Born in Puerto Rico and raised in San Clemente, California, at just eighteen years old, Tia Blanco is one of the most talked about amateurs in women’s surfing. Winning both titles, she surfs with power and style. Tia will be competing in the US Open of Surfing and trying to qualify for the world tour in the coming year. Her confident yet humble approach to life makes her wise beyond her years…and a healthy lifestyle doesn’t hurt either! Here’s what she had to say about surfing, veganism and everything in between.
SWIMSPOT: What does surfing bring to your life that nothing else does?
TIA BLANCO: Surfing allows me to be active, feel one with the ocean, and relieve any stress I had building up. I would not know what I would do without surfing, it is very special to me.
SS: At what point did you know surfing was going to be more than just a hobby?
TB: When I got picked up by Volcom when I was about 13 years old, I knew that I wanted to become a professional surfer. I remember wanting to work really hard to impress them.
SS: When and why did you decide to become vegan?
TB: I became vegan about three years ago after reading the China Study and watching the documentary, Forks Over Knives.
SS: Name a vegan athlete male/ female that has inspired your journey and why?
TB: There are so many vegan athletes that are inspiring to me, both male and female. One athlete that I think is awesome is Frank Medrano. He is probably the most fit person I have ever seen! I show his photos to people that question the vegan diet for athletes.
SS: How do you maintain your vegan diet with such a busy travel schedule?
TB: I try to eat as many fruits and veggies I can get my hands on. When there are not a lot of fruits and veggies on the road, I do my best to bring superfoods from home and make do with what I have. All the places I have traveled to thus far, have had a good amount of produce to work with. People always ask me if I get cravings for non-vegan foods... I always explain to them that every 30 days your taste buds change, so if you are eating lots of fruits and veggies you will soon start to crave them all the time.
SS: What’s your favorite vegan recipe?
TB: Right now I am obsessed with banana ice cream. 3 frozen bananas, 1/4 pomegranates, 1/4 cranberries, and a small amount of almond milk to get it going. Blend until smooth, then add all the toppings you desire!
SS: With so much obesity in the world today, as a vegan, how can you help change that?
TB: I definitely think that a plant based diet is optimal for maintaining a healthy weight if done right. However, I have seen many people promoting a vegan diet, but then they “just” eat salad and became underweight. Contrasting, I have seen people eat lots of vegan junk food and become overweight. So honestly, I do not think the weight part has anything to do with being vegan, but rather with what you choose to eat when you are eating plant based. I try to eat a balanced amount of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. I never restrict my calories and I always eat until I feel content. There is proof from many healthy vegans that eating plant based the right way can help maintain a healthy weight and can provide all the nutrients one needs to be healthy.
SS: What is the difference between being good and being great mean for you?
TB: The amount of effort, time, and love you put into something! What you put in you will get out...
SS: How do you mentally prepare before you compete?
TB: I try to stay in a very positive atmosphere.
SS: What do you look for when swimsuit shopping and what is your favorite Reef suit?
TB: For me, I look at the print and what colors pops to me. I love bright colors! My favorite Reef suits are the coral bikinis!
SS: Growing up in such an image based society, what is your advice for the ‘selfie’ generation?
TB: Do not let social media make you feel like you are being "ranked" among your peers. It does not matter how many followers or likes you get on social media... NONE of that is real! We are all equally special and even though that sounds very corny, it is true. What IS real is the amazing experiences you have, the loved ones in your life, and doing what makes you happy every day.
SS: Who keeps you motivated?
TB: My peers!
SS: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
TB: I think people would be surprised to know that I am terrified of cats. It’s not that I do not like them, but I had a bad experience with one cat when I was younger and now they freak me out!
SS: Everyone has ‘one’ song that makes them run faster, fight harder, give a little more - what’s yours?
TB: 'Nothing is Stopping you' by Big Sean.
SS: If you could have personally witnessed any historical event, what would it be and why?
TB: I wish I was there to witness MLK's "I have a dream" speech.
SS: Was there ever a moment you wanted to quit surfing? If so, what did you do to overcome that moment?
TB: Yes! When I was 14 I had the worst year in surfing. I did horribly in all of my contests and I was no longer having fun. With the help of my family, they made me realize that my surfing career was going to be a journey and not a sprint to the finish line. They encouraged me to keep working hard! They told me to stop competing against others and instead start competing with myself!