Women Who SUP: Melissa Volker

This week we interview Blogger, Writer, Tweeter and SUP girl extraordinaire – Missy!

Name: Melissa Volker (for formal occasions and when I am in trouble with my Mom.) I have been called Missy since I can remember.

Age: Hahahaha. You’re kidding right?  On a public platform?  I am a smidge north of forty. I’ll just leave that there.

CTS: Tell us a bit about yourself and your website / blogs…
MV: I am originally from the Eastern Cape and I go back there every year to Kromme River Mouth at St Francis Bay. I’m a beauty & sports massage therapist by occupation, but I love to write, so when I am not working in my salon or mothering my children, (or SUPping) I blog at missmelissawrites.com about writing, surfing and travelling; and at sunrisebeautyblog.wordpress.com about health and skincare. I also spend way too much time on Twitter and I write eco/romance novels that no one wants to publish. Yet.

CTS: How long have you been Stand Up Paddle Boarding?
MV: I have been Stand Up Paddle Boarding in the surf for almost a year. My brothers and I like to think we invented stand up paddle boarding at Kromme in the eighties. We used to cruise around on our Dad’s old school sixties longboard with a boat oar, and then we progressed to an old windsurfer board. But I first did some real flat water SUPping at Kromme in 2011/2012

CTS: How did you get into SUP?
My husband is a surfer/kite surfer/stand up paddle boarder and he got a Starboard Whopper Xtra and a Starboard All Star, and my brother got a Coreban Icon, so I tried those out on flat water at Kromme. I tried to SUP at the beach break at St Francis but it closed out on me and that got interesting. In 2013 we went to San Diego, to Rusty Boardhouse at La Jolla beach and I hired (in a moment of insanity) a SUP and got annihilated in the surf. It was a disaster. My out of control board hit the same surfer twice. Then my friend Megan Smith started SUPping here in Cape Town with Xpression on the Beach at Muizenberg and she persuaded me to join the Wahines. (It’s a Ladies SUP group coached by the lovely Tarryn King.) So now I am pretty comfortable at Muizenberg if it isn’t breaking six kilometers out. I have a lot of fun there on clean 1–2 foot days.

CTS: Do you do SUP Surf / Yoga / Cruize?
MV: I SUP surf. Well, I try. I can bottom turn and cruise along the face, but I still need to perfect a cutback, using my paddle to pivot. My long term goal is to learn to cross step. I am a little obsessed with longboard style surfing.

CTS: What boards to you ride? (Brand / Size)
MV: I inherited my brother’s 10 ft bright yellow Coreban Icon when he went overseas. I am super grateful for the loan, but it’s a beast. It’s heavy as lead. I have to have five rests between the beach and the car. It’s got heaps of glide though, so I catch all the waves, but I would love a lighter board. I have my eyes and piggy bank set on the 9 foot Coreban California.(**This is now a reality, we can confirm that the board has been purchased**) My husband has a 9″6 Naish Hokua that I might pinch in the meantime.

CTS: Favourite Spot?
MV: I love Muizenberg because I know it. And it goes left and right, so I can stick with the rights till I perfect my backhand. But Huletts at St Francis is also amazing. I love it down there. It’s home.

CTS: What’s the vibe like in the water?
MV: My personal experience has only been love & aloha in the water, especially with my fellow Wahines. I’ve had a few surfers drop in on me, but there are lots of tourists and learners at Muizenberg so everyone has to be patient. No one has been mean to me. Maybe I can’t hear? Or I’m so busy concentrating on staying alive, I don’t notice. The guys are mostly nice and encouraging and pretty helpful too. I understand the whole etiquette thing, so I try hard to be cool with the surfers. I don’t drop in and I don’t hog all the waves (even though I could on the Yellow Submarine). Now and then a surfer has been grumpy or muttery, but that’s okay. I just smile and leave the big waves for them. I’m still scared of the big sets anyway. At Huletts I leave a lot of waves for the surfers, but the guys there have all been super friendly and generous about sharing the waves.

CTS: Do you reckon there is enough female SUP coverage out there?
MV: I think there could be more. If you are not directly involved in SUP you wouldn’t know about the achievements of the elite women in the sport. I think it could do with a bit more coverage.

CTS: Are there any barriers that prevent more women from taking up the sport?
The greatest barrier, in my anecdotal experience, is fear, especially in SUP surfing. Fear was a huge obstacle for me. The problem is that the fear is not based on fact. I think for more ladies to overcome their fears, they need a better theoretical knowledge of the ocean and waves. The better you understand the sea, the way waves work and the science behind it, the less fearful you will be. It becomes a much more logical experience, less primal, because you take away the fear of the unknown. You can control your emotions if you understand what you really have to worry about and what you don’t. Then you can just get on with becoming strong, catching waves and perfecting your skills. I recommend reading Chris Bertish’s book, Stoked, and Andy Martin’s Walking on Water. Both helped me to understand the theory of waves. I’m also just about finished a short course on shark biology and conservation, to get that issue into perspective.

CTS: Lastly, would you buy a Pink SUP Board?
Of course. Pink totally beats yellow. I would love a custom California in pink.(Are you reading this, Ty and Gary?) I rented the Coreban Karma for a while just because it has pink flowers on the deck.

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