Girl On: CJ SotoSep 16 2007 / Los Angeles, CA
Nothing's stopping this surfer from living her dream.
If you catch CJ Soto on the waves it's obvious she knows how to cut them up. What might not be so apparent is that she's deaf -- but don't count on that to slow her down. She still has mad skills and a strong spirit.
The 23-year-old from Carlsbad, CA has been surfing since high school and traveled the world for her sport, including competitions on Volcom Stone's Blowfish Surf Series.
Lat34 conducted an interview with Soto over email and found out more about her career and what drives her in a sport that so many love but so few can master.
Lat34: How did you start surfing?
CJ: When I was a Sophomore in High School, I decided that I wanted to be a competitive surfer so I practiced 250 out of 365 days that year. In the year 2000, my Junior/Senior years of High School, I was on the surf team and I started surfing seriously in contests.
Lat34: It may not be obvious to those who see you surf, but you are deaf -- how has that affected your being able to compete?
CJ: Professional contests are very difficult for me because the scoring is announced live and I never know what place I'm in and whether I need a low or high scoring wave to catch up. Contests that don't announce scores out loud are fine. I feel equal to everyone else I just have to make sure to pay attention to the flags so that I don't get an interference for catching a wave before or after the horn. The other girls often times signal to me when to start. We are all friends!
Lat34: Have you been able to develop friendships with other surfers?
CJ: I've met so many friendly surfers around the world and meet a lot of new faces almost everyday. Everyone is so willing to find a way to communicate by gesturing, writing or using sign language. Most of us know each other out in the water and in contests. When I travel and meet people from other countries, they often times don't speak English either so they are used to finding other ways to communicate.
Lat34: What is your best move and what do you want to work on some more?
CJ: So far, my best move is a cutback and I want to work on more powerful, smooth cutbacks.
Lat34: Who has inspired you the most to go after your dreams?
CJ: Julia Christian, she was from my High School, She is two years older than I am. She was doing a lot of travels during her Senior year and I wanted to be able to travel a lot like her. I've been to many exotic spots lately like Indonesia, Japan, Dominican Republic, Panama, down the complete coast of Mexico, Portugal, to name a few.
Lat34: What do you like to do when you're not surfing?
CJ: Exercise, socialize with friends, go out dancing, make jewelry and I'm taking a floral design class and I work in a day care center with children under 5.
Lat34: Do you do any other sports?
CJ: I'm involved with a lot other things like ballet, jazz, jogging, carveboarding, swimming, golfing, yoga. I just completed my AA degree in Dance.
Lat34: You were just at the ASR tradeshow… How did that go?
CJ: I was there to visit my team managers. They like us to walk around in their clothing, shoes, etc.. I saw the Osiris Girls team managers Kristi & Kim. I haven't seen them in a while. Some of my other team managers weren't there because it was Sunday. I'm also on the Vonzipper, RawSkin Surf Shop, Point Conception Swimwear, and On a Mission surf teams. Sunday was only day that I could go because I had to work on Friday and attend my grandma's funeral on Saturday. She was 90!
Lat34: Do you have any pet peeves?
CJ: I have a few. I move really fast so, I get annoyed when people move too slowly. I'm tryin to work on stopping to smell the roses. Also car exhaustion and cigarette smoke annoy me.
Lat34: What are your favorite places to travel and why?
CJ: So far, my favorite place to travel is Bali because it's so inexpensive to stay in a five-star hotel and shop but most of all the surf spots are like heaven. It's paradise, the locals and the surf.
Lat34: What was your worst wipeout while surfing?
CJ: On a big day at Velzyland on the North Shore of Oahu I snagged a reef and gashed my wrist. I didn't recognize how deep it was until I got out. It's a good thing a shark didn't get me because I did it when I was paddling out but I stayed out because it was during a photo shoot. When I came in, my photographer told me to go straight to the hospital because I was gushing with blood. They wanted me to stay out of the water for two weeks and get stitches. I refused so they glued me so I could surf the next day.
Lat34: Where would you like to go that you haven't been?
CJ: Maldives & India. Hopefully, I'll make it to Maldives in Spring '08!
Lat34: What advice would you have for any girls out there that might think that they can't become a professional surfer for any reason?
CJ: If you want to become a professional at anything you have to focus and practice. You have to put your heart and soul into it. Most of all you better learn to lose and try again because you will experience a great deal of loss before you succeed but when you persevere it's worth it!
- Greg Baerg