Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lost Blog: Peruvian Birthday Lefts

The always perfect Lobitos

Oh my little blog I'm sorry, 7 months without writing in you, that's some kind of personal record. I'm not sure what happened. Writing is rather a temperamental thing for me. There will be times in my life when the words flow easily, I have so much to say and to write about. But then sometimes, I just simply don't feel like writing.

For those of you who don't know, I'm currently back home in Australia. I spent most of last year living in Peru, however medical reasons brought me home to sunny little Perth for the summer. It's been so long since I've written in here and I'm not quite sure on where to start? I suppose I'll start close to where I left off - my birthday trip in September.

Lima gets really grey in winter. I mean really really grey. Think no sunshine for maybe four months? Each morning I would roll over and open the blinds to look out the window, only to be greeted by a thick and miserable blanket of wet grey fog and zero sunshine. After a while it starts to get you down. I found myself lethargic, sleepy, lacking of energy and feeling down. I didn't really mind what I did for my birthday week, all I knew was I wanted some sunshine, and I wanted to get out. Luckily for me the north of Peru has beautiful weather in winter, and is also home to some of the world's best and longest left hand waves.

So I went back to visit Lobitos. Lobitos is this absolutely perfectly beautiful left hand point break in a small and dusty Peruvian town. It's very desolate, hot, sunny, windy and stunning in its own strange way. I had a very quiet birthday. A few surfs, a few beers and some much needed sunshine. There were only two downsides - one was I couldn't find a birthday cake anywhere. In fact not even a piece of cake. I ended up being sung happy birthday over a pizza. Happy birthday pizza, yay!  The second issue was the surf was so crowded. So so very crowded, and very aggressive. I find that lately I simply have no patience for agro crowds. My surf hunts become more about finding somewhere peaceful versus finding a perfect wave. To top things off on my birthday surf I got run over by a standup paddle board. I tried my best to dodge him, but it was windy, and as he came screaming down the line he lost control and shot his board out, hitting me on the back. I was unharmed, but left the water shaking my head and vowing to avoid over saturated lineups at all costs. It's sad when a wave you once loved so much just doesn't appeal anymore. But still, even the worst day at Lobitos is ten times better than the surf we have here in Perth!

Dusty Lobitos. It really is very pretty.

A local manages to find some uncrowded peaks.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Best Left in the WORLD!

I'm living in a very convenient location. A very convenient location indeed, because I'm just a mere overnight bus ride from the longest left in the world. Chicama; it needs to be seen to be believed. Before my first trip to Peru I knew vaguely of the wave, but arrived with little knowledge and almost no expectations. Yet what greeted me was one of the most incredible sights of my life. The huge bay of Chicama is nestled in a small fishing village on the dry and barren Peruvian coastline. It is a bay of epic proportions, framed by large dusty red cliffs and a long fishing pier. And the lines. The lines wrap with impeccable shape, beginning at the headland and stretching, ever expanding, like perfect mechanical waves, wave after wave after wave along the giant bay.

This April I was blessed with the opportunity once again to return to Chicama with Women's Surf Style Magazine, with the duty of documenting their latest Peru trip. We had the owners of the magazine, Sandra and Dan Olson, along with a group of amazing clients who had flown in from Florida. Our host, as per last trip, was the incredibly decadent Chicama Surf Resort.

The week stated off slowly as the beast was sleeping. Chicama takes a big swell to start firing, but still consistently delivers a fun peeling longboard wave. We spent our days either longboarding, or taking day trips to the neighbouring breaks like Pacasmayo (known as Chicama's sister wave, another long left that requires less swell to start working) and visiting ancient Peruvian ruins and cultural sites. Shooting was proving challenging, with the Peruvian desert giving me no breaks with its relentless sand and gale forced winds. Walking down the point to set up required a hat, sunnies, and a completely wrapped up face and ears, trying to protect myself from the sand storms. The crazy thing about Chicama though is even when the wind blows, it's always offshore, and the waves ALWAYS hold their shape.

On our last day she woke up. I jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn and ran down the point, board in arm, for a sneaky morning session. Our team spent the day surfing wave after wave down the bay, smiling from ear to ear, arms like noodles. One of our clients Bobby caught a wave that we timed to be a few minutes long (maybe two or three?). After our legs completely gave out we returned to the hotel to soak in a much needed hot tub, watching the big red sun setting across the perfect lines.

I'm forever swell watching here. Watching and analysing, waiting for the next perfect swell to coincide with some time off in my schedule. I'll be on a bus North faster than you can blink, because still in my whole life of travel, I have never experienced a wave like this.

*Look for the full story and pictures in the next issue of Women's Surf Style Magazine

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Comida de Lima

I often get asked what's my two favourite things about living in Peru. The answer is simple - waves and food. I'm going to start with the food.

