For this next Spotlight, we are staying out on the East Coast but traveling north to Massachusetts. Here we spoke with Alex, the CFO of a plant-based restaurant chain in the Greater Boston area, surfer, and passionate community builder.
From her experiences of first learning to surf and feeling like an outsider to her current work with Lavender Lineup and More Women+ Surf, Alex shares insights on the importance of community, inclusivity, and the joy of surfing. Her passion to share surfing with others and make everyone feel welcome is contagious and something we really admire. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!
Q. What got you into surfing and where’s your favorite spot to go?
Alex - I started surfing in my late twenties living in San Francisco. Learning new things as an adult is a special sort of humbling, but I loved being in the water, and I never regretted paddling out, no matter how big or small. I didn’t have any friends that surfed but met great people in the water and through volunteering with Brown Girls Surf and City Surf Project. When I moved to Boston before the pandemic, I sought out a similar community, and have met some wonderful and welcoming people at my favorite spots around the north shore of Massachusetts and the beaches of New Hampshire.
Q. What do you do for work, and what's your morning routine look like on the days you surf before work?
Alex - I lead finance for a Boston-area restaurant company, Life Alive Organic Cafe! We grew a lot last year - opening four new locations to bring us to nine total - it was a challenge squeezing in surfing and dawn patrol kept me sane through the madness! I typically pack the car and my bag the night before, and try to go to bed early. The first thing I do when I wake up is put a kettle on to fill a few bottles with hot water. If I've somehow managed to get up extra early, I'll make a few pourover coffees and leave one in a thermos on the counter for my spouse to find. If it’s winter and 20 or below, I’m also definitely putting half my wetsuit on before I leave the house. I love being in the water right before first light, especially when paddling out with friends. Even when it’s freezing and the winds are 20 mph and the walk at low tide is brutal, I never regret starting my day in the water. I usually have meetings that start at 9 AM, but I'll often stop at my favorite Lebanese coffee shop for a pastry while waiting for the morning traffic to subside, and then just take my calls on the phone while I drive home.
Q. What motivates you to wake up early (especially when there's snow on the ground) and surf?
Alex - Just the joy of being outside, in the ocean, before the world starts its day. It is a simple privilege that I am so grateful for. Friends in the lineup also make it much easier!
Q. How does an early morning surf affect your mood and mindset for the rest of the day?
Alex - No matter how hard the day gets, or out of control I might feel, starting in the water always gives me more patience, empathy, and gratitude.
Q. What does community mean to you and how has surfing and the ocean shaped your community?
Alex - I discovered surfing after multiple knee surgeries made it impossible for me to play most team sports. It was a learning experience because surfing can be such a singular relationship between you and nature. It was hard to adapt to that. It was also hard because I didn’t see a lot of people like me in the water - a queer, Asian woman and an adult learner. I often felt like an outsider among the more experienced, mostly young, cis straight white male surfers and didn’t quite know where I fit in. Discovering community, especially through Brown Girl Surf in the SF Bay Area and a few local rippers in Pacifica, gave me so much more confidence that there were people I could connect with both inside the lineup and back on land! This was very much on my mind when we moved to Boston after over a decade in SF. It was important to me to actively contribute to building a surf community. Collective joy is such a unique, special thing, and as much as I want to continue improving my own surfing, I am much more interested in unlocking that experience for others, building their confidence and making sure they feel welcomed and valued.
Q. Tell us a little about what you are doing to grow the surfing community in your hometown.
Alex - Moving to New England, I wanted to seek out a surf community that cared about inclusiveness. I’ve been incredibly lucky - early on, through chatting with people in the lineup and parking lots, I found myself part of a big email group we’ve nicknamed Salil’s List, named for its kind and generous founder who makes it a point to invite and facilitate bringing people into the water. I also got to know different breaks through AmpSurf New England, an amazing group that I highly recommend helping out with. Through Instagram, I met my friend Nikki Ellis, and we started Lavender Lineup (@lavender_lineup), an inclusive collective for LGBTQ+ & BIPOC surfers of all levels, and it's been a privilege to meet so many people through our events. Then, through the generosity and deliberate work of photographer Jonathan Kohanski (@swimtheswell), I have had the privilege of getting to know and collaborate with the brilliant Pamela Chévez and Britt Dahlberg of More Women+ Surf (@morewomensurf), who are increasing access and building a wonderfully inclusive community in Portland, ME. (check out their recent cover feature in Down East magazine!). This year, I am hoping to host more Lavender Lineup events, and am excited to work more closely with More Women+ Surf as a member of their newly formed Board of Directors!
Q. Any tips for someone who wants to get into surfing?
Alex - YES! The ocean is for everyone; please come join us! Take a lesson, ask a friend to bring you, or find a local group - there are so many amazing and welcoming groups out there looking to invite YOU into their lineup. Just say take that first step; you will never regret a day in the water!
If you live in the New England area, be sure to check out The Lavender Lineup // Community-based surf club dedicated to BIPOC and Queer folx. All abilities welcome.
AmpSurf New England // Non-profit organization established to Promote, Inspire, Educate, and Rehabilitate (PIER) all people with disabilities, Veterans, and First Responders through Adaptive Surf Therapy and other outdoor activities.
More Women+ Surf // Women-led surf organization in Maine breaking down socio-economical, physical, and emotional barriers to create surf and water access for underserved individuals.
Brown Girl Surf // San Francisco Bay Area based community working to build a more diverse, environmentally reverent, and joyful women’s*, girl’s*, and gender expansive surf culture by increasing access to surfing, cultivating community, amplifying the voices of surfers of color, and taking care of the earth.
City Surf Project // San Francisco Bay Area based community that uses surfing as a vehicle to improve the health and well being of youth and engage them with their four core pillars - healthy living, personal growth, appreciation for nature, and equity in surfing.