Tia Blanco isn’t used to being out of the ocean. The 22-year-old professional surfer can only recall one time she hasn’t surfed this long since she was 10—she was in New York City for a week for her sister’s graduation from New York University in 2016.
Blanco is abiding by the stay-at-home order issued on March 19 by California governor Gavin Newsom instructing the state’s 40 million residents to do just that, except for essential purposes, in an effort to combat the growing coronavirus pandemic sweeping the nation and world.
“Basically I’ve been mind surfing for the most part,” Blanco said. “I think I’m going to be OK with it. I’m not freaking out at this point. Surfing is one of those things where absence makes the heart grow fonder.
“I don’t want to put myself at risk or put anyone else at risk. It’s smart to play it safe.”
California, which has been in a State of Emergency since March 4, has the fourth-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States at 2,102, behind New York, New Jersey and Washington.
The World Surf League (WSL) like many other sports leagues and organizations has been suspended in order to halt the spread and exposure of the virus. On March 13, all WSL events through March were cancelled, but four days later, it was announced all events were cancelled or postponed through May.
Blanco, who is currently ranked No. 34 in the WSL Qualifying Series, was most recently competing in Australia and New Zealand, which is when she heard the news.
“It was kind of hard to gauge how important this coronavirus pandemic has been—you have memes and social media and people making fun of it, but at the same time you have the news,” Blanco said. “Are people taking it seriously?
“I was preparing for my last event and that’s when the craziness started. It was no longer just everyone talking about toilet paper on Instagram.”
Blanco, a two-time International Surfing Association (ISA) gold medalist, and her mother were able to get on a flight from New Zealand the following day and have been sheltered at home in Southern California since.
While she might not be surfing every day like she usually does, Blanco is certainly remaining busy managing her skincare line, doing at-home workouts, sharing vegan meals on social media, watching surf cams, and even toying around on TikTok.
Blanco and her sister, Aja, launched Dear Self, a cruelty free, vegan skincare line, in December 2018. Tia said they are currently 90 percent sold out, so they’re preparing for the business’ next steps, particularly after the pandemic.
A vegan for seven years, Blanco is also sharing organic at-home recipes for followers to try during social distancing on her vegan cooking-based Instagram account.
Despite not having surfed since earlier this month, she is also staying in shape through running, yoga, core exercises and cycling for the day she’s allowed back in the water.
“When I am allowed to get in the water, it will make me that much more pumped,” Blanco said. “It’s when you’re not surfing when you really appreciate being a surfer and getting the privilege to get out and surf every day because it really is a privilege.”