved back home to La Jolla. I guess I wished we had been able to stay.

It was also really nice to get a friendly greeting from Lulu and a few of the younger American girls, Samantha, Malia, Kylie, Meah, and Kloee who are all coming up through the rankings. It was exciting to see them surfing so well.

As far as a clean bill of health it’s just about what I have been doing, moving forward, staying positive, and taking it one day at a time. Reinjuring myself right before the event was a total fluke and was the last thing I was expecting. Consequently, it did not allow me to perform as well as I would have liked to. It’s just another bump in the road. I’ll push on and plan to keep succeeding.

With your goals having been squarely set on a pro career, how have the two years you’ve been out of the water affected your chances? With tour stops disappearing at an alarming rate over the past few years, it doesn’t seem like an easy path for rookie pros hitting the road for the first time. With so many talented surfers trying for a pro career, is it difficult to get into the events?
Yes, this is probably the most frustrating and giant setback of all because I’ve spent the last ten years of my life with the one goal of wanting to make it onto the World Tour. I was told that my ability was right there. Besides missing the last two years of being able to complete my amateur events and win NSSA and USA Championship titles, I also missed out as a USA Team member, which included two ISA World Jr. Games and the chance to compete and win a gold medal for the USA, the first one in Panama in 2012 and then again this year in Nicaragua.

Due to missing out the last two years, I have zero points. To the layman this might sound complicated but now, because of the lack of ASP Woman’s Qualifying Series events due to lack of sponsorship dollars and most of the 6 star events only having entry slots for 24 to 48 competitors, it is almost impossible to gain entry into the events. Over the past two years so many young girls jumped on the opportunity that had opened up to get into North America events and internationally and now they have good seed points for their future. Ultimately, I will be blocked unless the ASP gives me some wild cards into a 6 Star event and I advance, the ASP adds more entry slots like the men have, or a miracle happens and a whole bunch of girls randomly decide to drop out and quit. I don’t see that happening as women’s surfing is now more popular than ever. The only other opportunity is for me to chase 1- and 2-star events all over the globe and in a few years I might have enough points if everyone else stands still. I just hope to get a break and get a wild card that will afford me a running start to pursue my dreams.

To make a long story short, if you don’t see me surfing professionally in the future and wonder whatever happened to Harley Rose Taich, this time it won’t be due to injury.

Harley Taich, Blacks Beach - surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com

We’ve spent some time looking back. Let’s finish off looking forward. Describe a perfect day in your future.
A perfect day In my future would be me symptom free and not having to ever worry about bumping my head and re-concussing again, but that’s just something I will have to live with the rest of my life. I will have to alter my surfing. I see myself somewhere in the tropics, sipping a coconut and going out surfing a perfect wave pass with my dad and friends. I would also like to make the world tour and win an event, which would be my dream. I would love for my children’s book to get published because I believe it will help young kids understand concussions in a simple way. Whatever I do in my future, I just want to be successful and happy. Life is short and things can change in an instant. I just want to enjoy the ride when I’m on it.

Thank you for speaking with us Harley. Your story of pure grit and determination has inspired us greatly and we know it will do the same for many others as well. If you have any shout-outs or parting thoughts, feel free to share…
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and helped me make it through these past two years. Thank you Chris Grant for taking so much of your time to shoot and help me tell my story.  You were the first and only one who’s had an interest, you’re an amazing person. Thank you dad for everything you have done for me and staying by my side and most of all teaching me that surfing is a gift …we who surf should never forget how lucky we are to have that bond with the ocean, waves and nature.  Also thank you to all my sponsors who have stuck by me through my accident, Matuse Wetsuits, Dakine, NVR strings, FCS, Sharpeye Surfboards, Surfergirl Suncare, and Reef. I would also like to thank some of my friends and especially my family for all the unconditional love. I love you guys…


September 9, 2013 Update: Harley started a concussion support page on Facebook. If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion and need someone to talk to, please visit Harley ROSE.


Photo Credits: Chris Grant, Jeff Taich, Kelly Sinkeldam




Video: Chris Grant / Jettygirl.com | Audio: “Fragments of Melodies for Soprano Sax” by UAUAUA via freesound.org

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Additional Resources:
Follow Harley Taich on Instagram
Harley Taich on Facebook
Harley Taich surfing Santa Cruz, Todos Santos and La Jolla reefs, Winter 2011
NVR Bikinis
Matuse

Traumatic Brain Injury Resources:
CDC’s “Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports – downloadable fact sheets for coaches, athletes, and parents
CDC: Concussion and Mild TBI – information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention




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“Whomp-O-Rama” encuentro con Christine Brailsford. Entrevista y fotos del evento.

