All posts by Betsy

Angie Ray


One of the first things I did upon moving to Fernandina was try to find other girls and women in the line-up. I kept hearing something about a “surfing science teacher” and finally met Angie at a local ESA contest. We never ran into each other because Angie’s looking for high performance waves on her shortboard (She got 1st place in Sage Sisters Shortboard at the 2014 Sisters of the Sea Contest) and I’m usually looking for something a little more casual for my log.  Thankfully, there are some days when we’ll end up surfing the same spot and I eventually came to know that not only is she currently ripping, but that she has been for quite some time. Anyone else ever consider Lisa Anderson competition?

I admire Angie both for her dedication and humbleness to surfing and for her willingness to work so hard at improving our community. If Angie believes in something, she gives it 110%, whether it’s directing the local ESA district, organizing a community garden group or training lifeguards in Nicaragua (instead of surfing Popoyo all day).

You grew up in California, when did you first start surfing?

I started surfing during an El Nino year around 1981-1983 in Santa Barbara, Ca. There was a lot of consistent surf and it was consistently big, very much like this past year California just experienced. Myself and my friends gained a lot of experience surfing in a very short period of time.

Do you remember your first board? First wave?

Yes, I had an old 7 ft classic single fin made in the seventies. But, pretty quickly I was sponsored by a man named John Bradberry and he made me a 5’2 twin fin! I do not remember my first wave, but amazingly I took surfing as a PE class at a very small alternative middle school. I took the class because all the cute boys were in that class. 🙂 I was afraid of the ocean, and honestly, I still am!

In the mid-eighties, you were a finalist in the West Coast Surfing Championship and the US Surfing Championship. You were also on the Channel Islands Surf Team, can you tell us about that?

Surfed in the WSA (Western Surfing Association) for many years. I eventually rode for Channel Islands Surfboards and Victory Wetsuits. I was lucky to have very supportive parents that let me go to contests all up and down the California coast. Three weekends a month we were on the road. I was on the WSA All-star team for several years and placed 2nd at the West Coast Championships and 3rd at the US Championships when I was 15. I traveled to Hawaii and Florida for United States Championships.

Kim Mearing was the Women’s World Champ in 1983, followed by Frieda Zamba from 1984 to 1986 (Zamba won again in 1988), did you ever compete against either of them?

I surfed with Kim all the time growing up because we were from the same city (Santa Barbara) and surfed the same breaks. She was not in my age division as an amateur and I think she turned pro when I was about 13-14 years old. I did surf the local pro-am competitions, like the Rincon Classic with her, and I did beat her at least once! Lisa Anderson was my true rival. She moved out to Huntington Beach, Ca. from Florida at the age of 14 or 15 and we hung out and competed against each other. She went on to become 5 time world champion! I have old surfing magazines with contest results showing that I beat her as an amateur, which I am really proud of!


You recently stepped up to be the Director for the First Coast District of the Eastern Surfing Association (Thank you!), are you excited about this position and what are your plans for this next season?

I will run the contests similar to how the district has been run in the past. We like to hold all the contests during our season of warm water and waves which is between August and November. We will have a group of 4 scheduled contests and then call a few more when the surf forecast looks good! I am super excited about this season, we have a great group of young surfers who have just joined the ESA and have really great energy! We are seeing more girls interested, and that is great. There also seems to be a lot of parents that are very supportive and I am excited to have them participate in the district operations. Surf Asylum will be helping us with some surfing workshops to help competitors be more successful. They will be held in the spring and summer, so stay tuned!

Outside of surfing you have an interest in edible gardening and are the President of a new non-profit in Fernandina, The Island Gardening Project. Tell us a little bit about how you got started with gardening and what the mission of the IGP is.

I love gardening and I also want to eat food that is natural, safe, and nutritious. I do not like to buy much food from the super markets, I mainly shop at the farmer’s market. I would like to be able to produce food for myself, family, and friends. Luckily there are many people in the community who feel the same way and are passionate about the ability of communities to be able to feed themselves. We have a great group of people in the IPG. We just started our first project at the Elm Street Community Center, where we will have a garden to share with the community.

