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Falina explains that, though the surf in Florida doesn't match the great waves of California, Hawaii, or Australia, the state's mediocre conditions produce a scrappy surfer who learns how to make a ride out of nothing. "Florida is a great place to train because conditions aren't ideal," she says. "We don't have waves with a ton of speed and power, so we learn how to generate our own speed. You learn how to use the power in a wave, how to make the most out of it."
That scrappiness may also help when facing the surfing industry. Fort Lauderdale surfer Parya Jatala is close to sealing a deal for a three-month surfing trip through Latin America that will be videotaped and shown on South American television. Kristy and Parya filmed a pilot for the program in December.
Kristy and Jenni hope to use the power of the surfing craze to their own ends by starting their own surfing line rather than be beholden to advertisers' whims. While Abercrombie & Fitch and other companies make millions without involvement in the life, Parya, Jenni, and Kristy are following in the footsteps of the surfer guys who came before them. Most major surfing companies were founded by male surfers, and surfers buy the products because of that authenticity. Female surfers, who face inevitable airbrushing of their radical free-spirit image, crave such independence and entrepreneurship.
Last summer, Jenni and Kristy launched a line of surfboards called Siren. It's a division of Channin Surfboards in Encinitas, California. The two South Florida women are partial owners of the line and helped design and test the product. Kristy recently began working full-time at the Channin factory. She hopes to learn all she can about manufacturing surfboards. Both women ride Siren longboards, and in the Queen of the Peak contest, they signed Lauren Hill to surf the brand as well.
"We want to start off as a hardcore surfing company, by surfers for surfers," Kristy said. "We aren't a bunch of corporate people who notice surfing is getting hot and hire some people to make it happen. We are living the life."
So far, Siren has sold about 100 boards, which cost $450 to $650. The division has orders for another 100 boards, Kristy said. About 25 surfing shops on the East Coast sell Siren boards, including Groundswell Surf Shop in Juno Beach. That may not sound like much, but Kristy is happy with the results.
Siren longboards are narrower than most, Kristy says. They are easier for women to carry and to power into a wave. They also have rounder sides, which are more forgiving on turns. And they have glitter added to the resin and come in soft pastel colors, like the swirly pink of Kristy's board.
"If we can make it work for us so that we don't have to depend on anyone else to give us money, if we could actually, somehow, eventually make money and be a part of the surf industry, it would be great," Kristy said, "because both Jenni and I love surfing."
A few days of mild weather followed the Queen of the Peak contest. The surf along South Florida's coast flattened back to dismal. But on January 23, another blast of frigid air descended. That evening, the palm trees outside Parya's Fort Lauderdale apartment shook violently. Neighbors brought animals and plants indoors as weather forecasters cautioned it might reach freezing. But local surfers knew cold air might mean big surf.
When Parya slid out of bed at 6 a.m., the thermostat had dipped to 35 degrees. Out in the Atlantic, large waves rolled toward Florida's east coast from a horizon ragged with swells. By the time the sun rose, six-footers were rolling in. Around 6:30 a.m., a friend phoned to pass the word to meet at the beach near Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Parya zipped into her wet suit. She loaded her new, white, Quiet Flight shortboard into the back of her purple Ford Ranger pickup and headed out.
When she reached a secret spot in Pompano, Parya ran barefoot to the beach. The road felt like it was made of ice. "It was so cold. Our feet were freezing," she said. "I've never felt anything so painful."
The highlight of the day for Parya was riding what surfers call "a barrel." It was a little one, she says, but it rolled over and formed a tube. "That wave that I caught was like my dream," she said. "I want to get barreled again someday, a nice good barrel. It was cool. The wave is coming on top of you. It was perfect."
Parya, a striking girl with dusky skin and thick, brown, ropy hair that hangs to her waist, met Kristy and Jenni through mutual friends in South Florida's small and tight-knit surfing community. The 26-year-old doesn't share Kristy's and Jenni's hunger for competition. Fort Lauderdale's B.C. Surf and Sport sponsored her in some local competitions last year, but the shop kicked her off its team when she got so caught up in surfing on the day of a contest that she missed her heat. "I don't really like contests," she says.