Whomp-O-Rama Encuentro con Christine Brailsford – Fotos de Chris Grant / Jettygirl.com

Aun no me puedo recordar donde o cuando fue que por primera vez escuche acerca de los eventos Whop-O-Rama, pero si tuviera que adivinar probablemente diría que fue a través del “PAIPO debote”, Glenn Sakamoto de la revista Liquid Salt Magazine. En los 70′ recuerdo que tratamos de utilizar nuestras sandalias como “Handplanes” para correr las olas, fuera de esta experiencia no he tenido la oportunidad de experimentar esta modalidad de “Handplanes”. Realmente no tengo idea de que esperar de este evento.

En el momento en que llegue a la playa en Leucadia, descubrí un gran grupo de personas amantes de la diversión de todas las edades; compartiendo las olas del mar con sus diferentes y muy originales equipos “rides” para una sección que se me hace difícil renombrar. Hace ya un mes de esta dia y aun puedo escuchar las carcajadas de risa y ver las sonrisas de las personas. Si en algún momento descubres uno de estos eventos ya sea por Facebook o en algún otro de los medios, no lo pienses, ya que es garantizado que te divertirás en grande.

Para tener una mejor idea de lo que es Whomp-O-Rama, nos encontramos con su propietario Christine Brailsford ( en la siguiente foto) para conocer su opinión del evento.

Christine Brailsford, Whomp Handplanes.  Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.

Jettygirl: A diferencia de algunas corporaciones que respaldan las demostraciones en la playa (beach demos), los Whomp-O-Rama tienen una forma peculiar, distinta y mucho mas relajada. Durante el evento no se escucho un comentario negativo, ningún mal de ojo, o ambiente hostil en lo absoluto; por el contrario fue muy agradable el poder ver a todas las personas sonriendo, compartiendo las olas y aclamándose los uno a otros. Dígannos un poco mas acerca de este dia.
Christine Brailsford: Admito que me encontraba nerviosa unos días previos al evento. Según el reporte del tiempo parecía ser que estaría nublado, sin olas y con vientos en dirección a la costa ( onshore). Con mis dedos cruzados tome la decisión de realizar el evento. En la mañana del evento las condiciones amanecieron perfectas con marea alta, sin viento y un oleaje de 3-5 pies con secciones buenísimas y tubos. Un maravilloso grupo de “whompers” se presento para probar sus tablas, tomar fotos y pasarla bien. Traje algunos “paipos” ( bellyboards) y “handplanes” (tabla de mano) de demostración, para todas las personas presentes. Fue muy agradable ver muchas caras conocidas y nuevas en el agua; surfiando y compartiendo las olas. Durante varias horas nos adueñamos de este punto de la playa- todo el mundo riéndose a carcajadas y apoyándose a gritos los unos otros. Definitivamente fue un dia memorable.

Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com.

Podemos observar una gran variedad de ‘handplanes” con diferentes diseños y formas. Debido a que estos Handplanes son muy pequeños y poseen una reducida área, nos interesa saber si de alguna manera se puede notar la diferencia en los diferentes modelos y formas de estos “handplanes” al correr las olas o si es solo parte de la estética de estos?
Usando un handplane puedes coger olas fácilmente y proyectarte en la ola mucho mas rápido. Existen muchas variantes al momento de escoger el “Handplane” apropiado para las diferentes condiciones. El mayor enfoque de mis “Handplanes”, es su flexibilidad. La flexibilidad te permite girar con una mayor naturalidad, como si estuvieras haciendo bodysurfing, sin usar un “handplane”. El diseño de las colas (tails), materiales y forma contribuyen a su flexibilidad. Las diferencias en tamaños trabajan de misma forma que en las tablas de surf.

• Las grandes (18″-19″) trabajan bien en olas grandes o en personas de gran tamaño.
• Las medianas (14″-15″) trabajan bien en la mayoría de las condiciones y corredores.
• Las pequeñas (11″ o menos) son buenas para olas tubulares. También funcionan para los niños.

Un Paipo es probablemente el mas veloz artefacto para correr las olas. Es muy parecido a un “Bodyboard” al momento de coger las olas, pero muy distinto en otras cosas. En lugar de flotar sobre la superficie de la ola, estos tienen bordes duros que se entierran en la ola. Esto ayuda a generar velocidad de planeación. Sus bordes actúan como una quilla que te permita controlar los giros en la parte baja de la ola. La parte de abajo de mis Paipos tienen un cóncavo singular y un laminado en la parte superior de la tabla. El tamaño de estos se basa en la estatura, peso y habilidad del corredor.

