di Erika Scafuro
As if she was on the line up waiting for a wave to ride, the suspended time of the lockdown gave Alessia Tarquinio, known face of sports journalism, the push to understand what she really wanted: to live in front of the ocean surfing every day.
The sea has always exerted a very strong pull on her who, since she was a child, has never been afraid of throwing herself into a rough sea despite mom and dad telling her not to enter. And so an holiday in the Dominican Republic, accomplice a canceled return flight, turned into a change of life, totally turned upside down by surfing.
Alessia, tell us your first wave: when and where?
The first wave ever was in Brazil, in Jericoacoara, in 2003. And I turned over with my surfboard. I went out in the water without a coach, without any preparation and it has been disastrous, among other things in a point with a tide of rocks. That was my first experience, traumatic of course. But despite everything, I didn’t give up because I loved surfing. So, the following year, I went to Biarritz for a surf week, after which I gave up surfing for a long time because for work I could never reconcile it with summer.
Then, already when I was living in Canada (Alessia lived in Vancouver for a while, ed) I often went to Vancouver Island which is considered the island of Canadian surfers. If someone wants to surf, go there. And there I started again, very calmly, since I had not practiced for many years. I started again with soft and longboard in the spring of 2012, I had recently given birth to my son.
Canada has been an extraordinary world for me because, when we were not in Tofino, and we were in Vancouver, we had a house in front of the ocean, I had a ladder that took me straight into the water, I fell asleep and woke up to the sound of ocean, in the morning I saw the passage of dolphins. My son grew up like this: when he started walking for the first time, he put his feet in the ocean. And so I started surfing again a little at a time.
Then from our return to Italy I started going to Portugal every now and then, I dragged my family to a surfhouse and three years ago I still did a full immersion week of surfing. I have not stopped since then. I told myself that I wanted to surf and that every vacation would be dedicated to surfing: from Morocco in the winter to Portugal wandering around various spots, until I discovered the place where I am now, in the northeast of the Dominican Republic. Heaven practically. Last year, after the women’s football world cup, I needed a quiet place to get some time off. A family friend pointed me to this place, where he had come to live, telling me that I would like it very much and that I would find waves every day. In fact, here I practice surf every day. I started with the longboard, to switch to a 7.2 but my goal is to switch to my beautiful Bear board”.
What was the reason that prompted you to surf?
“I needed it. When my father got sick, I experienced a particular time. I am very close to him, he is the person who taught me the values of sport and the love for sport. A friend of mine told me that to clear my mind I would have to do something that made me feel really good and when asked what it was, I answered surfing. Then my dad was fine, but worries had built up and I needed to make space for something that was only mine, like surfing. And even becoming a mother often tends to do things for the family, but I needed to do something for me that would make me feel good and good for my son because if a mother is happy and does something she likes it is even him. My son understands this because now in the morning when he starts school I go to the water and he always greets me with a ‘hi mom, have a good surfing!’”.
On your website, latarqui.com, it reads “Dominican Republic” next to the locator symbol. How did you come to the choice of giving up a city life to find your dimension on a Caribbean island?
“The months closed at home in Milan during the lockdown, in an apartment, without seeing the sky and doing nothing, have destroyed me. Let’s say I made a choice when it was already chosen by someone else because in the end we would have had to leave between now and September, but they started canceling all flights. So I thought I’d stay here, this was a signal. I don’t believe in chance, but I believe in chaos. I’ve always had a messed up life. I told myself this is yet another sign of this messed up life that wants me here”.
Are you still doing your job as a sports journalist?
“I continue to do my job, impossible to stop because for me first of all it is a passion as it is for surfing. I have experimented with different things like writing books (I have written two in this time) and in the future I would like to pursue myself more to the social part”.
You like to describe surfing as a cure. You wrote on social media that only surfing has taught you to accept your vulnerability. Has surfing taught you even more to dig into your personality?
“Here, when you catch one or more beautiful waves and then come out of the water with a smile, do they ask you ‘te curaste’? (Did you heal?) It’s just a local way that can mean several things. Surfing puts you in front of many things because we live above all in a historical time and in a society for which imperfection seems the biggest mistake. You have to be perfect, you have to know how to do everything, you have to prove that you are a certain way. That is to know how to do and not to be. I am used to making fun of myself a lot, in surfing I let myself go and I said to myself ‘even if I suck, I enjoy it’. I have a lot to learn, I’m not perfect. But how do you learn to do something? Falling and getting up. I read a beautiful quote: ‘you are allowed to fall, you are not allowed to stay on the ground’. You are allowed to fall into the water but you are not allowed to be blended under water. You have to move, get out and start over ”.
On social media you use a lot of irony and show yourself for who you are. How important is sharing your life with thousands of followers?
I live it in the way that if you are on social media you have to have a relationship with people. So if they write to me I always reply, I try to involve them, very often they bring to light cases, stories, particular news that I like to deal with. The thing I like most of all is that people may think I’m a famil member, maybe they see me on television, but they all call me by name. I believe that empathy is a fundamental thing”.
Is there anything that 2020 prevented you from doing and that you would like to be able to recover in 2021?
“Paradoxically, in the end it gave me the opportunity to find my true nature. From the suffering of the lockdown I understood what I really wanted. I hope that we can return to travel as before. With all due respect for the suffering of people who have lost so many loved ones. But then in the end we have to go ahead and understand what really makes us feel good. Perhaps we have always taken for granted many things that are not taken for granted”.