Raised in Columbia, Maryland by an Indian father and German mother, it’s a surprise that Gita Dhir ever found her way to surfing. Now the sporty, brown-eyed beauty says, “Wherever I can find a wave, if I have a board, I’ll get on it.”

Her first attempt at surfing took place in Ocean City, Maryland when she was 18. “I had a boyfriend who gave me a huge foam board with no leash. I had no core strength and it was exhausting because the distance between the shore and the break was immense, and I had to keep swimming after my board.”

She soon got the hang of it, and when she moved to Virginia Beach, she admits she became almost fanatical about it. “I’d surf during hurricanes. Sometimes it was just crazy pants out there,” says Dhir, a physical therapist now based in O’ahu. “One year, I decided to surf every month of the year, including February. The water was so frigid, I felt like I was having a stroke. When I came out of the ocean, I was seeing colored spots everywhere. I was half a step away from hypothermia.”

Dhir has surfed warm waters, too, including San Diego, California, Montauk, Long Island in the summer and Dominical, Costa Rica, but she loves surfing in her newly adopted home – Hawaii. “White Plains beach in Oahu is awesome,” she says. “I was surfing there one morning and could see a storm in the distance. It was misty and the rain skipped over us, but left behind the fattest, most vivid rainbow I’ve ever seen. It was magical.”

As for any scary moments in the water, Dhir recalls one incident which shook her while she was surfing in Virginia Beach: “It was 9/11 and we’d all been sent home early. I needed something good to happen to me because it was such an awful day; we were so numb and shocked. We got into the water and the waves had the calming effect I was looking for. All of a sudden, I saw a fin charging towards me. I paddled for shore as fast as I could. Turns out, there were four sharks. I didn’t get back into the water for 8 months.”

Dhir, now the mother of a 4-year-old named River, describes herself “as a perennial beginner who can catch a lot of waves.” While she was once quite the daredevil – and still plans to surf the inside break of Waimea Bay on the North Shore of O’ahu one day – she’s a bit more cautious now. “Now that I’m a mom, I don’t want to risk my life or break my neck,” she says. “There was a time when I would surf anything.”

Name: Gita Dhir

Age: 47

Where do you live:  O’ahu, Hawaii

Years surfing: 29 years.

Surfing is: “Freedom. Escape. Relaxation and mind-clearing. Sometimes it’s the only way I can get away from myself; when I am able to let go of everything.”

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