Salty Talks with: Mara Isabella Lopez Yokohama
Mara is an actress, surfer, and believe it or not, Jiu Jitsu master.
She's one of those girls who embodies the essence of courage, pure enthusiasm and grace under pressure.
Also, she's a total badass.
The day I met Mara was on a very special day in Sumbawa, Indonesia, which you can read about in detail here. The unlikely friendship that formed initially stemmed from the fact that I was the only photographer out on a tiny fisherman's boat, capturing the magic of that day.
When I noticed a girl in the lineup, it was pure excitement. As Mara paddled over to the boat, I remember saying:
"I don't know you, you don't know me, but you're my hero!"
Mara promptly replied, before paddling back out, "You're my hero too!". There was so much excitement and adrenaline in the air, everyone was on a surf high. I'm amazed that over a year later, my photo made it in Surf Magazine Japan, along with lengthy interview on She-Shredder Mara, Woman of the Sea. Mara kindly took the time to chat with me about all things waves, wonder, and how she felt on that fateful day.
Can you tell me a little bit about what was going on in your head? What were your thoughts when paddling up to the lineup?
That day was a special day to everyone in the line up and even to those who witnessed the waves. It was a special day to me because 2 years before, I wasn't able to surf that wave. It was pumping and I wanted to surf but I was afraid. So this trip, I was really waiting for this break to work and when it finally did, my emotions were all over the place. I was nervous and excited at the same time. My good friend Thomas who lives there finally gave me the go signal. We were finally going to surf!
As we were walking on the beach, I was coming up with a strategy in my head. I remember it so clearly. My heart was beating so fast. Thomas was just ready to surf and here I was walking calmly but really... I was preparing myself mentally haha I was thinking of what to do in case I wipe out or get caught inside. A strategy on how to position myself in the line up. I was really really nervous.
Any last thoughts when paddling for that (extensively massive) wave:
I remember Thomas signalling me to go. And you don't see this in the photo but Thomas actually paddled next to me and I felt him give me a push into the wave. The off shore winds were strong and I think he saw me have a hard time get into the waves before this one so I guess he felt the need to help me. It was a steep drop but sadly, I didn't make that first section.
Let’s talk about fear. You don’t seem to have any, most of us do! What’s your secret?
I get scared out there sometimes! I was honestly surprised cause I got pretty comfortable in the line up that day. I guess it helped that there were a few people out there who also felt the same things I was feeling: Anxiety! My dad told me once before that it's okay to be scared. He said that fear can save your life.
"My dad told me once before that it's okay to be scared. He said that fear can save your life."
I remember you paddling back to the boat, a huge grin on your face. You had just wiped out on a massive set, and lost a fin along the reef. Without hesitation, you grabbed your friend’s board and paddled back out. How do you find the courage to go back out after a massive wipeout?
I remember that! I really just wanted to surf! It was pumping and it was so beautiful. I had to be out there and try to catch a few.
"I think it's very important to stay calm. It also helps to understand that it will not last. Soon it will all be over and you will be able to come up for air."
How do you deal with a difficult situation in the water, i.e. being held under and tumbled around, being caught in a set?
I think it's very important to stay calm. It also helps to understand that it will not last. Soon it will all be over and you will be able to come up for air. I honestly don't know how the big wave surfers handle it. I finished reading the book "EDDIE WOULD GO" and there was a whole chapter dedicated to wipeouts. It's insane.
I also recently learned the art of "star-fishing" so I don't hit the reef right after a crazy wipe out haha just spread your arms and legs wide apart like a star fish and try to stay afloat haha
Do you maintain a specific training? What are your daily habits to stay in shape for the surf?
In the Philippines, I live far away from the ocean. So I don't get to surf everyday. My surfing in the city is Jiu Jitsu.
What’s your best advice for girls who want to shred?
Explore different breaks! Try to get comfortable with surfing heavier waves little by little. I realised that with surfing heavy waves, you need to train yourself mentally too.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up we should look out for?
In September I'll be in Spain for the San Sebastián film fest. Then going surfing around the area after! I'm also starting in my first action film which really excited about!
Some more shots of that day ...
Quick Questions :
My go-to surf spot is:
Wherever the waves are breaking best. Here in the Philippines, I usually drive up to Baler, Catanduanes, or Pagudpud!
My Post surf meal is:
COCONUTS! I can live on coconuts.
My Favorite emoji is: 🤙🏽
Best thing to happen to me so far (in or out of the water):
Going vegan and having a special relationship with the ocean
Best advice I was ever given was:
"GO FOR IT!" Haha
Song I am obsessed with at the moment:
KISS IT BETTER by Rihanna
My Next dream destination:
I don’t paddle out without:
wax on my board!!!