Cori Schumacher is a young California surfer who just happened to win the Pipeline Pro. But just below the competitive surface, she is a profound and deep individual. We got the opportunity to talk to Cori and take a closer look at that amazing energy.
What was it like growing up in California?
Growing up in California—after being born at home on California Street in Huntington Beach, CA—was all flip-flops, bathing suits and long hair. My parents, my sister and I were constantly at the beach. There was rarely a time when my bed did not have sand in it. We’d pack my dad’s truck full with surfboards, long and short, wetsuits, skateboards, umbrellas, submarine sandwiches and Doritos and hang at the beach all day on the weekends. We would surf, skate, surf—then walk to 7–11 to buy Slurpees, Charleston Chews, Snickers and Butterfinger when we would surf Cardiff. When we would make the summer trek to San Onofre, my sister and I would build forts in the bamboo and search for treasures in the bushes.
During the weekdays, if we didn’t get to the beach, my sister and I would play outside, challenging the neighbor boys to games of street hockey or hide ‘n’ seek. One of our favorite games was pretending to surf down the cul-de-sac on our skateboards. I got in trouble quite often for not making it in before the streetlights came on.
When did you get your first surfboard?
My parents bought me my first board, a blue and yellow single-fin softboard, when I was 5 years old.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I remember feeling very comfortable on my first couple of waves. The first time I caught a “green face wave,” I felt pure exhilaration. I still get this feeling occasionally. I can’t predict when it will happen. It has happened during contests and during random surf sessions.) But it is a feeling that rises in pulses from the base of my spine and curls up over my head. It’s like runner’s high on steroids.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young girl?
When I was a young woman, the female surfers I admired most were Rell Sunn, Lisa Andersen and my mom, Jeannette Prince. I also had a thing for Jane Austen, Helen Keller and Mary Lou Retton. I loved and looked up to my father, Craig Schumacher, as well and soaked up everything he said and did, whether it was construction, philosophy or surf-related.
As my world expanded beyond school and surfing, I began to incorporate role models from outside of surfing, women like Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou, who rose above societal barriers with their own unique recipes of grace and courage. I had, and still have, a weak spot for tortured artists, so I ravenously consumed books by and about Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Arthur Rimbaud. I found Walt Whitman and The Beats satisfying beyond recompense and devoured, over and over, their shared dharma—bums though they were.
To this day, women and men who challenge the status quo, and dare to step beyond the limitations established by their peers and society-at-large are those I admire most; specifically those who understand that black and white vision eclipses the rainbow of diversity that is the promise of change. What can come of embracing change but knowledge? Those who dare embrace change, or who are themselves change, are those I want at my hearth, sharing stories with me when the night falls.
What was it like to win Women’s Pipeline Pro? How did you prepare for it?
Winning the Pipeline Pro was a tremendous moment in my life. There are a lot of nerves going when you have to surf a contest. Multiply this by a wave like Pipe and the tension was nearly too much to bear. Every morning we would wake early to surf before the event started, only to be told that the contest would be held off. The waiting period seemed to go on forever. The tension would build, then I would have to find some way to release it. Running, yoga, rock climbing—anything to release the buildup of energy.
There have been few moments in my life where I have committed so utterly to something outside of myself. I trained for months before this event, harder than I have trained in my life. Donald Takayama shaped me a special board that I ended up loving. I surfed a bunch in Australia before heading to Hawaii and was lucky enough to get a couple of really large days under my belt before they ran the contest. I also had a good crew of people surrounding me (Maria Cerda, Ashley Lloyd and Leah Dawson) who were integral to the health of my emotional and mental landscape.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
The one place that stands out the most is Tahiti. My dear friends, Kelly Sloan, Jaime Lagardere and I went on a surf trip when we were 17, 14 and 16, respectively. This was our first big trip away from home. We went to Tahiti first and stayed with local host families who had kids who also surfed. While Jamie had it made in a home with windows, doors and hot water showers, Kelly and I ended up being lodged in homes that had no windows, mildewy mattresses and cold bucket-showers. But it didn’t matter. We surfed in the rain, ate bizarre chunks of meat and avocado the size of our heads. We drank too much Tahitian jet fuel (giving me the first hangover of my life but not the worst—that would be a week later in Indo), got stung by sniper mosquitoes and met our first transsexual.
