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Courage & discipline: An interview with Christina Gindl.

How these two qualities relate to the surfing of bigger waves and living a self-determined life.

Christina Gindl Surfing in Portugal
Christina in Portugal. Picture by @olivecmnd

Christina Gindl lives in Portugal and can probably be found most of the time at, around or in the sea. Born in Austria, she spent many years traveling in Indonesia and around the world before falling in love with the cold waves of the Atlantic and finding her home in Portugal. Christina studied Advertising & Branding and works in branding and social media for several brands on a permanent basis as well as freelance. In the interview I talked to Christina about her attitude towards surfing and the sea, her preparation, her training, and the importance of proper breathing. And also about how courage and discipline enable her to reach her goals.

Dear Christina, a question I'm sure you've answered many times, but: How did you get into surfing?

I have always been a water sports enthusiast. When I was young, I did everything with my dad: water skiing, stand-up paddle, a lot of swimming, wakeboarding, everything there was in water sports. When I finished my studies I moved to Mauritius for 2 years. There I learned kitesurfing. After a while I started kitesurfing in waves, because jumping didn't interest me that much. I quickly realized that I didn't really know much about waves. My boyfriend at the time then advised me to go surfing to better understand waves and the spots. That's what I did.

Since then I was hooked. Sold kitesurfing equipment, bought a surfboard and moved to Indonesia.

I was first in Bali and then moved pretty fast to West Sumbawa. Much less surfers, local culture, insanely beautiful community and suuuuuuper many waves. I spent 8 hours in the water every day. Which is of course really good, as an absolute Ober-Kook to learn.

What excites you about surfing?/ What boards / style?

I think I'm in a phase right now, where I'm trying everything. I like shortboards, and my step-up. I recently bought a twinnie. I'm also testing a single fin from Aimara Surfboards right now, super fun. I'm completely trying things out right now. My absolute magic board is definitely the 6'6 from Luke Budd. I like to surf bigger waves with more power, so of course the board is perfect for that.

How has your attitude towards surfing perhaps changed over the years as well?

Fun is the name of the game. I really realized as long as I'm having lots of fun, I'm just surfing best/totally connected to the ocean.

What also changed is that I personally was on the same boards for too long - shortboards. Looking back I would say: try as many different boards, sizes, shapes, fins as possible.

Another point: I think it's important to feel the wave, the connection to nature, the respect for the ocean and take the waves as they come. 'Tear up the wave, get it all out ...' I'm not a fan of that. Feel the wave, see what the wave gives you and use that. Of course it's a matter of taste, but I find this flow beautiful and not only with twin or single fins but also with performance thrusters.

Surfer Christina Gindl
Christina Gindl. Picture by @henriquepisidoro

"I think it's important to feel the wave, the connection to nature, the respect for the ocean."

Do you set specific goals for your surf that you pursue?

I would say no. I'm already a very competitive person anyway, constantly changing and evolving. In surfing, I'm just taking my first steps to bigger waves in a more planned way. It is the very best feeling to surf in these wild conditions. This winter I'll see where this takes me, if I like it and if this will be my further way.... So just give it a try :)

For me, this also includes the right preparation: boards, leash, impact vest, feeling fit and healthy, apnea training done regularly... My buddy Luke Budd shaped me a 9' gun right now too. I think it makes a big difference when you have everything ready.

It all sounds so easy. But bigger waves in particular require specific preparation: How exactly do you prepare? How do you get started if you want to surf bigger waves yourself?

It's super hard to advise someone else there, because of course it's not safe. I think it's a journey that you start surfing bigger waves little by little and slowly test the limits.

Preparation is essential to prevent injuries as well. I believe a fit, healthy body is important. Feeling strong, powerful and good and also training consistently as well. For example, I go to the gym, I work out in the ocean, I freedive, I do pool workouts with weights for my apnea training. Then the next time you get washed by a wave, you're just not nervous because you trust your body and you know 'I got this.' Of course there's always a little bit of nervousness, but basically I know 'It's gonna be fine, the set will stop at some point and then I'll take my board and then I'll paddle back out.'

And the most important thing, surfing as much as possible and spending time in the water and having fun.

Christina Gindl Apnoe Diving
Christina Gindl. Picture by @antoniosaraiva1

"For example, I go to the gym, I work out in the ocean, I freedive, I do pool workouts with weights for my apnea training."

How often do you train per week?

My priority is always surfing, as often as possible being in the water. In addition, I go to the fitness center 1-2 times a week, and apnea training every second to third day. Sometimes in the pool with weights, and sometimes at home with the STAmina Apnea app.

This all requires quite a bit of discipline and stamina. For example, I also know phases where I think 'What am I doing this for?' Do you know this and if so, how do you motivate yourself to keep at it?

Discipline and motivation come relatively naturally because I just have incredible fun pushing myself and surfing these kinds of waves.

If I ever have a bad surf, the only thing that really helps me is to surf even more until I have a good surf.

