Meet lovebirds Erin Carpenter and Lorena Zeppilli who currently reside in San Diego, California. Most of you know 28-year old professional rider Erin Carpenter who ranked 5th overall on the 2014 United Skim Tour. Lorena is 26 years old, born in Lima, Peru, who moved to California when she was 7 years old. Lorena is brand new to skimboarding but has already shown great enthusiasm for the sport.
The idea came to me to contact Erin and Lorena for this collective interview after once again meeting a female skimboarder on Instagram who identifies as lesbian or bisexual. As someone who embraces all the colorful people in this world who make this life special, it is important that as a sport we celebrate diversity amongst our community. Although in my thirties now, I can still recall how challenging my youth was particularly with my identity. This interview is for all of you confused, lost and looking for support including you boys. You are not alone.
Words by Kelli Bean
Photos by Chris Beletsis
Let’s start the interview off with Erin…
Q: When did you start skimboarding?
A: I learned how to slide along the shore in college, but that was while I was living in Riverside, CA about 40 miles east (inland) of Orange County, CA. Seeing as the beach (with traffic) was sometimes an hour plus away, I didn’t make it out to the beach as often as I wanted. But I instantly fell in love with the sport. Once I moved to San Diego, CA in 2009, I went almost daily and still do, when the weather and my job permits me to.
Q: What do you love about skimboarding?
A: The adrenaline rush and the fact that it is like skateboarding but more forgiving when you fall. Also that it is something that gets more fun the better you get, so it’s completely addicting. I love the fact that you almost defy physics and glide across the water. I have always loved being in the water and any sort of board sports, so it is the perfect combo.
Q: Will you be competing this year?
A: The Victoria Contest for sure, and maybe Oktoberfest. I just got a new job so time off for anything more is not looking too promising. I have a bad history with Oktoberfest, I always choke at that contest (not to mention almost drowning a few years ago). This year I was considering not doing Oktoberfest, but the fact that I always choke pushes me to want to end on a good note, so we shall see.
Let’s see what Lorena has to say about our favorite sport…
Q: Had you heard of skimboarding before meeting Erin?
A: I had heard of skimboarding before meeting Erin, but I had never seen people actually get up on the waves and ride them with skimboards before. I feel like my most accurate memory of skimboarding (and this is sad that it has to be this) is from that show “Laguna Beach”. I used to watch it in high school and the character Stephen used to skim a bit.
Q: What were your initial thoughts of the sport when you first tried to run, jump and glide on a skimboard?
A: The very first time I skimmed was at the San Diego event “Skim Fiesta” back in January. I immediately fell in love with it. The ocean was huge that day, so I hardly got out on the water, but there was plenty of wet sand to glide on. I was able to do a 360 turn on the wet sand, with Erin’s guidance, and I couldn’t get enough.
Q: As a newcomer what advice can you give for those wanting to try but are too scared?
A: I would have to say, it’s really fun and that overcomes the fear any day. Also, the skim community is very nice and they’ll gladly teach you the safest, best way to do it.
Q: What have been some of your struggles you have had to or are overcoming in the sport?
A: My biggest struggle right now is feeling like I am plateauing or regressing. I’ve only been skimming since January, and I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I caught on really fast and that I’m doing great. For the past few weeks or more I’ve been falling a lot, or I have been unable to catch many waves, and getting more of that feeling like someone brand new might get. It’s been discouraging but when I look back and remember that I have only been doing this for a little over 3 months I feel better. It’s good to have the falls too and know that I can still get back up and skim. I know that I’m going to be skimming for a long time and this is just the beginning learning stage.
Whether you are a professional rider like Erin or a newcomer like Lorena, you will bail and wipe out. It is all part of progressing in the sport!
Let’s shift the conversation to sexuality. As someone who runs a community for over a thousand girls, I have firsthand witnessed more and more female skimboarders identify as lesbians or bisexuals. I understand the nature of sexuality can be a very sensitive subject and as such I want to share how much I appreciate both of you being open to talk about yours. It takes a lot of courage to open up to the public so I ask that the skim community respect Erin and Lorena’s bravery.