Coming from Australia I feel we're a little devoid of a cultural food identity. We have barbecues, but that's universal, meat pies which are nice but I can't handle them all the time, and then there's vegemite. I adore my vegemite, but every time I try and feed it to a foreigner they get a shocked look and run off to go scrape their tongue out. I was told last week by a Peruvian that it tasted like a rotten salty ocean.

This brings me to Peruvian food. While a little carb heavy at times (they like to have both potato and rice in a meal, weird right?), it's amazing. They grow this little chilli here called an Aji, and I've never found it anywhere else in the world. The flavourful little gem is used in a majority of their local cuisine. The first food here that needs a special mention is ceviche, in my opinion it's the best in the world. But I'm going to write an entire post devoted to that later. Today marks the first instalment in my "Places I love to eat in Lima". Since I don't have much to do right now I'm going to devote my time to eating, and I'm beginning with two personal favourites - the most epic sandwich ever, and the world's best churro! Hurrah!

1). Churro of Epicness:
Ok so granted the Churro technically isn't from Peru, but it's still a staple street food. You'll find little vendors all over Lima selling them. But what makes the churro different here? They stuff it FULL of manjar blanco, a delicious hot gooey caramel made from condensed milk. Churros vary from vendor to vendor - a good one is light, hot, crispy and fresh, and a bad one heavy, cold and over fried. Which brings me to the best Churro in Lima (in my opinion). You'll find it in a little cafe called Monolo situated in Miraflores. It's just before the main Church in Parque de Kennedy. It's crispy, fresh, gooey, awesomeness. At 4 soles a pop it's a bit pricey, but absolutely worth it. My saving grace is it's hard to get parking in this area, otherwise I'd be the size of a house by now.

Jose's happy Churro face

2). Sandwich of Epicness:
I'm not a big sandwich lover (I don't really eat bread), but this one knocks my socks off. It comes from a sandwich chain that you'll find all over town called La Lucha. Little sandwich shops are abundant in Lima, so what makes this one different? The quality of ingredients and the sauce. The bred is fresh and crispy, but the smoked meat is what makes it. I always order the pavita, which I think is spanish for "little turkey". This pavita sandwich is the only time in my life I've decided something is BETTER without the veggies. Weird right? All this little beauty needs is bread, smoked turkey, and the awesome La Lucha creo sauces which usually consist of - aji sauce (creamy chilli sauce), a mix of thinly sliced red onions, cilantro and other goodies. I don't really know what's in it but it's heaven. Accompany your meal with a milkshake (also the best I've found in Lima so far), or a traditional purple corn drink called "Chicha Morada". A sandwich at La Lucha will cost you around 12 soles or a little bit more. Both these restaurants can be found in the Parque de Kennedy area, a popular central park which is a strange mix of street vendors, flowers and well kept stray cats.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bali for the WCT: Behind the Scenes

Jordy Smith's laid-back style

People think of surf photography as a dream job, and in a lot of ways it is. The avoidance of the office, life on the road, travel to dream surf destinations and working with the rockstars of the surfing world. But things are never quite what they look like on the surface. For me the surface was something I've been scratching at for a while. The surf industry does a good job of glamourising itself, the stories and images the surf magazines and media give off only work to feed the ego. The parties, the boys clubs, the lifestyle...

This winter I needed an internship to complete my degree and Perth was cold, rainy, surfless and pretty much had nothing going on. My salvation came in the form of the WCT tour stop in Keramas in Bali, and one kind photographer who was willing to take me on. We spent three weeks bouncing between shooting the contest and covering some free surfing for a well known surfing magazine. Dream job right?

I learnt a lot over those three weeks. First off I learnt Bali black sand is really really hot, and the sun has no mercy. Long shoots on the black sand meant trying to cover myself in head to toe with sarongs and sunscreen, overheating like a dog locked in a car in the sun. Worst thing is you want to drink water, but if you drink to much you have to pee, and if you pee you'll miss the aerial the guy you're shooting is about to pull and everyone will be really angry at you. Plus how do you pee while holding a 500mm surf lens???

Secondly I learnt that shooting contests isn't a whole lot of fun. Take what's mentioned above, then apply it to a crowded beach from 7am until 5pm. I think what blew me away though was just HOW MANY photographers are on the beach, and they all have great equipment. When something happens (like John John's 10 point aerial), you have to hustle to upload and send it off before it becomes old news. A long day of shooting is followed by an evening of editing, because you have to send your images in for publication no more than a few hours after they're shot, otherwise they become obsolete.

Third thing I learnt was it's all who you know in the boys club. Photographers in the industry have spent many years making their contacts. The pros only shoot with the guys they know, so first off you need a foot in the door and THEN you have to build your relationships. And as far as I can tell, it's very much a boys club.

And the positives? Being on location. Being out of the office. Being part of a team. Staying in team houses. But most of all, the satisfaction when you come home to edit your pictures after a long day of shooting, and they're really good. The feeling that you've nailed it.