When I'm stressed or overwhelmed with everything, working, working out, surfing, cleaning the house, doing laundry, you name it, I've recently started doing Breathwork specifically. Certain breathing exercises that are incredibly powerful on the body and mind. Our breath is our life energy and contains so much health and help for us. It's really great.

I'm grateful for the bigger waves and my apnea training because that's how I got into Breathwork.

That's right. Breathing is such an exciting tool to be able to influence our body physically and yet we often know so little about it. For example, I know very little about breathing, but I find what you say very interesting. How long have you been working on this topic?

This is quite new for me. I have started to swim a lot in cold Portuguese water, for example, as a break from computer work quickly to the sea and jump briefly into the cold water. When you swim in cold water, your breath usually becomes fast, which is exactly what you should avoid. I also learned this during an Ice Bath & Breathwork session. Totally fascinated me. It helps me a lot with stress relief and recovery after intense surfs or workouts.

And do you also use these techniques in the water? For example, when there are situations that are scary?

The exercises that I currently do at home, I do not use in the water. Sometimes when you're surfing with a lot of other people and everyone wants the really good set waves of course, the mood in the lineup gets really intense. It helps me a lot to take a few deep breaths and become more relaxed. In principle, that's already Breathwork.

Regarding scary situations: I avoid using the word fear. I wouldn't say I'm scared in the water either. I have a lot of respect for bigger waves, yes absolutely. And of course sometimes I'm super nervous, adrenaline shoots into your body, you're a bit insecure. It's natural, you push your comfort zone a lot.

But fear is out of place in my opinion. If you are really, really scared, then please do NOT paddle out, or turn around again and go back to the beach.

Christina Gindl, Freediving
Christina Gindl Freediving. Picture by @heddasphotography
You've already been on the road a lot. Which countries are still on your list? Where should the next surf trip go?

At the top of my list for the next surf trip is Ireland. Last year I became a real fan of cold water surfing. I've also been reading up a bit on Peru and Chile. Tropical destination number 1 is definitely Tahiti.

Possibly next year I will travel to Indonesia, back to the old home country. This time completely different islands, more raw jungle life and exploring.

These are just ideas so far. We are currently looking for the best spots for bodyboarding and surfing. My friend is a bodyboarder. So we need a destination with a good mix of waves for both of us.

And is Portugal your base for now, or is there also discussion about going somewhere else?

Portugal is definitely my base.

I've been on the road so much, lived in so many different countries and cultures, and it's been beautiful. But precisely because I've traveled so much, I can now say from the bottom of my heart: Portugal is where I want to grow old.

Are there any particular goals you have set for the near future? Both in surfing and in the connection between surfing and everyday life?

I had resolved at the beginning of 2022 to travel little this year and use the time to consolidate at home (Portugal). That means many quiet months, working, surfing, training, spending time in nature - calm life.

That was absolutely the right decision. So actually I want everything to continue as it is right now.

With one exception: after the winter in Portugal I will definitely do some traveling again. That's the one thing I've been missing a bit this year. But you can't have everything at the same time :)

It sounds like you've built a pretty ideal life for yourself. What advice would you give to others who wish to build a life by the sea?

In fact, I get this question on my Instagram quite often. Personally, I think 'Just go and try. Save up some money as safety, make a plan A, B & C (just in case), book a plane ticket, don't think too long, be brave, and go.

Once you arrive, you usually meet so many great people who are super happy to help you out. There are also usually so many new opportunities that arise. It's just super important to spend a little time in the place, even if it's a little bumpy at the beginning.

Christina Surfing in Portugal.
Christina Surfing in Portugal. Picture by @antoniosaraiva1

"And of course sometimes I'm nervous, adrenaline shoots into your body, you're a bit insecure. It's natural, you push your comfort zone a lot. ."

You see this sunny happy life and think to yourself: "This is unfair, everything comes easily to this person". I'm sure not every moment is sun, waves and fun, right? With such an independent lifestyle, you have to be on-point and often grit your teeth a bit. I often think that many surfers are also good freelancers because both disciplines require a lot of stamina.

Absolutely. It's always a risk to leave your familiar surroundings and start something new. But for me personally, every experience is a good experience, even if it was difficult or bad. Even if I'm in the moment and it's not going well at the moment, then I think to myself: Okay, that's part of it now, too, and I have to go through that now. I chose this for myself. And in the end, I've learned so much again. Maybe it's similar to surfing.

Christina, that was a really interesting interview. And I actually only have one last question: If you could include one thing in the line-up, no matter if it's waterproof or not, what would it be?

That's easy: A healthy power bar to snack on.

Somewhere in the Neo sneaked in, that I eat after two hours surfing to get a small energy boost and do not have to leave the water. That would be great.

Thank you, dear Christina, for the inspiring interview. If you want to follow Christina this winter through the season in Portugal, you should definitely check out her Instagram Account.


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