Q: Erin, when did you first discover you were attracted to girls?
A: I guess if I want to be really honest with myself, and with you, and now everyone who reads this… I always knew I was attracted to other women. But I never felt comfortable admitting it. I had a boyfriend all through college who made me very happy, but we were young, and had many differences. Things didn’t work out for many reasons, one of them being that I needed to learn to be comfortable on my own, and find ways to be happy without depending on someone else. I also fell into a group of friends who were very open with their sexuality and ultimately provided me with the comfort zone I needed to be able to admit to myself and others how I really felt.
The first time I ever kissed a girl, I was in college and was at a club. My friend, who was already openly a lesbian, saw me do it and said, “oh my God I KNEW it!!” She told me she caught the whole thing on film and had sent it to all of our friends. She was just kidding and let me tell whoever I felt comfortable telling but I was very embarrassed because it didn’t mean anything, yet I knew it felt right. I think that was my turning point to really admitting to myself that I was interested in women.
Thanks for sharing! That would be mortifying but sounds like it played an important role in your admittance process.
Q: What about you Lorena, how do you identify sexually and when did you realize this?
A: I identify as bisexual. I know I am attracted to both sexes, and I’m very much into true commitments with individuals I care about. I have been dating women for three years now. I guess you could say back in 2011 was the lightbulb moment when I realized the full potential of my sexuality and really felt like I needed to venture away from men and explore women. Once you admit to yourself that you do want to be with women, then it’s easy to realize those feelings were there your whole life.
Q: Erin, what has your experience been like telling your friends and family?
A: My family took it really well, except older generations tend to have a slightly harder time with it. My parents are very open-minded and accepting and are more worried about me being accepted and happy than they are about what gender I date. My sister and cousins are all super supportive, and I love them to death for it! My friends are all pretty accepting. I do struggle though when I come into a new environment or job with how to say I have a girlfriend or that I am into women. You never know how people will react. Some people who I am pretty sure have very different views than me, I will avoid mentioning it as much as possible, because it is not worth it.
Q: What advice would you give to teenage girls and boys struggling with their own sexuality and “coming out of the closet”?
A: Be strong. Trust yourself, and who you are. Be the best person you can be. Only do what you feel comfortable doing. Don’t let anyone tell you when or where or with whom you must come out to. Do it at your own pace. Also, remember you are not alone and trust the people who love and support you, because I bet they are more accepting than you are willing to give them credit for.
My father once told me, and I think it is true, that if you are being discriminated against or you have the potential to be discriminated against, then you have to be a better person. You cannot be an asshole he says, because then they have two reasons to dislike you. No one is perfect, but if you always at least try your best to do the right thing, then you aren’t giving people who have skewed beliefs much to work with.
My other good friend Sera once told me that if you are going to be openly ‘gay’ then you have to set a good example. When people have questions, answer them. If all someone knows is what they see on TV or hear about secondhand then when they meet you they might be curious. If you prove that you can be a good person and be successful, and you are also gay, then they will see that gay people can be good people. If you are the only gay person they have ever personally met, then that’s what they will think of when they think of ‘gay’. You are then changing the world’s opinion one person at a time.
Great advice all around!
Now your turn Lorena sharing what your experiences have been and continue to be with telling those in your life you are bisexual.
A: Sharing my identity with my friends and family hasn’t been the easiest thing for me. The hardest part was telling my mom. She has been loving and understanding for the most part, but she was raised Catholic in Peru and it takes her a little bit more time to fully understand it. I haven’t outright told everyone in my life, although I’m sure some of them just know from social media or certain events. I feel like it’s easiest for me to assess the situation when deciding when and if I am going to tell someone. I also dislike that dating someone of the same sex means you have to take the time to pause the conversation and essentially come out to someone to tell them “hey this is my girlfriend” and then there are questions that come along with that. I wish it didn’t involve the extra step and that it was just seen as completely normal.
