December 23, 2008: – – Local surfer Ana Barend got an early Christmas present this year. It came in the form of two East Coast titles in probably the most atrocious surfing conditions ever held at the annual East Coast Surfing Championships. When you consider the fact that she is a full-time mother with two children, and home schools both of them, the feat becomes even more amazing.
No one from New England has ever won two titles at the Easterns, in its' 40 year existence. When you consider the fact that she also won the East Coast title in the short board category in 2007, this truly becomes feat that will probably never be duplicated. Winning back to back titles in the toughest and most competitive contest in the U.S.A. is quite an accomplishment.
The surf for this year's event was dangerous. The National Park Service had assembled a mobile rescue team on the beach for the entire contest. The surf averaged 10-12 feet with strong rip tides and blistering winds. In some heats, contestants were unable to paddle out past the pounding shore break and first sandbar. There were also a good amount of no-shows, with competitors not willing to take a beating for a trophy.
I caught up with Ana, after another ripping session at Matunuck Point, one of her favorite reef breaks, and asked her about that early Christmas present. "Well, I just did my best. In 2007, I found rights going into the jetty, while the other finalists were competing for the lefts that never came through. The waves just came to me in that 20 minute heat. This year was a completely different story.
The conditions were very difficult. The rip was so strong. It was going to be very risky to venture outside to the furthest breaking sandbars. I like to take risks. I thought that I would either win or get last. That was ok with me. No one else would paddle outside. Well...the Red Sea parted and I went out there.
As soon as I got to the outside reef, a monster peak came to me. I made the drop and rode it right out of the contest area. There is always an element of luck in contests. Since I don't believe in luck, I believe God blessed me."
You probably wonder how this 32-year old mother of two got to be such a good surfer. It wasn't easy. She was born in Brazil, near the heavy pounding surf of Rio De Janeiro, and learned to ride the rough waves as a teenager. By 1990, she had proved herself as one of the top female surfers in the country, and decided to test her ability on the relatively new women's professional contest circuit.
"I surfed the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) from 1991 to 1993. I started the 1994 circuit, but decided to drop out after the Bells Beach contest. The tour started in Australia, moving from Bells to Margaret River, Narrabeen, and then the Gold Coast. We then went to Durban Beach in South Africa. After that stretch, we followed the tour to Spain, France, and finally Portugal.
I managed a quick rest at home in Brazil, tested out some new boards, and then went on to compete in the U.S. and Hawaii. I managed to do that for 3 years. It was a great experience, but very tiring. I finally decided to stop competing on the tour, and went to Bible College. I realized after 3 grueling years on the tour, that I would not be world champion, and I had had enough. It was a great time, and I met my wonderful husband, Chuck while I was surfing the tour. So, it was more than worth it."
Ana has surfed and lived all over the country. For a time, her home was in Rio, California, far from the surf. It was in the mountains, which were nice, but not the ocean. After living on the North Shore of Oahu for a time, she moved back east to Martha's Vineyard. She now resides in Little Compton, with her husband and two children.
She admits to being spoiled by the great point and reef breaks in Rhode Island. "We have the great waves without a doubt. I sometimes wish it was more consistent, but in a way it is better. We can get ahead in life when the surf is not always up. We lived in Hawaii for five years before moving to Rhode Island. You feel like surfing all the time. How can someone survive that way?"
Ana said that out of all the places she has lived and surfed at in the world, the only place better than Rhode Island is Hawaii. "In Hawaii, the waves are strong and can carry you. When I first moved here, I thought the waves were in slow motion. Rio (Brazil) is warm, so that is a plus. But I like perfect point breaks, and Rio has just hard breaking beach breaks. I prefer Rhode Island. How can you ask for better waves than when Matunuck or the Point Judith Lighthouse is going off? We are blessed with great waves here."
When Ana is not busy home schooling, she works closely with her husband and his sales representative business. Chuck is the New England sales representative for West Wetsuits, FCS surf products, and JC Hawaii surfboards. While he drives back and forth across New England, working with the surf shops, she maintains the home office and handles the paperwork.
One thing is for certain, regardless of the work load. If the surf is up on Christmas Day, you will find Ana and Chuck in one of the local line-ups. That is providing that they find a babysitter!