In this episode we meet up with legendary Malibu longboard stylist, surf coach and Queen of the Point contest director Carla Rowland Zamora. Carla was at the forefront of the rise of women’s logging in the 1990s, and adapted her background in dance to develop a beautiful flowing approach, punctuated by switch stances and incredible noserides.
What is brilliant about Carla’s longboarding is the space she creates by riding heavy equipment and slowing things down through elegant timing. Moves are stitched together seamlessly with switch stances, followed by impeccable pauses, hanging on the nose, perfectly weighted. In this less is more approach precise timing beats flashy overstatement. But there is something else to Carla’s surfing beyond the poise and tempo, and those foundations are based on dance.
“My dad (Wayne Rowland) grew up surfing at First Point Malibu since 1961, and he was a part of that old school crew, with Mickey Dora and Lance Carson. So surfing and longboarding was naturally a part of my life and my family. We would go to Malibu every weekend. It’s one of the most perfect, immaculate right hand pointbreaks. But I consider myself a dancer before I was a surfer. From a young age my mum put me into dance classes. I was in love with it. And later that love moved into surfing.”
“Surfing to me is a rhythm, just like dance,” says Carla. “And it’s a count. Whether you’re paddling out…one, two, one, two… Or paddling into the wave, everything has a count just like in dance…five, six, seven, eight…. It was just really natural for me take what I knew from dance and bring it into my surfing. Not just the movement, but the balance and the strength that it required. And I really thrived on the stage. I liked performing.”
“First Point Malibu is like a stage,” says Carla. “The afternoon light comes in and you get the golden light. It’s like the lights come down on the stage, they light it up for everybody. All of the talent is out there, and especially in that time in the early to mid 1990s when that old school longboard resurgence was really on fire. It was a really unique time. I feel really fortunate that I was a part of that. There were only a few of us girls that were really dedicated to that. I was one of the oldest, so I tried to mama hen, and tried to nurture, empower and encourage. And I’ve always continued to try to live my life in that kind of way.”
Carla has spent a great deal of her travels trying to find the uncrowded equivalent of Malibu. And that’s one of the reasons she spends surf seasons in the western Philippines with her husband Ian, enjoying the long, velvet right points. And consequently she has inspired a whole crew of women across the west coast of Luzon.
Carla was a beach announcer at the recent WSL World Longboard Finals at Malibu, and is the director of the incredible Queen of the Point and Queen of the Cove contests. She is also the founder of the instagram account @slideladyslide and has been working tirelessly to empower women through surfing in California and around the world ever since challenging the male dominated line-up at Malibu in the 1990s.
“Surfing has been a male dominated sport,” says Carla, “and I spent a number of years fighting for my position in the line-up, quite literally. So when I saw the womens crew in the Philippines I was real inspired. They are core, and the scene is growing in a great way.”
Carla has empowered many Filipinas through her annual contests, but also through her performance in the water. Carla’s longboarding makes sense of surfing’s marriage with music and the code that this unlocks. Surfers are wave musicians, improvising against the orchestra of the grinding sea, concentrating on intense solos and raucous codas. And what Carla recognises is the powerful and unique qualities women bring to longboarding.
“Women are leading the charge in longboarding,” says Carla. “I think there has been an awakening with companies and sponsors to recognise this. I can really see this with the @slideladyslide account, which now has over 70,000 followers. The feminine form, the longboard flow and the style is bringing so much positive energy to surfing right now.”
Watch the film to enjoy Carla’s switch stance dance and find out more.