Talks about the ocean, with Cami

Welcome! This is a series of interviews, well I’d rather call them talks, about experiences that people have shared with me and I’d like to transmit them just the way they told me. In this case it's about people connected to the ocean, who basically live their whole life in the water. One of them is Camilla Montironi, surfer and kite surfing as well as wing foil instructor:

How did you first get in touch with the ocean and water sports?

Well, where do I start… My parents, both of them, were into windsurfing, in fact my mother taught my father, and their trips were always about finding the right wind. So when my brother and I were born, that was what they brought us up with. My mother told me for example that I wasn't even two years old when I started swimming on my own. We were in Sardinia, and they were teaching my older brother to swim. Apparently I wanted to do the same as them, but of course they were busy with my brother, so I copied what they were doing and just swam. My mum said she couldn't believe it. And then my dad would either carry us between his legs on the windsurfing board or we would all stay in the water playing with the bodyboard. That's what our holidays were like. Even here at Oliva Beach. We always came and played in the water all together, first with the bodyboard and then later also with the surfboard. But always with my parents, we spent hours and hours in the water and had a ball. I've always loved the ocean and if I wasn't in the water, I wouldn't have fun.

So basically your parents brought you closer to the world of water sports since you were a little girl. Was there any moment, when you didn't really want to keep joining? I mean, sometimes children are sent to activities, let’s say ballet or football, the classics, for example, but really they only go to please their parents more than because they want to.

Well, when I was 13 or 14 years old, my parents started kiteboarding, which back then was a new sport. As there wasn't enough wind in my city for windsurfing they enjoyed kiteboarding much more and at some point my father started to teach it to me, too. Yes, that was very difficult for me, gosh, yes, very difficult. Because at that time the kite was very complicated, it had two lines and well, you know, technical stuff, and on top of that there was little wind. So for two years I was learning to kite, but it seemed more like a constant fight. Then, when my brother also started to join us, we had a good time. I really got into it and we started to go on kite holidays with the whole family. So yes, there was a period when I didn't want to learn this sport, but I got over it quickly. I even did a mini-competition myself, although there were very few of us women at the beginning. But it was a lot of fun. What was different, after kiteboarding, was six years ago, when I started to get into surfing, which I did because I really wanted to. At that time I got tired of kiting, and just wanted to surf. I started to do surf holidays with my friends, in Portugal and France. It was a different story. We also often went on the week-ends, for example to Tuscany, to surf, organize barbecues and just have a good time. If I think about it, basically all my life I traveled for the wind or the waves. The first time I went on a trip to visit a city was when I was 23!

Did you have any classmates who did windsurfing, kite surfing or surfing in school?

No, to be honest, I did feel a bit different. I had a lot of male friends who were in that world, but 20 years ago girls didn't kite, they did other things. Where I lived there was a group, well, two girls, who kite very well, but they weren't from my town. So I didn't have any other girls to go kiting with, for example. With the guys, yes, in fact, I started teaching them so we could enjoy it together. Also, with the girls for example, I would go on holidays, without kiting, and in the end I always stayed in the place, because I would ask if I could go kiting and met people so that in the end I could stay for the summer. Basically I went on holiday with my friends, they came back home and I stayed to kite. Nowadays, it’s different, there are more people doing water sports, and it's more normal.

Of course, in fact nowadays water sports are kind of trendy, I guess, and in your job you meet people every day who want to give it a try. Do you notice if your students sign up for the class because it's “cool” or because they really want to learn?

I always ask them, do you want to have an experience or do you really want to learn? Depending on their answer, I totally change the program. If you want to learn, you have to focus a lot on the basics to have a solid understanding of what you’re doing. If you want to do an experience, I can adapt the class, and we can also skip some technical details. But if you really want to learn, and you want to become independent, I have to teach you everything.

And people are honest about it when you ask?

Yes, and if not, I notice in the water. But now that I teach on my own, there are fewer people who come just for fashion. Before, when I was working on the boat, there were more clients who said things like: "Well I don't know what we are doing, I don't know what kite surfing is, I just want to try it. I'm in Fuerteventura, so I have to try". For me, it was crazy, because it's time, it's money, it's energy. It was like having kids there who want to try a new game and lose interest as soon as they start. But that happens in all the sports I guess, if you go to the mountains, with snowboarding for example, it's the same thing. Not everyone really wants to learn.

Talking about your work, has turning your passion into your job changed the way you live it? 

