What's Her Secret: Tia Blanco
This 16-year-old pro surfer, vegan, and Reef ambassador shares her tips on connecting to the planet, staying fit, and shining from the inside out.
At just 16, Tia Blanco is a surfing champion who practices what she preaches when it comes to living a lifestyle that's connected to the earth, and supports health from the inside out. Here's how she does it:
So, when did you start surfing? "I started surfing at the age of three. I don't remember that much, but my dad has been a surfer his whole life, and his family too, so it's in my blood. He always brought me into the water, whether it was on a pool or the ocean, so I was kind of a water child. He basically taught me in Waikiki, but I was born in Puerto Rico, and lived in California and Hawaii, so I was pretty much always surrounded by water."
What do you love about the sport? "I love that the sport is outdoors and in the ocean. You kind of feel at one with nature. When you do sports that are outdoors, personally, it just feels better and fresher. When I'm going on a run I can't go on a treadmill, I have to be on the beach looking out at the ocean, and it just makes me remember why I'm running."
Totally. So besides surfing, what do you do to stay fit? "I run on the beach quite a bit, and I do hiking with my sister—we recently did the 'potato chip rock' hike [at the peak of Mount Woodson in Poway, California]. It's an eight-mile hike, and at the top is this really thin rock that I guess is stable because everybody goes on it, but it just goes off into a pretty big drop off; it's really cool. I also have a personal trainer, Joe Rutland. He helps me work on my balance, core strength and conditioning. I also like doing hot yoga. We do a lot of vinyasa flow, but I travel so much that I just do whatever's available at the time. Yoga always just makes me feel better. It makes me feel fresher, my body feels cleaner and I just feel a new start to the day. I also do tumbling, on a trampoline and on the floor, which is basically a bunch of back handsprings and stuff, so it's really good core training, and endurance."
I would imagine that a strong core is really important for surfing. Is that why so many surfers practice yoga? "Yeah, I think your core is pretty important, along with your legs. I feel like yoga's so important because we're constantly working out our muscles, and when we do yoga it makes our muscles relax and stretch out, which is really good."
How did you become a pro? Through a lot of discipline and practice, I bet. "Ha! Am I considered a pro? I really don't know. I just always try to do my best when I'm surfing, plus I love the ocean. When I was in Hawaii I was more of a long-boarder, so I didn't really aspire to be a pro surfer yet. I came to California and I fell in love with competing, I just wanted to win so bad, so I worked really hard and set the goal that this is what I wanted to do in my life. I wanted to be surrounded by the ocean, to travel, and surfing would bring me to that level. It was hard at first because you have to make a decision on whether you want to have that whole high school experience, or aspire to be a pro surfer––but I aspired to be a pro surfer."
What would you recommend beginners keep in mind?
"I'd say get a long board because it's easier, and just do research on where you go and make sure it's a beginner wave, because the ocean is pretty unpredictable so you have to be aware and go to a spot you can handle."
How do you stay happy and peaceful on the inside? "I'd have to say yoga on that one! The final position when you lay down, savasana, I always reflect on my life and remember what's really important and try not to let negative thoughts flood my brain, so I just kind of relax."
And since you're vegan, the way you eat, too, might have something to do with that. "To be a healthy human being, I think you have to be happy because stress is the number one killer, and I think it also wants to make you eat cleaner. Eating clean helps to keep me light and active, and being a surfer I need to be light and active."
When and why did you become vegan? "I converted to veganism almost a year ago. I was inspired by my aunt and uncle, who are vegan. I was raised a vegetarian since birth, so I knew the basis of why I was vegetarian, and I would always get a lot of crap growing up for being vegetarian, which inspired me to learn more about veganism. And, I watched a whole bunch of videos and it literally broke my heart. I realized that I was doing it for health, but I was also doing it because I love animals so much, and it hurts me to see them suffering. I did it more for the animals, for them. If you go on PETA's website there are great documentaries out there that explain why veganism is a good thing to do."
So what does your typical day's food consist of? "For breakfast, I like having a green smoothie with some Ezekiel toast. I usually snack throughout the day on veggies, hummus, fruit and nuts. For lunch, I like eating a big colorful salad with some soup. And for dinner, I eat whatever my mom cooks. I like to just eat from the earth; fresh vegetables and fruits—there are so many nutrients in all that."
Do you feel our own health is related to the health of the planet? If so, how does your own wellness regime support that? "Yes, not only is it good for the environment, it is good for your inner being. I also believe being vegan could solve world hunger. There are so many starving people out there. Every two seconds a child dies from starvation––40,000 daily. They say a single acre of land can produce up to 20,000 pounds of potatoes or corn in contrast to 165 pounds of meat. Twenty-thousand pounds of potatoes can feed way more people than 165 pounds of meat. Do the math."
Finally, what's the connection between inner and outer health, and how do you strive to achieve that on a daily basis? "I think if you take care of your inner well being by being positive, eating clean and exercising, your outer wellbeing will shine by thinking clearly and being connected with yourself, whether it be through art, surfing, working out, whatever. I like to tell people eat to live, don't live to eat. And try your best at everything you do."