Three of the worlds most empowered women are children from a fishing village in Nicaragua
Surfing Pipeline, Waimea and Mavericks, before they’re old enough to drive, the Resano sisters are doing something the world has never before seen
There is a rumor floating around the surf world about a big wave surfer from Argentina who launches his three, crying, diaper-clad daughters into massive waves and then yells at the other surfers to back off should they attempt to rescue the girls from certain death in the impact zone.
Could the rumor be true?
And then one day I was sitting in the line up at Waimea Bay, trying to psych myself up to paddle for one of the biggest waves of my life, when I heard a man shouting in Spanish. I turned my head to see the man and a tiny girl, wearing a bright green spring suit, paddling directly for the incoming set wave. Just as the wave started to crest the man shouted, “DALE” (“Go!” in Spanish) as he gave the girl’s board a push. OMG it’s true! I thought to myself as I watched the girl, less than have my age and weight, nail the drop, lean into her rail and gracefully sweep through a screaming bottom turn.
I learned this family was from Popoyo, Nicaragua where I would soon be headed to stay at Malibu Popoyo Boutique Surf Resort. I had a surf trip coming up to write a surf guide for the area. I knew this was one interview I had to get!
Dad Knows Best
“I want them to be engineers,” their Dad tells me. “If they plan to make their livings as pro athletes they’re in the wrong sport. I want them to go to American Universities and get good jobs.” Dad, Manuel “Manny” Resano doesn’t seem like the type of father that forces crying girls to surf.
I don’t push them now, not when it comes to big waves. That’s serious. They need to decide for themselves if they want to go out”
As we toasted a post-surf cold Toña I just I couldn’t picture this guy throwing screaming, diaper clad children down the face of waves the size of houses. He laughed when I asked him about this rumor.
“No, that definitely never happened.” The girls; now ages 10, 13 and 15, confirmed they have been surfing before modesty necessitated a bathing suit top, or even a bottom for that matter. All four agreed that Dad did encouraged them to push their comfort zones when they were young. They laughed as they told me about the time they tried to use the family pet rabbit as an excuse not to go out.
The girls appreciate the encouragement
“When we saw waves were pumping we tried to tell our dad we needed to turn around and go home because we forgot to feed the bunny that morning” The girls giggled. But they all certainly agreed they were grateful for all the effort their father had made to stretch their comfort zones.
“I used to encourage them surf when I knew they would be fine. But I don’t push them now, not when it comes to big waves. That’s serious. They need to decide for themselves if they want to go out.”
Surfing big waves
And when it comes to deciding whether to paddle out at second reef Pipe, well, The Resano sisters would go! The oldest, 15-year-old Valentine “Val”, was sporting a fresh scar over her right eye where she got five stitches after meeting the reef at the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu just a couple of weeks before our interview.
“It wasn’t that big of a day, just like a small pipe day,” Val told me.
I stopped her, “Wait, how big was ‘not that big’?”
“Just like, double over head,” replied the poised young lady who weighs all of 105 pounds (48kg).
It wasn’t that big, just a small Pipe day…Just like, double overhead.”
Val was disappointed because she couldn’t compeat the next day in the Women’s Pipe Pro. But little sister, 13-year-old Candelari “Cande”, was able to represent the family in her sister’s absence.
Cande played it cool about the contest but I wanted dets! “Ok girl, name drop a little,” I asked Candelaria. “Who else was in the competition?”
“Oh just some other girls like Jamilah Star, Bethany Hamilton, Melanie Bartels, Gabriela Bryan”
Candelaria took third place. I assumed this was in her age group. Nope, there was no grom division. She took third place in the Women’s Open.
What is the motivation?
I was still mildly curious about the rumor. Like some russian child prodigy, were these girls forced to surf more than they really wanted to? So I ask them straight out, “Do you ever surf when you don’t want to?”
They are quick to respond in the affirmative but Val is just as quick to add “It’s important to surf every day to stay in shape and keep your rhythm.” And Candelaria is so eager to speak that she cuts her sister off,
“Sometime you just aren’t feeling it but once you go out there and you get a good wave you’re always stoked!”
On being little girls
The girls admit, like myself and and pretty much every woman who’s ever surfed, they definitely have had tears in the water when they get frustrated with themselves. “But you just try something a little easier, change it up a little. It’s not like you have to do that turn every time.” Solid advice that I tuck away for myself from a 13-year-old.
Ok, it was clear the girls can surf. That was obvious from the hour I spent photographing them surfing, or should I say ruling, their home break of Popoyo Nicaragua. Peak after peak was split by either two sister or father and a daughter. I almost forgot I was watching children as I snapped away on my camera. But it was impossible to forget how young they were as I watched them suck down sodas and goof around with their friends after the session.
At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to turn such a big board but Hawaii’s power recompenses for the length of the board.”
I was impressed with their surfing so much so that I started asking them questions about topics I wanted to know more about for my own personal growth as a surfer. Personally, I struggle with finding the right board so I began to press them on board design.
“When I’m testing a board I try to notice the small details.” Cande helped me to understand. “Sometimes, for example, I’m having trouble with the board because its not turning well. So I ask the shaper for a wider tail or a little more rocker. Sometimes I need more paddle power so I get my boards a little thicker or wider.”