It was the best trip of my life. Not only was I with my two dearest friends, but we were embedded in the lives of these people for nearly a week and a half. No one could speak each other’s languages, but somehow we managed to learn the worst possible Tahitian and French words in either language. Jamie, Kelly and I still sometimes greet each other using profane vernacular from that trip. Everyone cried when it was time to leave. It didn’t matter what we did or didn’t have in the homes we stayed in; it was about the relationships we formed while we lived with our Tahitian families.
Who/what inspires you?
I just met a woman today who described herself as terminal. She had me laughing so hard my sides felt like they were going to split. We got to talking about love, respect and admiration. Why is it that those who know how short life is, because they or a loved one is brushed with death’s shadow, are the ones who have the courage to say that LOVE is more important than anything? I am inspired by those who reach beyond their own personal comfort zones to stand up for LOVE.
LOVE is still a revolution, regardless of our evolution.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I regret waking late upon the day my heart felt safe enough to return home.
What are you most proud of?
Waking from a 10 year slumber.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I don’t remember a time when surfing and the ocean haven’t been in my blood. My mother surfed until she was 8 months pregnant with me. I have joked that “I just don’t understand land people’s ways.” I have taken some hiatuses from surfing, but even in these times, I could feel the ocean moving deep within me, directing my thoughts, my emotions, my perceptions. Riding waves, understanding in my sinew and bone how energy moves, being able to tap into the momentous emotional/mental/physical unity that surfing demands is my worldview, my ideology.
The act of surfing is, in itself, a dance of union, a human act that binds, for one moment, finite individual with infinite energy. My father’s father used to say that using “a surfboard was for pussies,” that real surfers were the ones out in the water riding waves like dolphins. He used to take my father out into the ocean when he was a boy, in the pitch black of old Mexican nights. They would surf blind to all but the feeling of the energy of the ocean and waves on and around their bodies. I walk through life feeling energy around my body like water, blind and deaf to the surface of things, conscious of the rise and fall of human emotions, aware of the larger tidal surges that surround me in the sea of humanity. There is only ocean. There is only surfing.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Some days it’s good music, good food, good friends and laughter. Other days I am most happy immersed in thought, reading or writing nothingness to nobody.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
I definitely see Linda Benson shaping a path for women longboarders. I am really paying attention to Kelly Slater these days. I am interested to see what comes of his new tour ideas. On the other side of things, guys like C.J. Nelson and the CityFog Surfboards crew are pushing noseriding beyond. And never count that Tudor cat out; he’s always got something up his sleeve.
What is in your current quiver? What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
My current quiver consists of three Donald Takayama boards, one Ashley Lloyd design and one Simon Anderson thruster. My current favorite board is buckled in five places. It is a superlight epoxy comp board that Donald shaped. It is one of his rounded pintail, 2+1 noseriders with a little extra rocker. I have ridden it to death, from Hawaii to Oceanside Harbor. My Ashley board is a dead even tie with this one. It is a single fin, biofoam log she calls “The Speedsticle Series I”. I am in love with this board. My favorite surf spot currently is O’side Harbor, though I surf the campgrounds in Encinitas just as often.
What’s your favorite meal?
A huge, homemade tossed salad. I throw everything I can find over a bed of organic greens, including, but not limited to: artichoke hearts; corn; green onion; beets; carrots; broccoli; bell pepper; sprouts; garbanzo beans; quinoa; chicken or tuna; almonds; walnuts; cranberries; goat cheese or Tillamook cheddar; ranch and/or greek dressing. My salads are massive and could feed small countries.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Right now, I have a bunch of PJ Harvey, Saul Williams, Tool, A Perfect Circle, The Knife, Ladytron, Doves, Metric, The Dead Weather and Grizzly Bear on repeat.
What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for what surfing has brought into my life. From perspectives on life and living to friends and experiences, my life would not be the richly diverse, vagabond road it has been if not for surfing.
What’s next for Cori Schumacher?
I’d like a nice cup of tea.
More information about Cori Schumacher can be found here. All photography by Maria Cerda with the exception of childhood photos by Jeannette Prince.