Well, the first time I tried to work as a kite instructor, I was 17 or 18 years old. At that time I had only started this sport 4 years ago, and it was the only one I was practicing back then, so I didn't really want to teach it. I tried, but I really didn't want to, because if you give kite lessons, there’s no time to go kiting yourself anymore. When it’s windy, you have to teach and when the season is over, and you don't have to work anymore, the summer is over and there is no more wind either. I only changed my mind when I started to get tired of kiting and got into wing foiling, which my parents also taught me. That was when I was actually ready to teach kite surfing. In the end I had always done so, even before, but to teach professionally is different and I needed to find a balance, which is what I like, and with something I do have to earn my money, right? So I thought, I’m not that bad at kite surfing, why not enjoy and work on something I know?

But it wasn't that easy. At the beginning when I was 18, that age when you choose what you want to do, I worked for a kite school. But I felt like working as a kite instructor wasn’t a good thing, like I was seen as "the girl who doesn't want to do anything, the surfer girl who just wants to be on the beach". To me, it seemed as if it was seen as something that had no value, as a profession. Maybe it wasn't actually like that, but that's how I felt. Back then, surfers were considered freaks, which you probably couldn’t even imagine now that society has changed so much and sees the world of surfing and all the watersports differently. To do my job, that actually gives me a bit more confidence.

And just surfing for pleasure, as your hobby, did you have the same impression?

No, not at all, in that context I didn’t care about what people said. I told you, when I was a kid, I didn't know what to do on the beach if I didn't play in the sea. Well, I also do a lot of sports on the beach, like beach volleyball, but it's always waiting for something to happen in the sea. Especially since I do different kind of watersports. So, when I feel like it and there's no wind I surf, when there are big waves I bodyboard, because I'm scared of surfing, when there's wind I wing and when there's wind and a lot of waves I kite. Sometimes I feel like I stay a little girl who plays in the water forever.

Talking about childhood, you said that when you went to school there weren't many kids into watersports, and even fewer girls. How would you explain to your childhood friends how you feel about the ocean?

I couldn't. I didn't even try at the time. We were probably the only family in San Marino that did water sports. How could they understand? Now that it's trendy, maybe yes, but at that time they couldn’t understand that the most important thing to me was playing in the sea, no matter how. When I broke my elbow for example and I couldn't do much so I used to go bodyboarding in the water, with friends who were surfing. For me, the water has something healing, something that helps me. Since I've been living here, though, maybe I've turned a bit into a princess and adapted to the attitude that when there’s no good conditions, I don’t go into the water. It bothers me a lot, so sometimes I remember the times before, put my wetsuit on and go to enjoy myself and have a good time. 

What do you mean with the times before, where are you from?

From San Marino, Riccione, and there the conditions are always shabby. I used to go for my sessions before work at 5 o'clock in the morning, but at work they didn't have to know because they didn't like it. I had to hide everything, my God. Now it's the other way round, I work all day in the water, which is a lot really. But I still feel like surfing some days or others like winging to just disconnect. For me, it's a mantra because I concentrate so much on what I'm doing that everything around me disappears. It has that effect. I think it has to do with my childhood, I always blame my parents. I grew up like that, by the sea, how did they think I could live in San Marino? My most magical memories are always of the beach and as I grow up, I remember those moments, because they make me happy. For me that's what it is, I feel good in the water, whereas on land, in a city, I feel lost. Maybe it’s too much input, too. It's like travelling the first time to a city, what I told you about. I liked it a lot, but yes, I was always missing something.

But you also do beach volleyball, which is on land and not in the water, does it also make you feel like that?

In a way yes, because after a while I have to jump into the water. And also in volleyball you are with friends and there are other conditions. Surfing is more solitary for example, and kite surfing again is more of a community sport. So there’s also a lot happening around the sports. Kite for example, I can do it alone, but I never go alone. It revolves more around the community, there's a nice atmosphere. All the people help each other. What happened to me in Italy for example, when you went with the surf group you only talked about surfing, with the kite group only about kite, I got a bit bored, but it's also normal.

Could you imagine living far from the sea or working in something else without being close to the sea?

No, I can't. I grew up in San Marino and left it because of that. The only time I went back for a year was when I broke my elbow and I couldn't do anything. That's when I realized it wasn't my place. I mean, if I couldn't choose where to live, ok, it’s fine. But if you let me choose, no, no, thanks. Nor would living next to a lake be the same as living next to the sea. As I said before, I think in the end it's thanks to my parents, because they are in a club, in Riccione, where they do everything from sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing. And when we were little there were a lot of families there, so a lot of children too, and in the summer we all grew up together. It seems more like a consequence of my family's way of life, the reason why I became fond of the sea and watersports.