As a lifeguard, swim coach and water safety instructor, you’re obviously passionate about safety around water. What was it like volunteering for Lifeguards Without Borders in Nicaragua last year?

It was such a great experience, and I am leaving again March 30th, 2015 for Nicaragua. We work with the Nicaraguan Red Cross by bringing them equipment, training their guards, and working with them to guard the beaches during the busiest holiday in the country.

I run the Amelia Island Lifesaving Assc. and working with Lifeguards Without Borders and The International Surf and Lifesaving Assc. has really inspired me to work towards lowering the rate of drowning in our community. Amelia Island has on average of at least one drowning a year. I recently received a grant from Lifeguards Without Borders to sponsor free swim lessons for the community this summer. The grant also covers free water safety clinics at Main Beach for tourists once a week all summer. But, my favorite part of the grant is that we will be able to sponsor a few kids who would like to be on the Stingray’s Swim Team but could not otherwise afford it.


One time you told me a story that you hadn’t done much surfing after moving to Florida and that it was your high school science students who encouraged you to get back in the water. How long had it been since you had surfed regularly? Did you find it challenging?

I did not do much surfing from the time I was 22 to about 32 years old! When I started teaching high school and talked to my students about my amateur surfing career they could not believe I was not surfing. So I jumped back in the water with them and have been surfing ever since. I got back into surfing contests and that is when I got involved with the ESA. I surfed many local contests, and a couple of Southeast Regionals, and a couple of Eastern Surfing Championships. It was a challenge to get back in good enough physical condition to enjoy surfing again. But once I did my surfing felt great and I feel like I am surfing better then ever. Staying in shape is key to surfing and staying young. Lucky, I became an ocean rescue lifeguard around the same time I started surfing again and that helped a lot.

Your daughter, Mary, is an avid surfer; do you ever offer her advice or tips on surfing?

I have helped her become comfortable in the ocean, mostly through being her junior lifeguard instructor for many years. She has decided she loves to longboard and is not interested in short boarding. I do not have much experience surfing longboards so at this point she is looking up to surfers like you Betsy! Kevin Leary has helped her a lot and other local surfers who have enjoyed watching her become a longboarder. She just had her first custom longboard made for her by ROZO and was able to paint it herself!


How has surfing influenced your life?

My love for surfing has kept me in the ocean, kept me motivated to stay in shape, and helped me have a sense of community here on the Island.

Small Poems on Small Waves

Relaxing, NE Florida Surf

On one hand, the last two days weren’t much to talk about. The waves were small and the water still chilly. The sun was overhead though and it felt good to stretch out on my board, relaxed, taking in the reflection of the green ocean and the occasional glassy face of a wave. I was done with winter before it began and think of these days as little treasures, gifts conspired by the air and sea to remind us that spring is near. While the faces of larger waves are like giant canvases, begging for big and impressive strokes of genius,  small waves beg for something different. They ask for patience and creativity. They want you to slow down and get playful.

These small waves, big on beauty, inspired me to want to see how much meaning I could fit into the least amount of words.  Haiku’s seemed a perfect fit.

Casual. North Florida Surfing

sit up on my board
the horizon shimmers calm
stories in water

Chill. Northeast Florida Surfing.

unexpected peak
deep breath and determined strokes
feet dig into wax

Small wave. Northeast Florida Surfing.

right foot crosses left
the nose rises as toes wrap
dancing on water

Loose. Northeast Florida Surfing.





Meet The Beach

Thistle blossom, Fernandina Beach, Florida

Though we’ve had several beautiful days as of late and there have even been a few with fun waves, the ocean temp is still struggling to get near sixty degrees. David’s got himself a new 4’3 and declares himself “hot” in the midday sun, but I’m trying to stretch my old 3’2 for one last season and until the water gets above sixty or the air gets into the eighties, you’ll find me admiring the surf from the shore. Yes, three weeks in tropical Puerto Rico does spoil one.

