FIRST WAVES is a format where female surfers, both amateurs and professionals, simply tell us in their own words, about their first relationship with surfing, and how it has changed them.
They are beginners, professionals, activists, mothers, students... They are all different but they share the same passion: surfing. And they could be you!
[Click here to find all their inspirational stories]
Today we meet Natalie, an ocean-lover surfer, born in Germany but living in Spain through her passion. At 36, she has built her new life around surfing and is committed to encourage more girls surf for fun but also... in competitions!
She's been a longtime supporter of HEXA Surfboard (thanks Natalie!).
Here is her story.
[Follow her on Instagram: @natalie.batt.surfer]
HI NATALIE, COULD YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF IN A FEW WORDS?
My name is Natalie Batt and I’m 36 years old. I was born in Germany, but raised in Spain since I was 10. I’ve been a total sports-lover since I was a toddler, and a water/ocean lover ever since my first time at the beach at 9. Now I’m living in Málaga, south Spain.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SURFING TODAY?
Right now, surfing means everything to me. I’ve changed my life partner, my job and my house to spend more time in the water. My life goal right now is to work with something related to the surfing industry.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE MEMORIES YOU HAVE OF YOUR FIRST WAVE(S)?
My brothers had a bodyboard, and whenever we got to the sea, we had a lot of fun riding the white waves at the shore... That was my first wave contact.
Later, I had a work colleague who surfed, and he told me to try it someday. I was 27 years old then. The first day of my summer holiday I bought a second hand surfboard and drived 3h to the Atlantic Ocean, to Cádiz. The bad thing was that there were no waves, so next day I went home, and for my surprise, there were very nice waves at the Mediterranean Sea in Málaga. I caught my first wave in my hometown, and since then I’m totally hooked to surfing. But if I could go back in time, I’d have started in a surfschool, because it took me a lot of time, and some bad experiences, to learn about currents and preferences in the water.
WHAT WERE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR STARTING SURFING?
What motivated me the most was that it’s a difficult sport. It keeps me totally focused. Easy things are not for me, I need a little bit challenging sports, so that I go home with the sensation of: I can do it better next time. The other motivation is, that I am an Ocean lover, and being in there, the most of time as possible, makes me feel free, completed, and totally relaxed after the surf. Everyday you learn something new during the sessions, even if it’s about paddling, wave selection, or you meet a new friend... but everyday you go home with some positive sensations.
DID YOU HAVE ANY FEARS OR A-PRIORI ABOUT SURFING?
Of course. Everybody tells you that surfing is dangerous, that you are very far from the shore, that some people get lost because of the strong currents... But I really felted well in the water every time, I was a very good swimmer and diver since I was a kid, and that gives you confidence. The only fear that I have still to overcome is surfing the bigger and stronger/faster beachbreaks. Last year I got smashed to the ground from a 2m high wave in Cadiz, and now I’m a bit scared... But I’ll get over this someday!
WHAT DID PUSH YOU FROM DREAM TO ACTION, WHAT MADE YOU TAKE THE STEP TO CATCH YOUR FIRST WAVE?
It was my boardsports, and water love what finally pushed me into the ocean. And of course, the challenge to learn a new sport in the nature. My work colleague told me some amazing stories about great surfing moments with his friends, in his hometown in north Spain, and these got me really stoked about trying it. By the way, my brothers and I had skated and snowboarded since we were young, so it was only a matter of time that I ended up surfing.
DID YOU HAVE ANY DISCOURAGING MOMENTS? WHAT MAKES YOU KEEP THE FAITH TO CONTINUE TO TRAIN AND PROGRESS IN THESE MOMENTS?
Some days, the surf can be very very crowded, and it’s difficult to catch a good wave, because people doesn´t know about priorities, or they don’t care about it. Everybody is selfish and want to get the best wave of the set, there are a lot of bad vibes, and these times it’s very hard to get a wave, and have fun. And when you get one, it will maybe not be a good one... These days are very frustrating, because you’re here to train your skills, and you realize that you are only sitting in the lineup.
But I try to see the bright side, and think that these days are to improve my paddling or duck-diving skills. The best thing, of that days is to talk with my friends in the water, to help and cheer the beginners to catch some waves, and to socialize and have fun with my local girls crew... so that the day isn’t that bad at the end, and you get distracted from the bad sensations.
