Photography wasn’t Ale Romo’s initial plan. Growing up in Mexico, she had a lifelong passion for the art form and studied it at university, but the “perfect dream” was always to be an exec at a publicity agency.
But once she had her dream job, she felt unfulfilled. She needed something more in her life, so ten years ago, she quit and took up travel and surf photography instead. As her stunning images show, she made the right choice.
Travelling the world surfing completely changed her direction. After moving to Europe, she began volunteering at Surfrider Foundation Europe. After being exposed to her “true desires”, she moved from Barcelona to San Sebastian to be closer to killer surf and finally embraced her lifelong passion for photography.
Her latest series, Of Waves, Surfers and Wanderlust, captures the freedom of surf culture and the people who go with their heart, leave the nine-to-five behind and embrace it. Getting the ball rolling with a trip to Nicaragua, her wanderlust-inducing images document years of travel and scores of meetings with a diverse crowd of interesting people.
She hopes the collection will inspire more people to follow her example and leave the office life behind, but most of all, empower women to free themselves of fear and feel confident to travel the world alone.
Huck caught up with Romo to chat about her new collection and why we all need to live in the moment.
What are you trying to say with Of Waves, Surfers and Wanderlust?
This expo is a collection of travels I’ve been doing since I left my office job. It showcases how I see the world traveling in search of waves, as well as the people I’ve met on my way. These are magic moments for me near the ocean, and they just happened because I dared to leave my comfort zone.
I’ve received a few emails from people that write to me, telling me they’re quitting their jobs to pursue their dreams, and the first thing they do is go to the places I’ve been showcasing. I honestly can’t be more stoked, and that’s why my blog is called From Where You’d Rather Be.
My pictures are more focused on the vibe of this way of traveling. I’m not an action photographer, and I don’t want to do that. I want to capture the romantic side of surfing.
You’ve said that you want to inspire others, particularly women, with your work. Where does that drive come from, and what sort of effect do you want to have?
Surfing, although a very special and incredibly natural experience, is also a very macho sport. Surf travelling attracts a certain kind of person, and after eight years doing it I’ve met tons of guys traveling in big groups, but very few girls – I realised that they were afraid of traveling by themselves, afraid of going out of their comfort zones, afraid of doing something different and in general a lot of them are just stereotyped.
Women need to empower, women need to change and actually be best friends with other women. We are our own worst enemy and it is crazy how we keep assuming and reinforcing so many macho attitudes imposed upon us.
For me, traveling is one of the best experiences you can have. It allows us to ask ourselves about our world and develop our awareness of our everyday actions and our life in general. Through my photography, I just want to encourage people (especially women) to travel by themselves and to explore the world as a way of exploring ourselves.
Personally, I’ve meet so many inspiring women traveling around the world and you wouldn’t believe their stories! Thanks to this, I began recently to organise surf & yoga retreats in collaboration with them, trying to offer a unique experience of self-consciousness, bonding and fun while we travel together as a tribe. Honestly, the main purpose is to see more daring women out there living their life by purpose and not by default. I want to have women around me questioning their lives and changing their roles in every aspect of society.
What is it about surfing that makes it such a draw for photographers, do you think?
Most photographers that capture surfing are surfers themselves. To capture a perfect moment you must be more than familiar with the environment. Photographing surfing requires you to know the manoeuvres, and anticipate to the surfer’s movements and reactions.
To surf is to live in the moment. Why? Because if you’re not 100% there you won’t be able to accomplish anything, have fun… and not hurt yourself! All the waves are different and it all happens in a few seconds, so you must connect with your body and be present. It is a great connection with nature. It teaches you to be humble, to be patient and respect the mother ocean. The moments a surfer connects this way are tremendously special and for most of us is the perfect way to shut out the inner demons in our hectic lives.
I think what is compelling about photographing surfers is that those moments are a constant reminder of our own experiences in the ocean. We feel the surfer’s every moment, celebrating their turns and suffering with them during all their wipeouts. We just want to share with everyone that very precise moment of magic.
What were some of the highlights of your travels for this project?
The first winter I spent in Nicaragua – I just adore those pictures. Also the times I’ve been at surf competitions; it is just amazing to witness how the pros do what they do. Also, last year when I photographed for a little movie with Swiss surfer Alena Ehrenbold, which was the first time she caught big waves. She’s just a very compelling woman and my personal hero!
Check out more of Ale Romo’s photography.