Meet surfer Sonia Ziani, seaside local from Zarautz with Basque roots and an African soul. Read her view on culture, keeping fit and competition in the water.
photos: Ritxi Goya & Gabi Aymat
Sonia Ziani is a surfer and seaside local from Zarautz. We met by coincidence: posting a photo on Instagram of a girl with curly black hair looking out on surf spot Lafitenia, France. Her favourite break as it turned out. She recognized herself and that’s how we became ‘Insta friends’. Sonia’s born in Zarautz, but using the Instagram name ‘African Soul’.
“My parents are Moroccan. I was born in Spain and raised in a Muslim family. I always have been caught between two cultures. Where is my real ‘home’? My heart is divided between two continents. I live here but I have an African soul also… “
The culture combination gave Sonia the best of both. The perfect thing about the Basque culture? Going out with your ‘kuadrilla’ (close friends) for pintxos! And in Morocco; the strong sense of family, community and traditional lifestyle. Even more inspiring that, despite cultural traditions, she’s succeeded in making her living doing what she loves. From checking the webcam and forecast from her bed as soon as she wakes up, to catching the surf news before she falls asleep, Sonia’s life revolves around surfing. She works for Pukas Surf – the Basque company of surf; boards, shops and schools. Pukas provides her with all the right material to test and choose the right boards for her. When not surfing or working Sonia goes running:
“I love the mountains. I love feeling free on the hills and spend hours walking or running and listening to music. My favourite is hiking the Mount Ernio (the highest point of a massif near Zarautz, ILtS) followed by a good lunch at Euskalduna Taberna”.
The mountains are not just a good place to look out for incoming swell; Sonia’s surf-fitness is important with the increasingly high level of competition in the water.
“There are more girls in the water and more girls focusing on surfing and wanting to build their life next to the surf. There’s already many good competitive girls, like Ainara Aymat and Nadia Erostarbe. Young, powerful women focused on good stylish surfing. I train with Ibon Amatriain (well-known big wave rider) and we do many stability activities… he always keep us fit!”
Her favourite local surf spot: Lafitenia;
”I can’t describe why I love this spot so much, the place where this wave breaks, and the feeling of taking one long right… everything!” Lafitenia’s a popular spot, but Sonia doesn’t feel intimidated: ”It’s crowded but I love it. You can always catch good waves if you know where you have to be in the line-up.”
Sonia’s advice for visiting surfers:
“Crowds aren’t that bad, depending where you go and the time of year. During summer it’s difficult to find an empty line-up – most beaches are crowded and waves are small. But as winter arrives you have better chance to surf less crowded waves, with better quality in terms of size… Water will be getting colder, be prepared! In terms of ocean awareness, just use your common sense, be honest with yourself and your surfing level. Don’t try to prove something to others and run a risk.”
On local surfers:
“In general they’re not a big issue. Always be respectful and don’t try to take all the waves. Like everywhere, learn to wait your turn, be gentle. With a positive, respectful attitude you’ll always be welcome.”
And when it comes to life, her advice is to fight! Wait, what?:
“Fight for what you want, don’t step back, and always look forward. Surf, laugh, love and respect the others, no matter where they come from or where you are. You don’t know their struggle. Respect them.”