Then I ask a stupid question, “Do you prefer a gun vs. a shortboard?”
“I prefer whatever is right for the wave,” is the response that puts me back in my place.
“For big waves it’s not so much about your size. It’s a certain board for a certain wave. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to turn such a big board but Hawaii’s power recompenses for the length of the board.” Say 85 pound Candelaria.
(And yes, this girl, who’s first language is Spanish, really did use the English word recompense. To be honest, I had to look it up to be sure she used it correctly. She did, BTW).
At Waimea Candela rides a 9’1” Lopez and Val rides a 9’6″ Bushman. Both shapers noticed the girls this winter and agreed to loan them boards. After seeing the girls charging, the shapers became so stoked they agreed to make them brand new customs for next winter. Val says she has her fingers crossed for next season on the North Shore where she hopes to receive an invite to the Red Bull Queen of the Bay event, which is held in the fall at Waimea if the right conditions converge.
The girls all ride by CheBoards out of Costa Rica when they are not on North Shore guns. All three have multiple sponsors and the older girls are team riders with Volcom.
I asked Val about the most scared she’s ever been and she tells me a story about surfing with “all those gnarly guys like Billy Kemper and Nathan florence.” She said the swell was so big that day that the horizon was going dark on the sets. She also told me about a 10-12 foot (Hawaiian size) day where she was the only female out at Pipeline when the second reef was breaking.
Surfing Pipeline as a Woman, *ehem*, Girl
“Don’t you get sketched out surfing such an aggressively male dominated wave?” I ask in amazement. Val says yes, but also that the boys help her a lot. Tamayo Perry became her mentor, helping her with where to sit in the line up and encouraging her to go. “When he says go, the others back off and you have to go!”
When he says go, the others back off and you have to go”
Equal pay from the WSL
I started ticking off boxes in my head that any legit professional would be able to hit – They rip, they have a thorough command of board knowledge, but what about surf culture?
All the girls work just as hard. The flights aren’t any cheaper. The hotel rooms don’t cost less.”
“Are you girls aware of what’s going on politically with women’s big wave surfing?” I asked the two older girls. (10-year-old Maxima was still out in the line up –alone– enjoying a few 4 foot hawaiian waves all to herself without her father or her wave-hungry older sisters).
“Oh yeah, I think it’s so awesome that women are getting equal pay, Bianca (Valenti) is one of my heros.” Cande shoots right back. But quickly ads, “Although I think if they are going to get equal pay there should be the same about of women as the men in the competition. They men have more people to beat out, so it makes sense they should get more.” She articulates perfectly an argument many adults have been having regarding this exact issue. But Val is quick to disagree with her little sister.
“Girls don’t get as much support. Until the pay is the same there won’t be as many women competing.” Another valid point, I think to myself.
“You shouldn’t surf if you’re doing it for the money.” Cande intelligently counters her older sister.
Meanwhile I have no time to think for myself. I’m so caught up in the debate between these two eloquently spoken young women. Val is quick to come up on the rebut.
“It’s not about the money. All the girls work just as hard. The flights aren’t any cheaper. The hotel rooms don’t cost less.”
I am speechless. I have to consult my notes to come up with my next question.
Go to university or become a pro surfer?
“So do you girls think you’ll go to college?” The response is instantaneous and might as well have come with “duh” attached to it.
“Oh yeah, of course!”
“But do you want to be on the CT? Are you the next Caroline (Marks)?” I ask.
“Of course I want to be on the CT,” says Cande, “Who doesn’t.”
The idea of college OR professional surfing has never crossed the mind of these girls. For them, if pro surfing is an option, the answer is BOTH. And these girls are so smart and so talented the idea of both is totally believable.
Val tells me that since they are both Nicaraguan and Spanish citizens (there mom is from Spain) they can go to college in Europe for free. Dad is quick to add that he prefers they get a good education from a reputable American University.
Fame and the pressure of social media
The girls are under no illusion that fame could ever bring them any real, lasting happiness. They made it clear that they surf for the love of the waves and for no other reason.
Val explains to me that it’s a lot of work to be a pro, not just in the waves. She says keep up with social media is a lot of work. She admits she’s seen others grow their following by succumbing to the pressure to be sexy for the camera, but she’s not into it. Then Val has a good laugh as she says, “Meanwhile I watch my followers drop every day I don’t post something.” Then cracks the funniest joke I’ve heard all day. “I just lost another 100 followers while I was out surfing!”
Fan-Girling a little
I have to admit I was a little disappointed when the interview ended. After a solid forty minutes of answering every one one of my questions under the relentless Nicaraguan heat, some friends of the girls wanted to play with them. I had to let them return to being little girls again. I could have hung out with these beautiful young ladies all day.
The next generation of empowered women is on fire!
By the way, keep your eyes on youngest sister Maxima, she might be the spunkist one of all and could just be the dark horse of the bunch. Only time will tell. No matter what, these girls have a bright future.
This family left me with so much hope, knowing there is a generation of young ladies with that much confidence and intelligence rising up. It will be amazing to watch as the Resano sisters set a worldwide example of what an empowered woman looks like!
You can follow the girls on Faceboook,
Follow Val on Instagram,
Follow Cande on Instagram .
Dad says Maxima is too young for an Instagram account!