Surfin' F-L-A

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Parya, whose father is Persian and whose mother is American, learned to surf as a teenager growing up in Lima, Peru, where her father worked as an agricultural scientist.

After watching a competition as a 10-year-old, she longed to surf. Her older brothers cautioned that she would develop big muscles like a man. That didn't sway her when she reached high school and a friend offered use of a board. The two skipped school and caught the bus down to the beach at Miraflores. Even though she didn't stand up on the board that first day, Parya was hooked.

She left the surfboard at the house of a fisherman named Don Pedro, whom she paid 25 cents for storage. Every day, she would wear her bikini under her school uniform, take some dry clothes to school in a backpack, and head to the beach after classes ended. Some days, she would skip school and surf all day.

She never told her parents of her obsession. "There were no girls surfing there then, not at all," she said. One day, she was almost busted. A news station showed up at the beach to film a segment on the pollution in the area. They interviewed Parya, asking her if she wasn't frightened of surfing in such a contaminated sea. "I told them I didn't think about it," she said. That night, some of her parents' friends saw her on television. Fortunately, she says, the word for surfing and running are the same in Peru -- correr -- so her parents' friends just reported that Parya had been jogging on the beach.

After graduating from high school in 1994, Parya came to the United States to study graphics design at Oklahoma City University. She spent two unhappy years at the landlocked school. When her brother, who was living in South Florida, told her about graphics classes at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, she jumped at the chance to move to Florida and again take up the sport. She imagined the area had great surf. She moved here in the summer of 1996. "I was frustrated because there were no waves," she explained. She took up skateboarding and waited for the swells.

Parya says she has become a better surfer here. She has also started taking surfing vacations, at least one a year, to the Caribbean and Latin America. Sometimes she travels alone. "You meet people when you travel by yourself," she says. "They just take you in, let you stay at their houses. It's great."

Two years ago, she took a week's vacation from a job as a graphics designer for a Fort Lauderdale printing company to surf in the Dominican Republic. The weekend she was supposed to return home, there was a surfing contest on the island. Newfound friends offered to put together the entry fees so she could compete. She called her job and lied, saying she'd lost her passport. She stayed an extra three weeks. When she returned, a work friend called to warn her she'd been fired. Within three weeks, she had several freelance graphics jobs. "Now I work out of my house," she says, "so I get to travel whenever I want."

Parya's addiction still dominates her heart. Like Kristy and Jenni, she is still angling for ways to fund her obsession. Recognizing that women's surfing is suddenly trendy, Parya and fellow Peruvian surfer Jose Madalengoitia recently began tossing around an idea that would enable them to travel, surf, and have it all paid for by someone else. "I'm trying to find any loophole I can," she says.

Jose is a videographer who worked in Fort Lauderdale for several years making film clips for boxing matches for Don King Productions. Since quitting the company a few years ago, he has taped extreme-sports footage and surfing competitions for the Miami-based Latin sports cable company, AXN.

This summer, Parya and Jose approached AXN with an idea. They wanted to do a reality-based surfer program for Latin American television. They would bring together a group of international women and travel with them throughout South America over several months, filming the friendships that developed, the hardships faced, and the waves surfed. "We want to do it now while women's surfing is hot," Parya says. "Now is the time to do it."

Unfortunately, MTV and Roxy had the same idea. MTV auditioned female surfers, age 18 to 24, in November for a reality show scheduled to air this summer. The women will train in Australia and surf around the world as they ready for professional competitions.

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Susan Eastman
Contact: Susan Eastman