By Arlene Castro
One family’s love for the water has taken them on an adventurous and unforgettable journey. Gary and Tina Aguilar enjoyed body boarding together long before their daughter was born. Little did they know just how far the waves might take their family. Angel’Lea is now eleven years old and with only a year and a half under her belt, she has accomplished goals that girls her age have yet to dream about or even fathom is possible.
The day before this interview, Angel’Lea had just competed in the swimming portion of a triathlon. She has competed in Hawaii twice. The first time was in June 2014 in the 18th Annual Uncle China Uemura Wahine Surfing Classic at Kuhio Beach in Hawaii. A few months later in October, she entered her second competition held in Kauai. Angel’Lea went with her Guam surfing team, the Hui Nalu Ocean Club, which was coached by Joe and Hidemi Villatora. The event was the 2nd Annual Bethany and Alana Keiki Classic. Two names might ring a bell. They are the two female professional surfers Bethany Hamilton and Alana Blanchard whose lives were portrayed in the inspirational movie “Soul Surfer.”
Not wanting to miss any opportunity to grace the waves of other lands, the Aguilar family don’t mind carrying the irregular baggage of surf gear on family vacations. In their travels, they have surfed the famous Waikiki waves, then to the colder West Coast waters of Huntington Beach, California, then back to the other side of the planet, in the neighboring waters of La Union, Philippines. Along the way, they met legendary surfer Pancho Sullivan, who is a well-known and respected surfer for his power-charged moves and style.
Hurricane conditions forced the postponement of the Bethany and Alana Keiki Classic competition, but the Guam team had the unexpected fortune of meeting famous pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton and having a personal moment with her in a private meeting. She signed the girls’ surfboards and gave advice on sharing the waters and waves with others, respecting the ocean, and making healthy choices in life.
Let the Good Times Roll
Both parents work in the public school education system which affords more bonding time. Talofofo Bay has been a consistent happening surf spot a lot longer than usual this year. The swells usually die out by late January or early February, but that hasn’t been the case going into April. As a result, many people and families have come out almost every weekend, spending their whole day at “TFF” Bay. Tina barbecues steak and caters to vegetarian and vegan parents by adding some asparagus and corn to the grill.
Angel’Lea comes out of the water for a quick bite. Her parents give the familiar advice: “Respect the ocean, always check the conditions before going out, listen to your Dad, respect the locals, and know your abilities and limits.”
Tina adds that it is important to learn from an experienced surfer, get the proper gear and materials, and participate in water safety training. The proper gear for body boarding usually involves board fins and a leash. For surfing: a surfboard leash, board wax, and for your skin, waterproof sunscreen.
Tina offers details on what water safety entails and where you can be trained. “They should be able to swim, tread water, learn to float with the current and waves, and try their best not to panic. The water is unpredictable at times because you just never know. The conditions literally can change while you’re in the water. You can get lessons at your local pool or with swim teams. For example, my daughter currently swims with Manhoben Swim Team which helps her tremendously with her comfort and safety in the water. You can also check with Hui Nalu Surf Club her coaches teach the kids surfing skills and water safety too.”
Tina Aguilar sees that surfing has taught her daughter the need for discipline and patience. She reminds her that there are still many more years to come to gain confidence and ability in bigger waves. Angel’Lea and her friends spend the day riding waves in the middle of the bay. When its time to leave, her mom gives one of the girls the signal. They beg for one more ride. Mom gives the okay, and afterward, all obediently carry their surfboards out the water.
Contact the following for surfing lessons and water safety training:
Lotus Surf Shop: (671) 649-0187
Northern Pool Complex: (671) 637-7665/7667
Hagatna Pool: (671) 472-8718/9
Photos provided by the Aguilar family.