*Photographs featured are from an unused shoot at the Keramas contest (all images © Tia Calvo)

Team accommodation 

Can't miss the air shot

Jordy Smith

High emotions
Post work chill time in Lombok

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Oh my poor little blog, you get so neglected when I'm not traveling! If I'm not out doing something crazy on the road I guess I figure it's not worth writing about. But then I realise hang on, the past couple months haven't been THAT bad. There was a work experience trip to Indonesia to shoot for Red Bull and TransWorld Surf, traveling through Lombok, bikini shoots and more... so I'll start with the bikini shoot :)

I met two Perth surfer girls Kel and Rachael out in the lineup in Peru. Now were all back in Australia, and I got the pleasure of shooting the campaign for their new bikini company Cenote Swimwear. Inspired by South American designs (meaning nice and SMALL in the bum!), the collection features beautiful vibrant colours and cheeky cuts. I'm so excited to finally find a Perth company making cheeky cut bikini bottoms. I started wearing them in Latin America, and I could NEVER turn back to wearing full sized saggy bummed designs. It rained all day of the shoot, so I'm so happy the pictures turned out. Have a look at the link bellow to see my images featured on Designed by WA website and the Cenote Swimwear website. So proud!

p.s. Did I mention they're designed for surfing in?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Angry Sexy Surfing

Well I've definitely just had the most intense writing venture of my life. It started with being contacted by The Guardian with a commissioned request for an article on woman's surfing. I was super excited by the offer but scared. I thought, am I well versed enough on the subject to write a legit article? After the doubt subsided I realised heck yes I am. Female surfer for 8 years and working in the industry for over three, my opinion is an educated and worthy one. So I wrote it.

The issue was the notorious Roxy advertisement for the surf contest in Biarritz, and it's really created quite a stir. It seems to have split the people, the haters and the supporters. And there are a LOT of haters of my viewpoint. Sex sells. We all know that, it's just a fact of corporate marketing life. That's not in question, but I guess a lot of people missed the point. It's hard writing something that's copping some flack, but as my friend just told me "if you're not getting haters, you're doing something wrong!". Roxy - props to you. Your marketing blunder, whether pre meditated or not, has just given women's surfing the most attention of it's life. That's got to be a good thing right, even if for all the wrong reasons?

Have a read of the article here and tell me your thoughts.

I wrote to my dad about struggling with the negative feedback. The words he gave me really helped. It's not about selling sex folks, it's about this -

"Surfing is male dominated, both the surf industry and the culture. Surfing could really benefit with more participation from women. The surfing industry could benefit financially by greater participation from women - they are the industry's biggest growth market.  The industry and the surfing competitions are becoming more male dominated and sexist / testosterone oriented. That advert is a perfect example. My guess is that it was commissioned, produced and approved by men. Someone prove me wrong please. 

Put it this way. Right or wrong, sex is used all the time to sell things and pretty women are used all the time to sell things. But, the commodity they are selling always features large in the advert. Ford uses sex to sell automobiles. But Ford would never ever make an advert of a sexy woman in a bikini without also showing the car. The car would be the focus of the ad, not the sexy model in the bikini. In professional marketing, sex is used subliminally. Roxy blew it, they used it overtly. 

The surfing culture also really needs more participation from women. Surfing is becoming more and more aggressive in the line up. Both the guys and the girls will agree on that one. Women don't get much respect outside of the line up either. My daughter gets disrespected and even aggressively run over by agro males in the line up. That needs to change. More women in the line up would help to facilitate that change. As a parent of young children, I would not go out of the way to support my kid getting too interested in the sport/culture - too many low IQ sexist dickheads. 

The feedback you're seeing right now to this ad is dominated by males - that also is not good. Why aren't the women being heard? Perhaps because the surfing industry (including the media industry) is dominated by males. Are there any women in senior positions in any aspect of the surfing industry? And women's surfing doesn't need more support/attention from yobbo males, that will just turn the girls off the sport in droves."

Thanks pops, from a non surfer's opinion, you've somehow managed to nail it square on the head. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

In Print

Ok, it has been a LONG time since I've posted. I'll be completely honest with you, there really is nothing exciting to write about. My past month has consisted of classes, assignments and more assignments. I've surfed only a few times and my arms are turning into skinny little non surf worthy noodles. It's becoming a bit of a bummer.

But today I do have something to share. It's the latest issue of Women's Surf Style Magazine. Writing and shooting for print media is a process. I spend so long babying my articles, then finally sending them off. Then I wait. And then finally one day when I've forgotten all about it, there it comes in the mail. A beautiful new shiny copy of the latest magazine with my work in print. It's a great feeling seeing it for the first time. I have two works in this issue that I'm so happy to share; first off is the story of the Cubanitas, the last women surfers in Cuba, and second is an article about my time spent running a hotel in Northern Peru.

You can read them at or pick yourself up a hard copy.

Look that's me!