In doing my best to enjoy my time out of the water, I’ve tried to take in more of the beauty of the beach aside from the waves. I’ve been paying more attention to the animals and plants that live along the waters edge and admiring the many features of the landscape that come together to form the beach. I thought it might be nice to start a series on the blog featuring different things you might see on the beach in Fernandina with a bit of background information.

First up is one of my favorite plants, Cirsium horridulum, or Purple/Yellow Thistle.

Yellow Thistle growing in Fernandina Beach, Florida

Thistle can be found all over Florida, from the beach to pasture land, so long as it is a sandy, open area. It’s considered a Florida Native Plant  and though dormant through winter, by February you’ll see them starting to blossom out.

Thistle is the larval host to the Little Metalmark and Painted Lady butterflies, as well as a nectar source for bees.  The spines of the plant provide shelter for insects and  other invertebrates  attempting to escape becoming a meal for birds, including what I think is the invasive, Otala punctata, a species of land snail. has an interesting article on the colony of otala punctata found in Fernandina Beach, here.

Despite it’s menacing appearance and typical treatment as a ‘weed’, thistle is considered an edible, with first and second year leaves, stems and blossom end able to be eaten raw or cooked. Green Deane, of Eat the Weeds, has complete details for harvesting and preparing. I mean really, what doesn’t taste good after adding butter and salt?

Who wouldn't want to take a bite of this?

It looks like the air temps are trying to push into the seventies and even low eighties this week and I see a few days with south winds in the forecast (fingers crossed that it will push up some warmer water from the south!) so I’m hoping I’ll be in the water by the end of the week. I’ll try to keep this series going, exploring the beach and it’s features through the upcoming changing seasons. I already know what I’m sharing next and while I have no clue the background information on it, it is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever stumbled across while combing the shoreline.

Foam Canvas

Stripes versus circles. Mint and grey versus teal and black.  Once I’ve got the dimensions (9’2, 18,23,15 for the curious) of a new board hammered out, my mind immediately goes into overdrive working on the graphics. One bonus of working with a local shaper (Have I ever mentioned how much I love Rozo?!) is the opportunity to put a personal touch on the board by painting it myself.

I see a lot of great art on boards that’s been applied over the glass with paint markers, but Rozo allows surfers the privilege of painting directly on the foam. I prefer this method as the work is protected underneath the glass and there is no way I would have the patience to paint a board that’s glassed and ready to surf!

I love adding such a personal touch to my boards.

I had been playing with the idea of a butterfly over the past couple of boards I’ve gotten, but was too worried about getting the scale right and happy enough with some other designs I came up with. This time, after sketching out five or six other ideas with no satisfaction, I knew it was time to go for the butterfly. David’s childhood butterfly collection came in handy for viewing a few different species up close.

Even after deciding on a design and having it fully sketched out on paper, I try to give myself a few days to commit  (it’s permanent afterall.)

Inspiration from David's childhood butterfly collection and my design sketch.

If I’m doing  something fairly abstract I’ll  usually freehand the design onto the board or, if I’m doing something like stripes, I’ll use painters tape to keep things exact. With this latest idea, I was still concerned about getting the scale right, so I went as far as to draw and cut out a stencil on posterboard.

The stencil made this design SO much easier to put on.

Rozo’s got dozens and dozens of bottles of cheap, acrylic craft paint at his shop, but I’m picky about colors so I pick up my own from Michaels, along with a few brushes and a paint marker.

I'm ready to get to work!

The simplest of designs can sometimes take a couple of hours and this one took me a little over three with David helping where he could. Rushing is where I’ll end up making a mistake, so I try to schedule the painting sessions for times when the shaping bay isn’t being used.

Even just a pencil mark on your bright white, freshly shaped board can be scary.

Foam is different than canvas, paper, wood and so on. It will grab the paint and soak it in, making it difficult to brush on with regular strokes. Saturating the brush with the paint makes it go on a little smoother.

Surfboard painting, though daunting, can also be therapeutic.

I use the larger brushes to get the bulk of the color on and go behind with the tip of the foam brushes to trim out the edges.