I can understand that.
Q: Here is a question for both of you. As an adult looking back, what would you tell your younger self in one sentence to let her know everything will be okay?
Erin: The world is much larger than you ever imagined, so keep an open mind and heart and have faith that things will turn out okay.
Lorena: Things happen at certain moments to get you to the next step in your life to allow your life to progress toward better, happier things.
Before we turn the interview back to skimboarding, I have one more question.
Q: What do you like and love about each other?
Erin: I LOVE that Lorena is into skimming!! Plus she rips, and has picked it up super quick! I like her passion for adventure and trying new things, her perseverance, honesty, openness and that she is extremely sharp and driven. She’s a cutie and we have amazing chemistry.
Lorena: Erin is just about the nicest, most caring person that I have ever met. She is patient and compassionate; I am completely in love with her personality. Oh and those beautiful blue eyes don’t hurt either.
Aww, isn’t love grand?!
Q: Erin, how did the initial subject of skimboarding come up and what was Lorena’s reaction?
A: Well, haha, we met on Tinder (yup I admit it) so we started talking before we actually met. I told her I was addicted to skimming and she saw pictures. The first time we met I took her to the beach. She was watching my friend and I skim and then I asked her to try it on the sand. She said she wanted to wear a swimsuit next time so she could try. I must admit I was impressed. She picked it up even on the sand quicker than most do.
Q: How has the experience been so far teaching Lorena to skimboard?
A: It has been fun, but challenging at times because she gets frustrated with wanting to progress quicker. Patience is a virtue and this sport take loads of it.
Q: Most groms I speak to would love to fall in love with another skimboarder. I admit I share the sentiment as well. What do you love about being able to skim with your girl?
A: I can have my cake and eat it too. Both of my loves in one place.
Now it’s Lorena’s turn…
Q: Do you enjoy learning how to skimboard from your girlfriend?
A: Another quality I love about Erin is her patience and positivity, this makes it really easy to learn to skim from her. If I am having a bad day and falling a lot, she will wait for a good wave, tell me when to go and after that I will have a smile on my face. Not to mention, she is a really good skimboarder. I mean she’s pro, so it helps that she has the knowledge to help me learn the sport.
Q: Any tips or pointers we can use when teaching our partners to keep them motivated?
A: I think patience is key. But also there has to already be a passion for the ocean and the beach to keep someone motivated and to keep having fun.
Q: Lorena, have you felt welcomed by the skim community at the beach?
A: The skim community has been extremely welcoming. Everyone is so nice and they all enjoy having conversations while waiting for good waves.
Q: What about the skim industry and social media platforms?
A: As far as the industry, it would help to showcase newcomers on social media maybe a couple of times a month? Overall, female skimboarders have to be shown on social media more often. This is venturing away from the topic of newcomers, but there are plenty of female professional skimmers out there and they are not getting nearly enough attention.
Q: As we wrap the interview up, what other things do you and Erin enjoy doing together?
A: Well it goes without saying we have a mutual love for the beach. We also enjoy cooking together, catching up on all of our favorite shows together, listening to podcasts, and having long conversations together. Erin is the best cuddler ever too!
Q: Last words before we say good-bye?
Erin: Thanks so much for interviewing me Kelli! My experiences by no means reflect anyone else’s because we are all unique, but I hope it helps!
Lorena: As far as skimboarding goes, I think it’s a really awesome sport. I already love it more than surfing because there are so many steps to it that all have to come together just right to get to that magic moment where you’re riding a wave.
Q: Erin, who would you like to shoutout?
A: Shoutout to the San Diego, California skim community for being one of the most open-minded and hearted group I have ever met! I love them all and appreciate all the tips and tricks they have taught me along the way, and for being super accepting to me.
Follow Erin and Lorena on Instagram for all their shenanigans.
You can follow photographer Chris Beletsis on Instagram and Flickr
If you need someone to talk to, find me on Instagram, Twitter or email me any time: kelli@SkimMermaids.com