I happened upon Mia Baard when a couple of amazing Cobbles Classic pictures and videos crossed my social media feed. I was struck, firstly by the grace with which she rides the waves, and secondly, by the beauty of Cobbles, the spot down at Cape Recife, just outside Port Elizabeth.
I was keen to know how women’s surfing is doing in PE and if it’s accessible for girls. I am super proud that such a beautiful surf spot is tucked away in my hometown. Mia is PE’s rising longboard star, so I asked her to share her thoughts, experiences and photos with us to shed some light on the local ladysliding scene.
Mia Elizabeth Baard
Grade 3 teacher
Where are you from:
I was born in the Western Cape but grew up in the Eastern Cape and I am currently living in the log city, Port Elizabeth.
How did you get into surfing?
I’ve always been a water baby and I’ve always loved the beach. Eventually I found my way to surfing when I moved to Stellenbosch. I know it sounds strange but I guess not living close to the beach made me want to go there often so I started surfing with the rad surf school in the strand called Son Surf. My mom would take me every weekend and I would also go for lessons during the week. So from then on I was hooked and I’ve loved my surfing ever since.
I got my first log about four years ago. I felt that it matched my surfing style well and I enjoy how graceful it is. There is such a awesome logging community at Cobbles here in the Bay. They inspire me during every session.
What’s it like in the water for women surfers in the Eastern Cape?
The Eastern Cape surf community is small in comparison to Cape Town and Durban, so the line up is still male dominated. But there has definitely been more girls showing interest as surfing as its popularity grows.
Do you think it is harder for women to start surfing?
I don’t think its more difficult for women to start surfing, but I do think it is a challenge for some woman to maintain the surfing lifestyle when they get married.
What are your thoughts on getting more girls involved in surfing / longboarding?
There is definitely a space for more ladies to start surfing. I think more girls are starting to find an interest in the surfing lifestyle as it is getting more popular.
You belong to the Ladyslider’s Union. I have seen them on Instagram and it looks like a great vibe. Tell us about it.
Ladysliders Union is a community dedicated to celebrating women longboarders in SA. It was founded on the beach in Port Elizabeth,at the Cobbles Classic Event in 2015 by Susannah Leigh, Deborah Paterson, Bernie Shelly, Terese Russell, Nola Viotti, Shannon Bolotin, Simone Robb, Margreet Wibbelink and myself.
Nix Bez, Dorette Oostehuizen and Christy Gilmore are also included, even though they were not there on the day. It was formed with the purpose of unifying women’s longboarding in SA and to create a space to share the love of the ocean and to inspire women to surf. Its a platform for the members to share their love of surfing and to showcase talent in the longboarding community from all over SA. If you want to know more or get involved you can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org or find them of Facebook or Instagram.
What is your current local spot?
If you could surf anywhere, where would it be?
I would absolutely love to surf Noosa.
We know that PE is a hidden gem, but it doesn’t have the greatest surfing rep. Is that unfair? Or do you head down to Jeffrey’s or to East London at the first sign of swell?
I think it is unfair as its a great place to log. For short boarders it gets a bit tricky. When PE gets swell we surf Cobbles. It’s consistently good unless the swell is too small. I prefer surfing Cobbles and only really want to surf somewhere else to have a change of scenery. In the holidays I enjoy going to Nahoon corner and when we are close to home we like to log Hullets, Seals and JBay. (When it’s not crowded)
Do you think PE is a good place for ladies to learn to surf?
PE is the perfect place for people to learn how to surf so there is definitely potential for more girls to get involved from a young age.
What are the highlights of your surfing career thus far?
This entire year has been a highlight as I became a Billabong brand ambassador and I won the Cobbles Classic 2016.
(ICYMI watch the Cobbles Classic highlights video on Captain Kai’s World HERE)
Surf Goals for the future?
Future goals would be to travel and explore more surf spots around the world as well as trying to defend my Cobbles Classic title next year. I would also love to make the finals at SA Champs on my single fin.
We wish Mia all the best with those goals.
And the rest of us? Let’s be inspired by girl power with style. There is nothing like a new year to embrace a new challenge. Maybe it’s to time to try get those toes on the nose?
I ask myself quietly here at the end, how exactly did I grow up in PE, live there for an eternity, and not learn to surf and never go to Cobbles?
My Dad smiles when I mention I’m writing a post about Cobbles. He tells me that he and a friend built themselves surfboards in PE in 1961 . They built them with marine ply around a meranti frame. Neither had ever surfed before and they learned to ride waves on those custom logs. Tough days, those! Then I remember an old surfboard in our garage, a later 60’s model single fin longboard. My mom groans as she recalls all the hours she sat on the beach at Cobbles in those years, waiting for my Dad, even having to summon him from backline when she went into labour with one of us.
I can only think it was the PE wind that swayed my dad from surfing to sailing, because by the time I was around (and ever since) he has been a yachtsman. Even now, in his seventies, he remains a wily contender in a race around a couple of buoys.
This year he wants to learn to SUP. Who knows? Maybe he and I will come full circle at Cobbles.