It is assumed that most professional surfers are born into the sport. They show talent early on and start competing at an early age. And eventually they get grinding on the Qualifying Series...all before they hit middle school. That is not the case for Monica Guo.
The 31-year-old from mainland China picked up her first surfboard at the age of 21, after being introduced to the sport by an old friend. The two headed to Lantau, an island in Hong Kong known for its sunsets and clear water. Although Guo had to return home after her first surf exploit she eventually moved to Hainan, an island province of China, to explore her newfound fervor. After winning the Hainan Open, one of the more significant events on the China surfing circuit, Guo was selected to be a member of China's national surfing team. Since then Guo has set her sights on a new goal: Becoming the first woman from mainland China to compete in the Olympics.
How old were you when you first started surfing? Who introduced you to it?
I started surfing in 2008, when I was 21 years old. When I was in Hong kong my ex-boyfriend introduced me to it. Surprisingly, I was able to stand up on the board my very first time. It was true happiness.
When did you realize that you wanted to surf professionally? What is it about surfing that hooked you?
In 2014 I started seriously considering surfing professionally. After I attended a couple competitions and organized my first girls surf camp, I started focusing on spreading this sport's lifestyle in my country.
I feel perfectly relaxed when I am in the water. It's pure freedom. That's what attracted me most to the sport. I can communicate with the sea while I surf and enjoy what Mother Nature provides.
What is your goal? Do you want to surf for a living long-term? My goal is simple: To inspire young girls in China who long for the surfing lifestyle. Of course I want to do this forever. I'll be surfing even when I'm a grandma.
What are some of the obstacles that surfers from China face that people from other countries might not have to worry about? The coaching system. Surf culture is so wide-spread in western countries but in China it's still very new. Its really hard for Chinese surfers to get professional coaches and training. That's what I worry about the most.
Is your family supportive of your surfing career?
My family supports me one hundred percent. My parents watch all my competitions. I'm lucky because they just want me to be healthy and happy - which isn't the case for everyone.
Now that you've been selected for China's national surfing team, what's next?
I'm really honored to be selected for China's national team. All I can think about is doing well at the upcoming competitions. Hopefully I can make my country proud.
What is it about the Olympics that makes it so special for you?
As one of the first generation surfers in China, especially woman surfer, attending the Olympics will be a milestone for not only myself but my country.
What type of training have you been doing in preparation for the Olympics?
Besides my daily routine training, I'm doing a lot of cardio and strengthening the core also the muscles of my lower body, which could help me complete the turns and other movements on the board better.
What are you hoping to accomplish in the next three years…prior to the 2020 Olympics kicking off? Anything specific you are working on?
I hope I can open a surf school before that. Preparations are proceeding, slowly but surely. I really do hope the longboard session will get added to the Olympics before 2020.