Brooklyn-based surfer Thaniya Keereepart got her first taste of the sport in Morocco during a week-long trip to a tiny town called Tagazhout, which she later learned is one of the top spots to surf in Africa. “I’ve always been fascinated by how surfing intersects between lifestyle, agility, and grace,” says Keereepart, who grew up in Bangkok where she considered becoming a competitive swimmer until a near-drowning experience at the age of nine instilled in her a deep fear of the water. The incident took place at Hua Hin, a beach resort town in Thailand on the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. “I was stranded in the middle of the ocean alone. I will never forget the moment of panic. Something in me told me to just keep moving. One stroke at a time. Yet with every stroke forward, the tide kept pulling me back out. I lost consciousness,” she recounts. Well, Keereepart obviously made it back to shore, but it would be more than twenty years before she would enroll in surf camp in Morocco. “I did it to conquer my fear of the ocean,” she says.
Since then, Keereepart, who works as a Product Development Director at TED, has surfed New York, California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Ecuador, Brazil, and Morocco, but her favorite destination is Nicaragua. “I just returned from a trip to the north Pacific side and it blew my mind,” she says, speaking of Playa Santa Maria, a sleepy town dotted with peanut farms and with a welcome absence of tourist facilities and direct buses. “I like solitude and I go far to attain it. There’s not a single soul in the water there. The water’s warm. And the waves are these great, consistent rollers on sandy volcanic beach. I almost don’t want to tell anyone about it. It’s that good.”
As for hairy experiences? “I think what constitutes a bad experience almost always involves people with awful attitudes. Sure, you might have gotten pummeled by the largest monster wave that pins you down in the abyss for longer than you care to recall. Sure, you might have seen death in the face and barely escaped it. But that’s part of the learning process. It’s when you’re new to a spot and you swim up to what normal people would call a “free world” and you run into aggro surfers who act like it’s their own personal playground — that’s when it sucks. I’ve had that happen to me a few times in NYC, probably less than normal because I’m a girl, but it still sucks nonetheless.”
Name: Thaniya Keereepart
Where do you live: Brooklyn, New York
Years surfing: 7
Surfing is: “An irrational passion. I do it because I’m addicted to the feeling of being one with that one wave during that one moment that can never be repeated again. Everything that precedes it, everything that will come after it, melts away. You are one with the present. You seized it.”
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