Well, but regardless of that, not all children follow the paths their parents set out for them. As you said, it happened to you with kiting initially. In your case, it's not like that, because you're still in the water.

Yes, that's true. My brother actually quit kiting. Well, it's not that he gave it up, but he chose to travel more to other places, to the mountains, to the city. I'm practically always at sea, even on holidays. I always go kiting or surfing. His girlfriend sometimes asks me if I don't get tired and why I don't do something else on holiday. But I go to the sea and surf because it's my holiday and when I work I can't go to the water much just to enjoy myself, so that's what I want to do on my holidays. I feel a bit bored, but in the end it's what I like to do, and I've also seen a lot of places thanks to that.

In fact, with my brother, I remember a very nice situation. Once when I went to Italy, and it was windy, he told me to go on the water and I didn't feel like it. But he insisted, he said "Let's go to the water, there IS wind!" And it was me, him and my father because my mother had other things to do. We were in the water together having fun and it was super nice. But yeah, he experiences this sport differently. Like when you go to play paddle once a week with your friends. Me, if I don't go to the water, I feel bad. I feel something different inside me. Maybe it's not a good thing, maybe I need a psychologist. For example, when I broke my elbow, I spent a year in Italy working a lot to recover, because it didn't get better. In the end my osteopath said: "Cami, go surfing. No more physiotherapy, that's it. Go surf."  So I went and recovered quickly. The games our mind plays with us are incredible…

So would you say that there is such a thing as a special attraction to the sea? Or maybe it’s even a kind of addiction.

Yes, maybe it’s like an addiction to being happy. Where do I feel good? In the ocean! So why not feel good all the time? Sounds logical, doesn't it? I never thought about it like that. But for example, when you see a grown up doing the first kite edge, you see a smile that is super special. For me, that's what attracts people, they become children again in the water, and it seems like we are all the same. When I'm in the water, I'm happy! Yes, I enjoy the ocean no matter what, with fins, with a board, with a sail. Well, I've also done 10 years of synchronized swimming, so I feel comfortable in the water and never in danger or anything. Maybe that’s a problem to have no sense of danger, in fact on land it’s the opposite, when skateboarding for example. I literally fear the ground, because it's hard, you break everything and get hurt.

When you say that you are happy in the water, you mean the ocean, because you said that even a lake doesn't work for you. Where is the difference for you?

I don't know, it's that unpredictable side of the ocean, every day is different, it's never the same, you have to adapt and flow with whatever comes. The lake, I don't know, it's not the same for me. In the ocean, I have to adapt my brain to what I'm experiencing. Sometimes it feels like I'm getting scratched, because I don't know why I can't flow with what the sea brings me, but at the same time I learn. That's why I like it, I always learn something, which is great. For me, learning is something magical that nourishes me, even the learning experience of other people. Everyone is different, everyone has their own timing. That's what I learn from too, from people who are afraid for example. But when it comes to surfing, I could never teach it.

Is surfing the only thing you don't teach?

Yes, because I want to enjoy it myself. Because I love surfing and don’t want it to be ruined by anything. For me, kite surfing is like a game that I’ve been playing since I was very young. I really wanted to learn surfing, and kite, well, in the end I wanted to learn it too, but it's not like I asked my father "Can I try that?”. For surfing instead, I went on holiday to Portugal for two weeks just to figure out how to surf. Probably because I'm addicted to the waves. Like here, one day in Cotillo there were huge waves and I started bodyboarding, which I'm less afraid of when it's big. Yes, with everything I get into the waves, it makes me feel like a child. So far I have kept surfing as a hobby and I don't want to ruin it, with competitions for example, or by having to do it every day as an obligation. Kitesurfing, if I wanted to, I could try to do it in a competition with a sponsor, but even so, I don’t want it to become competitive, I want to enjoy it. In the end, these sports, they lose their spark if you don't know how to differentiate that. Now, working as an instructor, I'm trying to find a way to avoid losing the motivation for my hobbys in the water. So when my parents come, I take my holidays and I always go into the water with them. That's how I remind myself why I like it so much. Otherwise, sometimes I don't feel like going back in the water after working. But yes, I hope to keep surfing until I'm 80, because there's no age to enjoy nature like that.

Thank you very much Cami!



Header, Photo 2, 4 by Giulia Parise

Photo 1 by I Sea You Photography

Photo 3, 5, 6 by Cami's Family