Meet Sharlene in the tropics

By Kim Hanskamp

It was in the Dominican Republic, that I met Sharlene (31), better known as Shar. A passionate surfer girl, travelling the world chasing waves, living the simple life. Not only did we become friends, she also became my muse. Her beautiful surf style and her admirable guts to preferably surf the bigger waves, on her 9’6”  single fin longboard!

Every time she paddled out into that serious powerful reef break in the north of the Dominican Republic, as a shortboarder, I could not help but wonder, “But how?!”.

In the past year Shar has been featured quite a few times in several surf mags, as well as on Instagram, so I thought it time for an interview with this super rad surfer chick.

Shar, when and where did you start surfing?

November 2013, after graduating from University, is when I first started surfing. All I dreamt of during my studies was travelling. So, the moment I graduated and saved enough money, I left. The Dominican Republic was my first destination. I ended up staying for 8 months. I fell totally in love with surfing, the country, the people and the ‘take-it-easy-and-enjoy’ Caribbean life style.

How did you feel after your first surf session?

My first time surfing in those Caribbean waters was amazing. I remember the struggle in the whitewash, the falling and getting back up, but most of all that really happy feeling and that big smile on my face, that only surfing seems to provide. It felt like I found that one thing I had been looking for, for a really long time.

You traveled a lot over the last years. What are your favourite surf breaks?

I am in love with Playa del Encuentro, Cabarete in the DR. There are several breaks, but my very favorite is Coco Pipe. When that wave breaks, that’s where you’ll find me!

Another favorite surf spot is Pilon de Pavones, which is a 30 minute drive from the famous Pavones wave. An endless, perfect breaking longboard wave. Just amazing! At Pilon de Pavones is where I did my first Hang Ten and it was also the first time surfing such long ongoing waves.

What does surfing and being in the ocean mean to you? 

I grew up in a small coastal town in Holland and could always be found in and around the water in summertime. In wintertime, I would go for beach walks, just to feel the wind in my hair and listen to the beautiful sounds of the North Sea. The ocean calms me down.

Surfing for me was life-changing. The feeling of the water on your skin, the way the surfboard feels like an extension of yourself, the way it slides and cuts through the water, the feel of the board when lying down and being one with the beautiful ocean that is never the same. The way your breath changes, that feeling of excitement when hunting for those waves, pushing yourself harder and just having fun with friends. Concentration to the max, a burst of happiness and all of the above at the same time. It’s a way to become one with nature, to be just in that moment. It clears my head. I love it and I cannot live without it anymore.

I know you have not been surfing much lately due to relocation. How do you feel about that?

It is making me very sad at times, to be honest. I miss surfing more than I can tell.  But luckily, I know it’s just temporary. There is no sport that gives me the feeling surfing gives me, so that’s all the more motivation to keep searching for ways to surf.

You have a beautiful surf style. How did you learn to surf that way?

For me surfing really feels like a dance. I surf best when it feels like one smooth movement. I don’t think and just move along with the wave. I try not to force anything, except when I am trying to learn something new and I’m focused on learning that new trick.

I don’t know if it is something you can learn, it is the style you have, it’s something personal, mixed with all the love for surfing.

What is your favourite manoeuvre and which one would you like to improve?

My absolute favourite is the Cheater Five, to pass through the critical sections of the wave. It feels really good and looks so beautiful and elegant. Yeeew!

There is so much I like to improve on, and believe there is always space to grow. I always stay focused on improving and to become better than I was the day before.

That’s why surfing never bores me.

Just before I left the DR, I started working on my floaters. Those are the ones I’ll nail next!

What is the craziest thing that ever happened to you in the water?

The most beautiful experience I had was in Costa Rica on a dark rainy day, surfing with my friend in Pilon, just the two of us. I took a wave and ended up all by myself in the bay. Out of nowhere 2 manta rays jumped out of the water just beside me. It was so beautiful and yet scary at the same time.

What is your next surf destination? 

At the moment I am in Tenerife, on a mountain, two busses and two hours away from a nice longboard wave. Am trying hard to find a place to live closer to the surf.

Fingers crossed!

As soon as possible and money allows, I plan to go and explore the surf in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Have heard nothing but amazing surf stories from that side of the world.

Last question, any advice/ life motto that you’d like to share with us?

Follow your heart, it’s always right.

Follow Sharlene on Instagram : @lifeofmisswest
Follow Kim Hanskamp on : Instagram @kimhanskampher website