Rochelle Ballard

Rochelle is a veteran of the Association of Surfing Professional's World Championship Tour.  A pro surfer for nearly twenty years now, Rochelle is widely known as the best female tube ride around the globe.  She was an ISA Masters Grand Finalist in 2013, a World Champion in 2012, a three-time Surfer Poll Winner, and a stunt double in a number of surf films, including Blue Crush.  Rochelle grew up on the shores of Kauai, where she continues to thrive, joining her love of surfing with her passion for yoga in her 'Surf Into Yoga' retreats.  Rochelle spoke to _PRACTICE on how yoga and surfing flow in her life.  Here’s a distillation of her thoughts. 

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I started surfing when I was 10.  It was a very natural experience for me to want to swim and be connected with the ocean...I wasn’t looking for a career – one contest led to the next and, as I was winning as an amateur, that led me to doing the World Tour.  I started practicing yoga when I was 18.  At 20, I went pro and began the tour and I started doing my own yoga practice ritually to keep my body in tune and focus my mind.  

As a competitor, the stress level and thought process can be nerve-racking and over-stimulate and heat the body.  Yoga was, and is, a great way for me to calm and focus my intentions and bring more Chi into my center.  I think the biggest result I see from Yoga and my surfing career is having a youthful presence within my mind and body.  I continue to be in tune and feel better today than I did in my twenties.

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Mind focus and being present, not getting too far ahead of my self with high expectations or failure – centering my breath, movement, and meditating on my intentions is what made a big difference for me.

The pranayama (breathing exercises) have increased my lung capacity and centered my focus and intuition to feeling the rhythm of the ocean and in line with the best waves.  

As a teacher, I constantly have to keep myself in tune and focused on a different type of performance.  It's driven from finding the best practice that can inspire my students with what is most responsive for their body, mind, and spirit.  Looking at a student’s biomechanics – from an athlete's point of view - from past injuries and sustaining dynamic movement with less wear and tear on the body is pivotal.   

In surfing, there is so much focus on the movement and sound and vibration of the wave and water.  I believe the most focused (I am) on the breath is when a big set comes and I’m taking deep inhalations to hold my breath for a long time when I’m getting tossed around like a rag doll under water and having to negotiate the impact zone.  

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The first time that I became aware of how important the breath is and started turning into it – was watching Kelly Slater.  If you watch him as he takes off – his inhalation RISES him to standing.  

The energy of yoga is like the energy of surfing -- it becomes a dance within.   The more I tune into the elements within and around me as I practice, it becomes more of an energetic practice. 

As a surfer and yogi, it becomes a quest of oneness.  Tuning into the breath, the elements, and the flow.  There is stillness in movement and movement in stillness.  It’s being present and sensitive, letting go of fear and feeling gratitude that allows this oneness to begin.

Thanks to the Encyclopedia of Surfing for this beautiful video!