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For International Women’s Day, we’ve asked a handful of inspiring women from the Rise Up familia to share some insights on life and surfing. From how it feels to catch a wave, to facing fears, and how to balance your mind and soul—we all have something to learn from each other.

photo: Greg Fulks (@fulks)

How did it feel catching your very first wave?

I will never forget the feeling of catching my first green wave. The magical rush of energy under my feet felt like I was flying. The visual beauty of the aqua blue water as the wave peeled over the ocean floor. I was hooked from that very moment and I will never forget the feeling of that first wave.—Kassia Meador

When I stood up for the first time on a wave, it felt like all the preconceptions I had about myself were proven wrong. That at 38, I thought I knew everything about myself and that it was too late to change the way I was. But I was wrong! And it was the beginning of a new chapter of my life.—Jill Ong

Like a little keiki (kid) totally delighted, giggly and in awe by the most mundane of things. Like blowing bubbles.—Katie Tom Alba

photo: Greg Fulks (@fulks)

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Absolutely exhilarating because I was learning to do something new and it felt like flying. Also completely humbling because I wiped out so hard. I’m still such a kook. And I’ve always got a huge grin on my face the entire time. Surfing has definitely been a lesson in not taking myself too seriously.—Vikki Fennell

Only the best feeling ever! Surfing always seemed like this thing far out of my reach, especially growing up nowhere near an ocean! So for me, catching my first wave was a huge “hell yeah” moment! It was a great reminder that we are capable of anything and it’s only our thoughts or beliefs that can ever limit us.—Jenna Vierck

HOLY F*** I CAN DO THIS! I wasn’t sure I could and once I stood up, the desire to truly learn to surf was pretty addicting. Hence why I came back and didn’t leave!—Wendy Belk

photo: Matt Lantz @freelantz_matt

Equal parts shock and awe, and I was immediately addicted. I think I was in disbelief I finally stood up and when that feeling passed, and I enjoyed the ride, it was such a feeling of accomplishment!—Holly Marie

What is paradise?

Being able to feel relaxed and do whatever the hell you want to do without worrying about whether you need to answer an email or call your client or answer to your boss or a friend or family. It can be a place but more often than not, it’s a state of mind.—Jill Ong

Paradise to me is perfect waves with a few friends, wide open beaches where you can ride a horse into a sunset. A place where no one can call you and the only sounds outside are that of the waves crashing the wind blowing through the trees and birds signing.—Kassia Meador

Warm sun on my face, sand between toes, a tangled mess of salty hair, a cold beer in my hand, and laughter with new friends.—Lauren Peterson

photo: Matt Lantz @freelantz_matt

Anywhere you feel free! For me, that’s being able to run into the ocean first thing in the morning, it’s catching sunrise and sunset, it’s feeling the sunshine on my skin and the breeze at night, it’s being surrounded by inspiring people who motivate me, dance with me, and make me laugh til my belly hurts.—Jenna Vierck

I believe that paradise is a state of mind. Anywhere and everywhere can be your own personal paradise. Of course, empty line ups, white sandy beaches and lush coconut trees also does the job. But for me, paradise is where I’m at ease, around friends, in nature, practicing yoga, surfing. Doing what I love. That’s paradise for me.—Anniken Wild

photo: Greg Fulks (@fulks)

How do you balance your mind and soul?

I don’t think I have even come close to perfecting this. But I try to do this by being protective of the time that I have for myself and not feeling guilty about it. That could mean taking a surf trip by myself or binging on Netflix the entire weekend or not answering emails when they can be answered the next day.—Jill Ong

Many tried and true things: daily journaling, meditation, being grateful for what I have, lots of yoga, getting outdoors.—Monica Dingle

By breathing.—Joana Paes

I find a lot of balance through daily meditation, writing, yoga, and reflection time in the water. Whether that be taking time to just float on my surfboard between catching waves or going for a dive. I notice the more I allow myself to engage in the things I love, I feel more balanced and at ease within my mind and soul.—Blair Bigham

Movement! Sometimes the best medicine is just to move – whether that’s swimming, surfing, yoga, running….whatever it is that helps you get out of your head and into your body for a bit! I’ve also found its so important to give myself equal measures of quiet, inner solitude and surrounding myself with other people. There is some serious power in discussing life with others and learning new perspectives. The true gold, though, lies in giving yourself the space for those other voices to settle so that your own truth and your own voice can come through. —Jenna Vierck

photo: Greg Fulks (@fulks)

What fear have you faced recently?

I have been working through a lot of fear around a recent shoulder injury. Feeling fragile about my shoulder not wanting to have it go out again. Feeling a bit weak and it really has been a sweet opportunity to move and work through that fear and trust.—Kassia Meador

Leaving a nourishing, comfortable and inspiring tribe and community, to reach out and explore a new and unknown direction of personal growth. —Katie Tom Alba

Quitting my job mid-career to take time off for myself. —Monica Dingle

photo: Greg Fulks (@fulks)

As a full time traveler, daily life becomes a faith exercise. To travel in countries where I am only just learning the culture and hardly know the language, I have to have great faith in the people we meet and I have been richly rewarded for that faith in humanity, my journey has been filled with gifts of kindness and friendship * I am soon going to face the fear of sailing across the ocean with my family. I am confident it will be a safe and uneventful passage and I look forward to reaching the furthest point from any land, a tiny speck on a massive ocean, a lesson in humility and the preciousness of life. There is certainly fear and anxiety, but I’m certain the rewards for taking the leap will be immeasurably worth the effort.—Vikki Fennell

Moving to a new city! I recently moved to Oaxaca, Mexico where I didn’t know anybody and am definitely not fluent in the language. I have always loved to travel and experience new cultures but previously had relied a bit too much on other people. This has been a seriously cool lesson on independence and empowerment.—Jenna Vierck

Every day right now I face my fear… of water! I have been scared of water ever since I was a baby, and even though it can’t compare now to what it used to be, I still have to face that fear every time I go in the water to take pictures or to surf. It’s pretty incredible what you can do once you decide to face your fear!—Dom Granger

What’s your mantra of the moment?

