Maria Cerda, USA
Maria Cerda started surfing at about 15, but had always been an ocean kid and athlete. She competed in the HBHS surf team, never liked competing against her friends and simply decided to stop- and never competed since.
Maria fell in love with surfing and photography in High School and into community college. After putting herself through the first year of college, she wanted to see the world, and became a flight attendant at 21. However, Maria went back to school and took every class on photography there was, as well as some digital media studies.
"I got very lucky and worked in the Celebrity Fashion world for 10 years, as a celebrity photographer and photo editor. I quit Hollywood because I really did not like living in L.A., and instead I became a Hair Stylist about 5 years ago and am now the owner/stylist of M Sea Salon in Encinitas, CA. Now I can be creative with hair, photo and surf cleaner, beautiful beaches.
I grew up in Anglo, conservative Huntington Beach, being one of the few (if any) Mexican girls to surf in my neighborhood. I didn’t even understand these boring gender binaries until high school. I spoke both Spanish and English, which was tough growing up in Orange County; being different -and god forbid- saying a single wrong word.
I love now that I grew up with Mexican culture since America tries to homogenize people. I would always hear subtle racist jokes, which I never confronted, but that really made me aware to not treat others that way. Since I didn’t fit into any social norm, I created my own path. I listened to my mom’s advice to always be independent, because you will always make yourself happy and have a way out.
When I was 21, I thought I was going to die in a plane crash, but survived a bumpy landing instead. I told myself prior to landing, that life is short and that I would never lie to myself again. I owned the fact that I was a unique, in-between latin woman, attracted to women and I became free again.
It gave me the courage to speak my mind and educate myself and other people nicely when they made ignorant comments about my race, gender or sexuality.
We don’t have to conform to any box. Surfing is my ocean therapy. I love that the ocean doesn’t discriminate, humbles me and is constantly changing."
When and why did you get in to photography?
“My brother was a pro skateboarder and wanted me to film him skating, so I transformed those skills into photography when I was in High School. I was a shy, athletic, misfit kid that didn’t talk much, so photography was a creative outlet that helped me process my feelings. I did NOT like being the center of attention, but liked being behind the lens. I also got into photography because it helped me not forget the beauty and reality that surrounds me every day; if I just took a moment to really open my eyes, feel it and try to capture it, even if just a memory.”
What made you get in to action, extreme or adventure sports?
“My brother Jose was a pro skateboarder, so he pushed my limits regardless of my gender. He showed me how to skate like I was surfing, and helped get rid of some of my fears.
‘Don’t tell mom’ was my whole childhood. I am surprised my knees are still attached and working. His surf buddies gave him a surfboard that I took over, and self taught myself how to surf by trial, error and by watching. My brother and my wife Cori Schumacher have inspired me to always push further. Surfing the constantly changing ocean is my favorite, but I love being outside whether it’ swimming, rock climbing or hiking. Surfing gives me mental clarity even when it’s not so peaceful.”
What’s your worst/best/most intense moment related to action sports?
“Hawaii- intensiveness going out on a overhead day, seeing the sky go dark because of the huge blue wave in front of me. It slammed me so hard, I had no idea which way was up for a few turns. I kept telling myself to relax, stay calm and wait to feel yourself float up. Mind you, I had no breath left, but somehow made it to the surface and got out immediately to catch my breath.
Also seeing a baby reef shark swim towards me in Kaui. I lucky caught a wave immediately in and stayed out of its territory, for a day.”
What/Who is you favorite initiative, project, professional, leader, athlete or brand in the action sports sphere?
“Cori Schumacher, The Inspire Initiative, because she is an intellectual advocate for gender equality in surfing.”
What do you think of the lack of role models for girls and women in male dominated areas?
“I think both men and women need to be better role models for each other, same gender or not. Too much competition breeds too much hierarchy and insecurities that doesn’t allow the the community to grow; just one individual to receive a trophy. Women are afraid to look too masculine and men afraid to look to feminine, which adds nothing to the sport, but marketing. The solution is women educating themselves, taking back their own power, listening to their own voices, have their voices be heard, being direct, initiate change, owning who they really are, asking for help, asking questions, helping others. We need to build a diverse community to bring social change and break negative stereotypes.”
How do you see women evolving in the action sports scene?
“I hope women support/mentor each other as a community, not as competitors. Show empowering women, making change within their sport community and improving the whole environment it's involved in. Less toxic clothing and things produced, and more focus on the athletes diverse stories.”
What are your hopes for the future of the industry?
“I hope that the industries would look at all the waste they are attributing/producing and try to reduce it. Also, to actually give back to the communities where they take from, to let others not regret they were there, like Patagonia. Bring jobs back to the USA. I would hope for more of the attitude that playing sports is a way to build a community of friends, and not to win trophies or make money.Gender equality. “
What is the number one preconception or prejudice people have about you?
“So many since I don’t fit into any box… ‘You’re gay/Mexican, but you don’t look gay/Mexican’. I always follow by: ‘What does that look like to you then?’ They catch their ignorance.
Another preconseption is not being smart or being under-estimated… maybe from being a woman of color (Cori said it was because I am pretty and nice though) When I share my views and facts though, they stand speechless.
I could go on and on, but I will not.”
Do you have a feature or body part that you have been self-conscious about? Do you think low self-esteem in girls and stereotypes in media are connected?
“I did feel self-conscious in high school, but as an adult, I own that this is my unique body and I might as well like it, since it’s mine.
Of course media brings low self-esteem, slight racism, gender bias, stereotypes. When all we have seen on TV are anglo pretty perfect people and men being the dominant hero person, we start to believe it, even if it’s unconscious. All these stereotypes need to be broken down by showing how diverse people are, even within their own community. Mind you, there are some similarities that are true, but that still does not apply to everyone. I am a hairstylist and I come across many insecurities with people, but I tell especially the teens that what you look like is like putting on a good pair of jeans, you will find some that fit, and you go on with your learnings and evolve. Pretty fades, so try working on what matters, like being educated, being an advocate and a secure woman.”
Is there a difference in how women and men are portrayed in the action sports industry?
“Women are blonde, beautiful, hetero, modeling shows, and can’t look like strong athletes. Men are hetero strong spectacles, like Spartan warriors killing each other to be the best. Some of the effects are women having eating disorders to stay thin, then can not perform as athletes, just as models. And men have to ‘Man up’ to a macho image, objectifying and sexualizing women to make themselves feel better.”