Para las personas que le interese ponerse en contacto con ustedes para ordenar “Handplanes” hechos a mano, cual es el proceso a seguir tomando en cuenta que cada uno de estos es único?
Si están interesados en obtener un “Handplane” o un Paipo hecho a la medida o de los que tenemos en inventario nos pueden contactar a través de nuestro correo electrónico at whomphandplanes@gmail.com y para mas información acerca de ordenes, preguntas generales o listas de tiendas locales donde pueden conseguirlos. También pueden echarle un ojo a mis tablas y a mi trabajo, en el portal de la Internet whomphandplanes.tumblr.com.

Algún comentario final, o alguna influencia?
Quiero agradecer a todos por su apoyo continuo. Estoy muy feliz de poder compartir lo que hago con otras personas. Muchas gracias desde lo mas profundo de mi corazón :).

Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Christine Brailsford, Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.



Additional Resources:
Whomp Handplanes – 100% hand-made handplanes, paipos, fins, and surfboards by Christine Brailsford
Wegener Surfboards – surfboards and alaias shaped in Encinitas by Jon Wegener
Liquid Salt Magazine – celebrating the culture of surfing



* Asi como algun comentario en Twitter. Las olas deben ser “ripeadas.”

Whomp-O-Rama Roundup with Christine Brailsford. Interview & Event Photos.

Whomp-O-Rama Roundup with Christine Brailsford – Photos by Chris Grant / Jettygirl.com

I can’t recall where or when I first learned of the Whomp-O-Rama event but if I had to guess, it was probably through paipo-devotee, Glenn Sakamoto of Liquid Salt Magazine. I haven’t had experience with handplanes other than the rubber flip-flops we used back in the 1970’s for the same purpose. I truly didn’t know what to expect at the event.

Upon arriving at Beacons Beach in Leucadia, I discovered a crew of fun-loving individuals of all ages sharing waves, trying each other’s rides, and enjoying a session the likes of which I can’t readily recall. It’s been about a month since that day and I can still hear the laughter and see the smiles. If you ever see one of these events pop up on Facebook or wherever, take advantage of it. It’s a guaranteed fun time!

To get the scoop on the Whomp-O-Rama, we met up with Whomp Handplanes owner, Christine Brailsford (pictured below), for her thoughts on the event.

Christine Brailsford, Whomp Handplanes.  Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.

Jettygirl: Unlike many corporate backed beach demo’s, the Whomp-O-Rama had a distinctly relaxed flavor to it. We didn’t hear one bad comment, see any stink-eye, or witness anyone being vibed in any way. To the contrary, it was a pleasant surprise to see everyone smiling, hooting each other into waves, and even sharing rides. Tell us about the day.
Christine Brailsford: I’ll admit.. I was nervous for a few days before the event. The forecast looked bleak with no swell, scattered rain, and onshore wind. I decided to still hold the event anyway with my fingers crossed. It was a crisp morning and turned out to be perfect conditions. A super high tide, zero wind, and 3-5 foot swell made fun little pockets and barrels. An awesome group of whompers came to try boards, take photos, and hang out. I brought down some paipos (bellyboards) and handplanes for everyone to demo. It was nice to see so many faces, familiar and new, bobbing around, stoked in the surf and sharing waves. For a few hours, our group took over the break—everyone smiling, laughing, and hooting each other on. It was definitely a memorable day.

Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com.

We saw a variety of shapes and tail designs on handplanes. Due to the small planing surface of a handplane, are the designs purely aesthetic or can you tell a difference between the different tails and outlines when riding a wave?
Using a handplane allows you to catch waves easier and plane down the line faster. There are many variables when choosing the right handplane for the right conditions. The main focus with my designs is flex. Flex allows the board to twist for a more natural feeling, like bodysurfing without a handplane. The design of the tails and foil contribute to this flex function. The different size models work similar to different sizes of surfboards:

• Larger planes (18″-19″) work well in softer surf or for bigger riders.
• Medium planes (14″-15″) are great all around boards for most conditions and riders.
• Small planes (11″ and below) are good for hollower waves. They’re also great for kids and hobbits.

A paipo is probably the fastest wave riding craft. Catching a wave is much like a bodyboard, but very different in other ways. Instead of floating on the surface of the wave, the rail edge is hard and buried in the wave. This creates ultimate planing speed. The tapered rail acts as a “fin”, allowing controlled bottom turns. The bottom of my paipos have a single concave and rolled hull nose entry. The size of the paipos are based on the height, weight, and ability of its rider.

If someone wanted to get in touch with you to have a handplane shaped, what is the process like since each one is so unique?
If you are interested in a custom or stock handplane or paipo, you can contact me via email at whomphandplanes@gmail.com for ordering information, general questions, or for a list of local retailers. You can also check out my boards and work on my photo blog at whomphandplanes.tumblr.com.

Any parting thoughts, influences, or shout-outs?
I want to thank everyone for their continued support. I’m stoked to be able to share what I do with others. Thank you from the bottom of my heart :).

Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Christine Brailsford, Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine. Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.
Whomp-O-Rama with Christine Brailsford. Whomp Handplanes. Surf photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.



Additional Resources:
Whomp Handplanes – 100% hand-made handplanes, paipos, fins, and surfboards by Christine Brailsford
Wegener Surfboards – surfboards and alaias shaped in Encinitas by Jon Wegener
Liquid Salt Magazine – celebrating the culture of surfing



* Like, tweet, post, comment or whatever. Waves are meant to be shared.

Cori Schumacher waxing up a special board designed and shaped by Ashley Lloyd. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com

BACKBONE IN A TILTED WORLD, POSTSCRIPT. Follow-up to the Cori Schumacher Interview on Jettygirl.com.

By Cori Schumacher

Watching the deciding event of the Women’s World Longboard Championships unfold in China from a distance was difficult. Truth be told, it was impossible. There were no live webcasts, no live interviews and very limited photographs of the event itself as it unfolded. Though live scoring was available, bans by the Chinese government on social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) made any unofficial updates nearly impossible. Additionally, it was strange to view the photos of the opening ceremony where uniformed, color coordinated crews occupied the majority of the seats in the audience. Contests are usually huge promotions for the companies that fund them. This did not seem to be the case in this situation… at least in the traditional sense. Indeed, I would argue that this may have been the least spectated event of this size in the history of the ASP and not simply from a lack of interest in women’s longboarding, although this may have been a point taken into consideration…. Can you imagine the uproar from folks who could not watch Kelly Slater live from China?!

Cori Schumacher waxing up a special board designed and shaped by Ashley Lloyd. Photo by Chris Grant, Jettygirl.com

The point here is to highlight the censorship and propaganda that were at play throughout the event. What was being sold, supported, commodified was surf-fashion/lifestyle-in-China and Hainan-as-Hawaii as defined by the ASP and SIMA and the government of Wanning.

What is not known are the details of the deal that was struck between Chinese officials and the ASP/SIMA other than that this event will be held, at least for the next two years, at this same venue. I am curious to see if the Chinese government will be footing the bill for the 32 competitors each year.

A few key points I’d like to highlight:

1) In response to those who thought I did not want surfing brought to China- It doesn’t take a contest to introduce surfing to China.

2) Those Chinese who were present at the contest (and not involved with it somehow) were not those who are most oppressed by the government. Hainan is being tailored for the luxury class, the upper class, the growing class of Chinese with a disposable income. A class being magnetized to the surf industry, not by a desire to surf, but through clothing that is marketed as Western and modern; as evinced by the choice to hold the bikini show rather than holding a surf clinic.

3) What of those who were pushed out of their homes in order to make room for the hotels on Hainan? This is happening in many places in China, people’s land being taken from them through a Chinese version of eminent domain.

Cori Schumacher quote from Backbone in a Tilted World, Postscript on Jettygirl Online Surf Magazine.Simply leaving the hotel and wandering around the local area isn’t going to expose the underbelly of Chinese society. Suppose I were to have a contest at Queens, in Waikiki and decided to take a walk around because I had heard stories about the rampant poverty in America and I wanted to “see for myself” if this was true. Would I find it? I would either have to fly over to the mainland and do some traveling or I would need a Hawaiian local who was unafraid to tell me where I could find these pockets of poverty in paradise, then take me, for example, to the tent cities on the West side of Oahu.

We see this class distinction in surfing even here. While many tout the low cost of surfing as compared with other sports (the “all you really need is a plank and you are able to ride waves” mentality) the larger context of what is needed is lots of leisure time and proximity to the ocean. Many of those who might enjoy surfing don’t have this leisure time because they are working. This isn’t a choice, nor is it a cultural difference. They are barely scraping by, working long hours at extremely low wages to sustain even the most meager of existences in order to simply survive.

I do not see China as some homogenous amalgam or judge it through the lens of the western media. Chinese Human Rights Defenders is one example of a great direct resource for human rights defense from within China. I make a distinction between the Chinese people and the Chinese government, between the central government and local governments… and always keep in mind cultural relativity. But there are some things that are universal, such as how to treat human beings and I try to make my choices based on my best knowledge of a situation. Not everyone will agree with how I made these decisions but ultimately, they are my decisions to make. In no way do I think surfing should be kept from China, but do I think that the ASP, SIMA, clothing manufacturers/corporations, etc. ought to be the ones introducing it? No way.

Photo Credits: Chris Grant / Jettygirl.com


Additional Resources:

Backbone in a Tilted World. The Cori Schumacher Interview.
Cori Schumacher’s Blog
Cori Schumacher on TheInertia.com – Champions in China and Meaning-Making
Cori Schumacher on TheInertia.com – Why I’m Boycotting


Special Thanks: to Girls4Sport for their support of the original Backbone in a Tilted World feature!