She might be a force of nature on a surfboard now, but when pro surfer Tia Blanco first started surfing it was a less-than-promising start.
“I fell off a wave, and when I came up for a breath, my board flung up from under the water and hit me right below my nose,” Blanco recalls. “The doctor said that if the board hit me a couple inches higher, I could have died. I had a severe concussion, but fortunately I was OK.”
Now zeroing in on close to a decade’s worth of experience since that near-fatal oceanic encounter, Blanco has developed mentally and physically into one of the world’s best surfers. Currently ranked 47th in the World Surf League with a trio of top-10 finishes, the 20-year-old is planning to leverage her strengths—and add a little bit of luck—to make a final climb in the 2017 season standings with this weekend’s White Buffalo Women’s Pro in Japan, and then a week later at Australia’s Port Stephens Toyota NSW.
“In competition, the best surfer doesn't always win,” Blanco says. “There are so many different variables to surfing, and sometimes luck comes into play. I have been to contests where it was purely a wave-catching contest because the waves were so scarce. Traveling around the world to show up for a heat and then there were no waves—it’s happened more often than not this year.”
The volatile waters of the Pacific serve as both Blanco’s office and gym, and for at least an hour each day you’ll find her working on cutbacks and other surf moves. Surf practice alone is a full body-blasting workout that hits all the major muscles, and would suffice as a workout for most. “Usually my back and shoulders are sore the next day from paddling,” Blanco says. But that’s just a snippet of Blanco’s workout itinerary. She says she skips the weight room during the season, and instead prefers to either run up to five miles several times a week, or downward-dog and warrior-one her way through yoga for that perfect mind-body connection every surfer needs.
As for the mental aspect of the game, she attributes part of it to her vegan lifestyle she’s known since childhood. “Veganism has benefitted me in many ways, including my energy and clarity,” she says. Veganism was bestowed upon her from her parents, and she has no temptation to go carnivore. In fact, she claims food choices are getting better these days. “When I was vegetarian five years ago I remember how hard eating out was, but things have evolved tremendously to where now as a vegan I have no problem,” she says. Her go-to meal after a day on the water is usually her signature Hawaiian Beyond Burger. “I think Beyond Meat will change the world—for vegans and meat eaters alike,” she says.
Whatever the results of the final weeks may be, they won’t ruin what is a relatively successful season for Blanco. But the experience like she’s accrued for nearly a decade can only enhance the 2018 season.
“What makes surfing different from other sports is that we’re in an unpredictable environment. Therefore, we have to prepare ourselves physically for different variables, conditions, and waves,” she says. The only certainty: There will be no certainty to what the ocean will dictate a season from now. That, and we know we'll find Blanco in the waves.