Monday, August 18, 2014

An Interview with Crystal da Silva

My first memory of CJ is when I saw I had drawn her name in a heat at a Sun Diego surf contest in Oceanside. I didn't know her face or how she surfed or the warmness of her smile. All I knew was that she was to be feared in the contest scene because she had a crisp backhand attack and an amazing bottom turn. We had the same surfboard shaper, but had never met. Our shaper would tell me "She goes for the gold at the end of the rainbow."

My second memory of CJ is how she encouraged me to take a nicely lined up right, two minutes before our first heat together ended because she was going to go left. She came first that heat and I was third. We both advanced. The announcers howled "That was bold of Crystal, giving the competitor in yellow that right, but when you can crack an off-the-lip like that, you're not that worried!" What I didn't know at the time was that CJ didn't hear any of that.

It was a little while before I learned that Crystal was born deaf. We would lay our towels out next to each other and write messages in the sand. I would signal to her when the horn blew, signifying the start and end of heats, and how much time was left. I'll never forget how upset she was when I was given second place instead of the first place she thought I deserved at an event at Scripps Pier. 

CJ went on to win many contests. She moved to Hawaii and surfed big waves on the famous North Shore of Oahu. She met her husband and now has a two year old named Anela. I'm always stoked when I run into CJ, which I'm pretty much guaranteed to if I surf the harbor. When she was five months pregnant she began sewing swimwear as a hobby that quickly turned into a successful online shop. Check out CJ's swimwear and get to know her more in the interview below. I am so excited and honored to share this friend with you. 

What was your life like growing up?

My life was pretty normal as I went to regular public schools and college, but with interpreters. Most of my hearing friends would learn sign language for me or we gestured or wrote things down. I dated mostly hearing guys.

Tell us about your surfing roots. When did you start?
I started surfing in 2000 and joined the Carlsbad High School Surf Team in 2001 with many local talented surfers. I've surfed consistently ever since.

What did it feel like when you rode your first wave?
I remember I stood up on my first wave on a 6'1" in white wash for a few seconds in the middle of spring season. I practiced at the warm water jetty after school until I was ready to advance to Tamarack. I remember the many gnarly waves that broke between Tamarack and Maple Street. I had to be quick to catch waves in a crowd of wave hungry groms!

What is your experience like being a hearing-impaired surfer?
I think it was pretty much normal, like I've surfed in many contests. I can’t hear the horn so I have to look for the flags. Also it was a bit difficult in pro contests as I couldn’t hear the place I was in during the heat or what score wave I needed to advance. That was a bit of a disadvantage. When I surf local spots, I see mostly familiar faces and they wave or write in the sands.

Tell us more about your Etsy shop. What inspired you to start creating swimwear?
When I was pregnant with my daughter I felt creative. I stopped surfing after five months pregnant and decided to design attractive bikinis that stayed on in the surf. I opened my Etsy Shop a year later after my daughter Anela was born. This was a way for me to earn extra income as the job market can be difficult for those who don’t hear or speak.

What makes you happy?
My healthy family, the calm ocean and a clean house make me happy.

What’s your favorite food?
I try to eat mostly organic food. I love tempeh with rice and salad. I eat mostly Mexican food too. I love Pitaya Bowls for energy snacks as well.

What's your favorite surf spot?
Oceanside’s South Jetty or the middle of the harbor, Silver Strand and Oxnard is a favorite spot too.

What was the last gift you gave someone?
I gave a gift to a special friend before she had her heart surgery. She's doing well now.

What would you like to pass on to the surfers of the future?
Surf because it’s healthy, creative and a great stress reliever. Compete if you enjoy it, but the gift of free surfing is a wholesome lifestyle.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Being a mom and a wife is a really busy life, but worth it!

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us CJ! Don't forget to check out her shop: KalikalaCJ Swimwear 


  1. This is such a great interview! I'm so inspired by CJ's story, and she also seems like a really cool person. Can't wait to check out her shop!

  2. I love this. I've always been fascinated by deaf culture, and when I was a kid, I spent a majority of my quiet reading time in class learning ASL with a friend of mine. I wish my high school had offered ASL as part of the second language requirement. I love that CJ never let lack of hearing deter her from surf competitions. Has she ever felt like it was a safety issue to not be able to hear, like if another surfer was calling out to her in a dangerous situation?

    1. I wish I knew ASL too. As for your question, I'm not to ally sure, but I think that CJ relies on the strength of her other senses to stay safe in the lineup. Usually you can tell if someone is going to takeoff behind you, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise. Some people are just oblivious and some people are oblivious on purpose ;)

  3. Great photos, and a very inspirational story. I love to see success and I love stories of small creative businesses doing well. Good luck for the future CJ. From another CJ xx

  4. Congrats CJ! Great interview!

    Images 2 & 4 © Chris Grant / ;)

  5. Big smiles- great interview. (And bathing suits that stay put?! I'm there!)


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