WHAT DOES SURFING BRING TO YOUR DAILY LIFE? DOES SURFING PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT?
Surfing had given me so many things in my personal life that it will be hard to explain all of them. The most important: self-confidence. When you battle against waves to get to the outside lineup, and then you “battle” with other surfers to get the best waves, and most of the days you get some of that good waves, that gives you a lot of confidence. When you can dominate a wave, and feel comfy in a situation (wipeout) that most people would avoid, that gives you the self-confidence to handle everything in your life.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A WOMAN IN THE WATER TODAY? DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT RELATIONSHIP WITH MALE SURFERS? HAS THIS RELATIONSHIP EVOLVED (with your habit, progression)?
Nice question! I was raised with two brothers, so being in “male environments” isn’t strange for me. I’ve seen all kind of guys in the water. The best part is, that most of them were very helpful, kind, and respected me like any other guy in the water... My local spot is full of very nice and kind guys that have helped me a lot to improve my surfing.
But some guys were rude and told me to go surf the white water at the shore, or to stay sunbathing at the beach. These guys, are only rude if they see you as competent, if you’re a beginner, there’s no problem, because you won’t catch the same waves as them. But I think they will be rude in and out of the water, because it´s their bad education.
In competition, there’s still a big gap between male and female surfers. The females have worse prices, and we are ever forced to surf in the worst conditions of the day... when the waves are smaller, the tide isn’t the best, or when it’s choppy or windy. It’s not fair at all, and we have to change that.
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS IN SURFING?
I love Silvana Lima, because she had no help from sponsors, but she still keeped surfing, and wining competitions, and demonstrating that she´s one of the best surfers of the world, and she got there without modelling... what most sponsors want. Now she’s in the CT, has very good sponsors, and her surfing is so powerful like no other girls in the WSL.
And I really love the style of Sierra Kerr. She’s so talented, and his never giving up spirit can be a great example to other girls.
IN WHAT WAYS ARE YOU TRYING TO BRING SURFING IN THE FOREFRONT TODAY (social media?)?
I have a recently opened Instagram account, where I post lots of surfing and surfskating stuff. But the real purpose of my account is telling other women how fun surfing and skating is.
I’ve met the best friends of my whole life in my surf sessions, or related to the surf scene. I’ve encouraged some surfer´s girlfriends to try it, and now they’re as hooked as me to surfing...
My goal this year, is competing in some national competitions, to show girls that age, or surfing skills really don´t matter, because competing is still fun, even if you don’t win. You meet a lot of new people, know new waves, beaches, local spots, and have fun with the other competitors during, or after the event. And of course, I want more girls surfing and competing, and making some pressure at the Spanish surfing federation (FES) to equal conditions for female competitors.
WHO WOULD YOU DREAM OF SEEING AT YOUR PLACE TO TELL ABOUT HER FIRST WAVE?
Any local girl has a nice story to tell. A few months ago we met a journalist, and she interviewed some of our local girls, and all of them have nice and very great stories of how they started surfing.
But my friend Silvia will maybe be the best to tell her story. She now owns a surf travelling company, and makes several well organized surftrips to Maldives during the year. Sometimes only for girls, sometimes for families, or sometimes for couples or mixed surfrtips.
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO CONVEY TO YOUNG AND LESS YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THEIR FIRST WAVE?
That it doesn´t matter what others say, surfing is fun! It’s not dangerous, if you are realistic with your limits (physically or mentally), and it don’t matter your age, physical condition, or if you are good at sports or not, you have to give it a try, because the sensation of standing tall in the middle of the water, and feeling the nature pushing you forward, is totally worth it.
Even if you have some disability, it doesn’t matter, it will help you in several ways to improve your life.
And please, if you can, learn in a surfcamp, or surfschool, because they will give you the best tips to stay safe in the water (currents, preferences, tides) because if you have to learn them on your own experience, you’ll maybe have a bad experience, and will never go surfing for the rest of your life.
But really, give surfing a try! It will help you to get physically and mentally stronger.
If you want to share your story with us, send it to us at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org