Trimming out the edges takes me awhile.

I finish a lot of my work by tracing the entire outline with a black paint marker. It’s a style and technique that I’ve sort of used to personalize my designs, but it also tightens up any slightly messy edges and, in my opinion, makes the piece “pop.”

That white line around the lower wing will disappear as I outline with the black marker.

One of the biggest challenges is staying aware. Resting an arm or a wrist down in wet paint or accidentally brushing myself along the rails  is easy if I’m not paying attention and usually leads to either smearing or getting paint somewhere it wasn’t intended.

I’ve made enough mistakes doing my boards to know not to panic if something goes wrong. If a slip of the hand results in a small mistake, let the area dry and paint over it. If paint gets on a part of the board it wasn’t intended, it can usually be covered up with bright white. Mistakes that seemingly can’t be fixed have to be shrugged off. The best part about painting a board is adding  character to it. What’s the worst that could happen? I always tell myself if something turns out really awful, I can always paint the whole thing black. Kidding!! ::knocks on wood::

I balanced out the boldness of the butterfly's color with some greys and greens coming up from the tail.

This lovey is finished and ready for glassing.

Ellie Jean, ready to fly over to the glassing room. What, you guys don’t name your surfboards?



No hay bolsas plastica

“No hay bolsas plastica.”

These were the words, printed on a piece of paper and taped to a caution cone, that greeted me at the door on my second trip to the grocery store in Rincon.  I was a little confused at first and literally thought that they meant that I could not bring in the two bags I had wadded up in my hand, the ones I had intentionally brought back to re-use. Initially thinking it was some kind of shop lifting prevention measure and trying to remember if that sign had been there the first time I went shopping, I put the bags in a recycle bin at the entrance to the store.

Turns out, the sign actually meant that the store itself no longer had plastic bags to put customers groceries in and Rincon’s plastic bag ban had officially gone into effect. Rincon’s mayor, Carlos Lopez Banilla is quoted in this article, Rincon first PR town to ban plastic bags, as stating that, “this is one of many steps Rincón is taking to become an environmental model city.”

Reusable Bag, 25 cents at the Econo

I was, quite honestly, overjoyed. There has not been a day of this trip that I have not seen one, if not multiple, sea turtles in the surf. I’ve also been treated to three separate humpback whale sightings and my absolute favorite thing EVER seen while surfing, a tiny seahorse, floating along just under the surface, it’s tail wrapped around a tiny piece of sargassum.

Unfortunately, there has also been rarely a day that I haven’t picked up handfuls of plastic from the shoreline, including numerous pieces of single use bags. Perhaps it sounds a little naive, but I believe in the rights of ocean dwelling animals to assume that everything floating in the ocean belongs there and is therefore fair game as food. These beings have no concept of ‘plastic’ and  consume it under the assumption of jellyfish, plankton, sargassum and more. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, over 100 million marine animals die each year due to plastic debris in the ocean.

The  bag ban not only moves Rincon closer to it’s goal of being an environmental model city, it makes Rincon, Puerto Rico (est. population 15,000), more environmentally progressive than any city in Florida where there is literally a ban on banning plastic bags, at the state level.

I love my beach, do not throw trash.

You read that right, local governments in Florida CANNOT currently determine their own laws or regulations concerning plastic bags. Disguised as an environmental measure waiting to come to fruition, Title 29, Chaper 403, Section 7033, states, “Until such time that the Legislature adopts the recommendations of the [DEP], no local government, local governmental agency, or state government agency may enact any rule, regulation, or ordinance regarding use, disposition, sale, prohibition, restriction, or tax of such auxiliary containers, wrappings, or disposable plastic bags.

What does this mean? The great state of Florida can (and will) take it’s sweet time determining whether  it can or cannot find the resources to adopt any of the DEP recommendations. Meanwhile 60 plastic bags will continue to be handed out daily for every single re-usable bag used.