Love love love.—Kassia Meador

Be yourself. You don’t have to like me or approve but I don’t have to care whether you do or not.—Jill Ong

Just one more. Always just one more. One more wave, one more mile, one more try, one more push, one more time.—Lauren Peterson

Go sloooooooooow.—Katie Tom Alba

You are exactly where you need to be.—Jenna Vierck 

If “settling down” means settling at all, I’ll pass.—Wendy Belk

Is it a hell yes or hell no… let that guide you!—Emy Dossett

photo: Bryanna Bradley (@bryannabradleyphotography)

What has surfing taught you?

There are so many amazing things I have learned from being out in the water… whether it is how to be resilient, the importance of checking my ego, or to stay humble and hungry for more. Surfing teaches me how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable: take big risks, love hard, and to always try and live in the present moment.—Sarah Baryluk

It’s not too late to reinvent yourself. Finally, at 51, I call myself a surfer.  I never even considered surfing until I was in my mid-forties. I don’t even live near the ocean, but I’m obsessed with surfing. I’m still learning, and will be forever learning, but isn’t that what being alive is all about? Planning my next surf trip is what keeps me going through the year.—Annie Perry

From surfing I have learned balance, trust, hard work, patience, to never give up, to surrender pretty much everything I have used to navigate my life for the past 37 years i have learned through my connection with surfing and the ocean.—Kassia Meador

photo: Emy Dossett (@salty_see)

I’ve learned that I am far more capable, stronger and braver than I ever thought possible!—Lauren Peterson

To laugh at myself. To not ruin a good day by having too many expectations. To not fight against the ocean, it’s a losing battle. Go with the flow.—Vikki Fennell

Nature teaches and guides you exactly where you are meant to be.—Joana Paes

To be humble and patient. It’s a lifelong sport to learn and the power of mother nature should be respected.—Shazia Mazhar

You’d be surprised how much of a pounding you can take without drowning.—Wendy Belk

To let go of control and expectations. Simply be present in the moment and experience whatever comes. The waves are coming no matter what, it may be perfect or terrifying. Either way you can’t control what is coming towards you. You can only control your reaction, your mindset, and what you learn from it.  And how beautiful is the high when sometimes you have to fall?—Carly Suderman

photo: Matt Lantz @freelantz_matt

When do you feel most empowered or alive?

Helping others feel good about who they are and what’s ahead for them, especially all the badass women. —Katie Tom Alba

When I’m catching a wave, especially that one you thought you wouldn’t catch, going down the line, making that turn, going back out again, paddling until you feel like your arms are coming off. I’m mean, I feel alive all the time I spend in the ocean. And, my newest skill, making all of the pow turns on a snowboard. It is almost like surfing and also so amazing!—Maja Engberg

When I cannot stop smiling or laughing.—Joana Paes

I feel the most empowered and alive when I’m helping people – when I know I’m making someone’s life better, even if only for a few minutes. This can mean putting a smile on the face of a grumpy store clerk but more so I feel alive when I’m working surf therapy events with A Walk on Water (@awalkonwater) and Groundswell (@groundswellcommunityproject). Watching a child with autism go from being non-verbal to screaming, “I DID IT, I DID IT!” with the biggest smile ever, is life-changing. The joy in their faces and their parents’ faces stays with me forever.—Erika Muelle

When I stop thinking too much, am truly in the moment, and accept who I am fully without self-doubt or judgement. —Shazia Mazhar

I feel most alive when I follow my own bliss and my own passions… when I don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or thinking. Those are the times my soul feels shiniest and happiest! We all know what’s best for ourselves, it just takes tuning out the noise from the outer world. —Jenna Vierck 

When I’m putting myself “out there” and reaping the benefits… whether it be through taking a risk, going on a trip, or manifesting something from my dreams. Learning the power of your own intentions, energy, and motivation and what it can create for you and your own situation.—Kristi Falco

I surfed through my pregnancy and felt empowered in the water thanks to the mellow break in Nicaragua, a longboard and my Rise Up familia in the water. Everyone that met my daughter Kaya knows that she is home in the water and swims like a fish. I have photos of her surfing but she seems to only surf naked ;)—Corina Weibel 

Favorite quote?

There are no coincidences.—Kassia Meador

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” Rainier Maria Rilke —Jill Ong

“Kindness. It doesn’t cost a damn thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.” Anonymous—Katie Tom Alba

photo: Emy Dossett (@salty_see)

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” poet Mary Oliver.—Monica Dingle

I recently found myself obsessed with “finding my purpose,” traveling the world meeting people and having new experiences with the goal of finding IT. I started feeling anxious and disappointed that my “purpose” still eluded me. Having been on that journey for a while now, I finally realized that my purpose IS the journey. I’ve already found what I’ve been searching for. Some people die believing they never found “their purpose.” But our real purpose is to be grateful for this magical gift we’ve been given called life; to enjoy the journey everyday of our lives, to be present in every moment, to love others, our planet and ourselves with our whole hearts, to keep growing as human beings. And if we do that, then we’ve made a difference, our lives have meaning. That is our purpose.—Erika Muelle

“If it scares you, it’s a sign you need to do it.” Anonymous—Joana Paes

photo: Maja Engberg (@majaengberginstagram)

“Do whatever you want, as long as you know better.”—My Grandfather (Holly Marie)

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”—Erin Hanson

“Only when we are no longer afraid, do we begin to live.” Dorothy Thompson—Kristi Falco

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