Catching Waves with Giulia Manfrini: Q&A

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We’ve been following Giulia for a while on Instagram–her pictures give us a serious case of wanderlust for the Mentawis (and you’ll see why in a second). Giulia Manfrini is an Italian from Torino who has her own sense of style when it comes to surfing. She graduated in law and was once a pro snowboarder (boarder cross) and snowboard coach. Today, she lives in Bali and works as a surf travel expert for LUEX Travel and as an ISA Level 2 Surf Coach and Surf Apnea Survival Instructor. She calls Bali home base… but usually is found wherever the swell takes her. 

Photo by Megan Costello

Lucky for us–it must have been a flat day–she’s taken the time to talk to us about how to progress your surf skills, where she loves to travel, the fear of surfing big waves, and more. Let’s get into it!

Hey Giulia, how did you first get into surfing?

I spent one year of University studying in San Sebastian (Pais Vasco/Spain). There was no better place to learn the basics of this sport that stole my heart.

We love scrolling through your Instagram and seeing the incredible waves you catch—especially in the Mentawai Islands. What advice would you give intermediate surfers who want to take their skills to that next level?

Don’t settle! In surfing, there is always room for improvement. Learn step by step. Use the right board (not too small as the trends suggest, unless you are already able to smack that lip!). Join surf coaching trips and do a specific training at home for when you are not able to surf or as an extra to your surfing sessions. Watch a lot of surfing videos and take inspiration! And if you have the chance, go surf perfect waves that allow you to practice over and over!

Photo by TYGphoto

You’ve traveled to over 40 countries! Which destinations stand out in your mind as places you’d love to visit again?

Well, every place has left something in my heart.

Surfing wise, I love the wilderness of North Sumatra–the rainforest there is so primordial and gorgeous! I love sitting in the line up with few friends, listening only to the sounds of the jungle, and waiting for a set which I already know will be perfect and will deliver some barrels.

Photo by Iyan Wau

One of the most beautiful places I have ever traveled to is South Africa. I spent a month doing conservation volunteering in a natural reserve and lived in a very basic environment where connecting with other humans and nature were way more important than Instagram stories (no phone signal). I learned many things about the savanna and nature in general and how to appreciate the little things of life. This was probably the most unique and interesting experience of my life.

Describe your ideal day of surfing:

I love sleeping, but I am an early bird when it comes to surfing. My ideal day is a first light alarm followed by an Italian Moca coffee and some stretching. Then I am refueled and caffeinated and ready to grab my board and surf for a couple of hours. After the surf, I would eat an energetic and delicious breakfast and chill for a bit playing the guitar or reading a book. Going for a cheeky second session with a bunch of sunscreen, hat, and whatever can cover me from the midday sun! Then a little siesta, some breathing exercises, some more stretching and back again in the water for a glassy sunset surf until dark. I love this time of the day! Colors of the water and sky are unreal!

As an ISA level 2 surf coach, what common mistakes do you see surfers make?

I see many surfers trying to practice too advanced maneuvers for their level, while they are still missing basic ones that are the basis for progress. I know everyone loves to have “the shot” but for me, a powerful bottom turn and the ability to create speed on a wave are the fundamental. Once you learn how to perform these moves properly, then all the other maneuvers will come out naturally!

What inspired you to become a Surf Survival Apnea Instructor? Do you find that survival apnea skills are often useful in your surf sessions, or do you only use these skills in emergencies?

I joined a Survival Apnea Course when I first arrived in Bali. I was recovering from a big accident and I had lost confidence in myself and in my ability to surf and be in the water. The course was fantastic and I saw on myself the benefits that can give to people. For that reason, I have decided to become an instructor myself and share it with more people.

The aim of Survival Apnea is to guide you through a journey of self-confidence and self-awareness achievement and to learn how to control yourself in uncomfortable situations.

Photo by TYGphoto

This means that it’s a course suitable for everyone: from big waves riders who are often in very challenging and stressful situations to even beginner/intermediate surfers or anyone who wants to improve his/her confidence in and out the water. The breathing and breath holding exercises included in the course help to expand the lungs capacity and flexibility, to improve self-control and tolerance to what we call “urge to breath.” I can definitely say that I use the skills I have learned in every session and in emergencies as well of course.

You also host surf retreats! Can you tell us a little about this and how we can come along too?

Sliding Chronicles is a little personal project that I have recently started. I have done a few sick trips in the past years and many people ask me to join on the next ones. So, I thought it would be a great idea to put all these people together and do a group trip somewhere epic and to add surf coaching and survival apnea tips to the whole package!

You can check the “Trips” section of my website or sign up to the newsletter to stay updated and be the first one to get on board!

Photo by Felipe Bayan

Are you ever afraid during big sets? If so, what techniques do you use to calm your nerves and stay committed?

I am always scared when big sets come! I try to stay focus and to maintain self-control. We cannot change situations but we can choose how to behave–in surfing as in life. When a big set comes, I try to see where is the safest zone where I can stay. Sometimes paddling very fast towards the waves will just bring you to eat all the waves on your head in the impact zone. So, slow down, breath deeply and calmly think about what will be your next step. And if I am in a good position, well…I just turn off my fear and paddle determinedly to catch that bomb! The adrenaline will be high and the reward even bigger!

We have to ask…

Left or right?
Both! I A lot of people nowadays get stuck with the concept “I am goofy, so I surf just left” or “I am regular, so I surf just right” and it’s such a shame. For sure my barrel skills are better on my forehead and my turns are more powerful on my backhand but honestly, I think that what makes a surfer skillful is the ability of surf in both directions. And it’s also more fun!

Photo by Megan Costello

The wave you could ride every day and never get sick of:
Nias all times! I love that wave so much, I could surf it every day for hours. It’s such a technical wave, but still pretty safe since it breaks in deep water. It works with every tide, size and (always light) winds! You can get barrelled, cutback, turn! So playful!

Favorite board in your quiver:
Oh, that’s a tough question! I love all my boards somehow! I am in love with my semi-gun 6’3″ single fin, but it requires very special conditions. My all-round 5’9 CI OG Flyer is definitely a board I love to surf every day, no matter how the waves are!

Slow and fat or fast and hollow?
Fast and hollow for sure!

The swimsuit you reach for first:
My Undess Surf One-Piece: Italian hand-made, customizable and eco-friendly. This brand new bikini line is the perfect match of sporty-comfort and fashion!

Recommended sunscreen:
CocoAloha: Reef-friendly zinc made of natural products. Good for your skin and good for the ocean!

Italian meal you miss the most:
Too many!

Thanks Giulia! You can follow Giulia’s adventures on Instagram @giulia.manfrini/@slidingchronicles, Facebook, and on her website, Sliding Chronicles