Thankfully, a few people (who are apparently not receiving any political donations from big plastic corporations) have decided to challenge this and Rep. David Richardson (D Miami-Dade),  has filed HB 661, allowing cities with less than 100,000 people to pass pilot programs restricting plastic bags, followed by studies on the environmental and economic impacts of doing so.

Sea Turtle Hatchlings, Fernandina Beach, Fl

Locally in NE Florida, Fernandina Beach has it own group, Bag the Bag, dedicated to finding ways to reduce the use of plastic bags and hopes to get Fernandina included in HB 661’s pilot program. Fernandina’s Vice-Mayor, Commissioner Johnny Miller is a prominent member of this group and says, “Both of these beautiful areas (Puerto Rico and Hawaii, who also has a ban on single use plastic) are not only calling attention to the damage to our ecosystem by these bags, but are taking effective action! I will continue to follow their lead and fight against these easily replaced hazards until they go the way of leaded gasoline and those polystyrene McDonald’s burger containers. I would love for my grandchildren to see a photo of a plastic shopping bag and say, “what is that?

Still wondering what’s the big deal about plastic? Can’t it just be recycled? Used to pick up pet waste? Disposed of properly? The DEP’s 2010 Retail Bag Report is a long read, but one of the things that stuck out to me the most was a line stating that Floridians recycling and re-use of plastic bags is shockingly low, around 12%. As a native Floridian, I not only believe that we can do better, but that we deserve to do better of ourselves.

It’s time for Florida, home to one of the world’s richest diversities of eco-systems, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, with numerous rivers, lakes and swamps in between, to commit to protecting what is sacred to most of us. A ban on plastic bags is not too much government regulation, it’s a simple step in the right direction to helping preserve Florida and her immense water ways for future generations.

Links with more info:

Surfrider Rise Above Plastics Campaign


Sea Turtle Conservancy



Kelly’s New Quiver


Kelly seems to be using all the freedoms of being untied of a major corporate sponsor to stand up and speak out on some serious issues. The latest is a RVCA collaboration bringing further light  on the issue of killer whales used in the entertainment industry. It’s a bold move and one I applaud him for. Check out the link below for all the details on his newest quiver.

Kevin Ancell x Kelly Slater | The Pod Article

And, if you haven’t seen Blackfish, the film that spurred this move,  it’s now on Netflix. Watch Blackfish

It’s all… Swell?!

Woke up to a fresh swell pushing into Rincon this morning with the buoy slowing working it’s way up to about 7@15.  I’m telling everyone who will listen that in the five previous trips I’ve made down here, I have never seen so much swell! I had even joked with David on the way down that there would be days that he was going to wish he had a longboard. The joke seems to have been on me, as most days it’s simply too big for me to get out. Even the more sheltered breaks up in Aguadilla are seeing overhead waves during the peaks of these recent swells. Can’t a girl just get a cruisy, shoulder high, right point to practice her noserides on?!

Hazy Maria’s at dawn…

Marias, 02/17, Buoy 41115 6.9@15.4

I cruised up to the Lighthouse (Punta Higueras) to get some shots from above.  The monster on the right is pushing in from outside Indicators and then wrapping around the point to Marias. (David’s actually inside the wrapping wave on the left, he’s just so tiny, you can’t see him.)

Lines Wrapping, Marias, 02/17, Buoy 41115 6.9@15.4

We had a brief rainbow pop up over Indicators this morning.

Rainbow blessing the fresh swell

Another view from the Lighthouse, showing all the different peaks from Marias to Dogmans.

Lines, wrapping. Marias, 02/17, Buoy 41115 6.9@15.4

Wave, sucking up on the point at Marias.

The Point, sucking up. Marias, 02/17, Buoy 41115 6.9@15.4

The swell is supposed to peak around noon today and I don’t think I’m the only one hoping this afternoon and tomorrow have something a little more manageable.

Freaky Friday Swell

With the forerunners of today’s swell starting to trickle in late yesterday afternoon, I wanted to run into Aguadilla and check my favorite ‘the waves are huge, I need a sheltered spot’ wave. Turns out the direction must have been just right to push into my spot because I expected some fun little loggin’ waves in the thigh to waist range and was greeted with head high perfection. I scored about a dozen beauties before the wind and crowd each wreaked their havoc.

We drove straight up to the Maria’s lot from Aguadilla after my surf to see how much swell had filled in throughout the afternoon. Rincon had basically doubled in size from the morning and David thought he should paddle out at Dogman’s, “just to get a good look at what’s going on out there.” He’s the tiny dot in the 4th pic down with waves pushing into the double overhead range.

We woke up this morning to a buoy reading of 9.2@15.4 seconds and after checking Maria’s and the Tres Palmas look out, went straight to my friends at Mar Azul Surf Shop to rent David something bigger than his 6’1″. The owner of Mar Azul, Bobby (super cool, knowledgable guy with rental boards, a shop and apartments to rent) told David not to even think of anything less than 9′ and told us with the high percentage of breakage on Tres board rentals, you pay the price of the board up front and get a refund when you bring it back in one piece. Slightly ominous?

Just after he told us that another friend stopped by and pointed out that it was Friday, the 13th.  Freaky Friday!  The waves were freaky, freaky big and freaking beautiful.

The following images were all taken this morning, 02/13/2015.

When Tres is breaking, traffic gets a little backed up on the 413.

I didn’t have quite the equipment I needed to get a good zoom on the line-up, but I saw David charging a few during both his sessions. Hopefully someone with a bigger lens got a few of him and we can share them in a future post.

Why didn’t I run back into Aguadilla to my not so secret spot? I was pretty excited to see David surf Tres for the first time and I’ve got a little chest congestion I’m trying to kick so I can enjoy the rest of the trip. The forecast is pretty solid for our last eight days, so I’m sure I’ll be putting in my time around the Rincon and Aguadilla breaks.  Anyone who’s ever seen Tres break (or Waimea or Pipe or any giant challenging wave) knows that it’s enthralling just to be a spectator when the ocean decides to put on a show.


Puerto Rico Living

Waves, everyday?!

Coming in with our Florida goggles on, David and I pretty much feel like we’ve scored the jackpot thus far.  The waves have  been rideable everyday, with everything from waist to chest to double overhead. Today and tomorrow are the supposed smaller, flattest  days in the forecast and yet we managed to find Middles doing this, this morning:

Middles, Puerto Rico, February 10, 2015

We’re up before dawn each day for a quick pre-surf yoga, followed by a couple cups of coffee for me and a giant bowl of oatmeal for David.  We’re in the water by daybreak and as long as the wind cooperates, try to surf until noon. Afternoons are brutal in the sun, so we use that time to relax, prep things for dinner and catch up on work.  The image below is Maria’s from last Monday… hard to tell in the pic, but basically 8-10 ft.

Maria's, Rincon, PR February 02, 2015

While David would be happy if everyday were 8-10 ft, I prefer something more like the image below, say in the 3-5 ft range. I did have someone tell me yesterday that I dropped into a “triple story” wave, but I think they were trying to say triple my size.

Maria's February 02, 2015

The late afternoons and evening sessions have been nice, with mellower crowds and enough clouds to keep the setting sun from blinding us.  Surfing until dusk, we saute up some fresh veggies to go with the rice and beans we made in the afternoon and are asleep by nine, ready to wake up and do it all over. I must say, it hasn’t started to get old yet.

Good Morning Maria’s

Maria's, Rincon, Puerto Rico

Well, we didn’t actually ‘wake-up’ in Rincon, because we never went to sleep.  After two flight delays (SO thankful that our flight delays aligned themselves so that we didn’t miss our connection), we didn’t wind up in touching down in Aguadilla until 5:00 a.m. Pretty much perfect for getting the rental car, driving to Rincon, stopping at the bakery for coffee (Punta Mar,  my personal favorite) and pulling up to Maria’s just as the sun started to sneak over the hills and light up the horizon.

Maria's, Rincon, PR February 02, 2015

There was a hightide at dawn, but as soon as it started backing out, Maria’s was ready to show off all of her goods.