This week on Girls Who Rip, we introduce you to Maui surfer and photographer Jennica Lowell. We met Jennica on a shoot in Maui, and she totally wowed us with her zest for life. She's overcome a traumatic brain injury and made a beautiful life pursuing her passions (read on for her sage advice on healing and gratitude!). Follow her on Instagram @jennicalowell
What do you consider your main sport/passion and how did you get started?
I actually grew up in the mountains and have been snowboarding since six years old. As I got older I started traveling for surfing more and more. After a series of bad head injuries from mountain biking + snowboarding about six years ago, I decided to make a massive lifestyle change, quit my job at The Snowboarder's Journal, and moved to Mexico to surf and heal. Been surfing everyday since!
What's your day job, and how do you balance work and play?
I am the Marketing Director at Naish Kiteboarding. Although we are an action sports company, a lot of my work (all of it) is on a computer or behind a camera. I make sure to get a run or long walk in before or after work, and surf or play in the ocean as much as possible. Weekends are my time to escape screen time and get out in to nature.
What motivates you?
Friends, family, adrenaline, and travel. I will go to some pretty extremes for any of the above haha.
What do you fear most and how do you overcome it?
What I fear the most in life is taking another hard impact to my head, and having to go through the multiple year recovery process again... or worse. I didn't take my head injuries too seriously over the years while competing and snowboarding and biking, re-injuring myself over and over. Now I have to be super careful, and am doctor ordered to not do high-impact sports anymore :( Surfing got the green light and being in the ocean is so therapeutic for me, as well as everyone, in so many ways. It's really helped me find new passions in life and overcome the challenges I've faced in the aftermath of my head injury.
What's one of your 2020 goals?
What *was one of my goals you mean? Haha, kidding kidding. Well I had some pretty fun surf plans for the fall, and plans to jumpstart a creative marketing business I've been working on behind the scenes... but with the pandemic affecting the world right now I have been quite busy at my position with Naish Kiteboarding, so just staying on track as best I can now, and putting a few things on hold until things calm down a bit. Enjoying the quiet islands right now with no tourists and exploring around home as much as possible!
What’s your top tip for a beginner looking to get into your sport?
Get out and surf everyday. Be humble and be open to advice and making mistakes, and make sure you laugh when you do.
Do you have any nutrition guidelines/tips that you feel affect performance?
I love a good superfood smoothie in the morning before and/or after a surf. And coffee, always a nice hot cup of coffee to start the day. I try to keep things light before surfing, and am always STARVING after a solid surf in the sun :)
What do you do to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly?
Living on an island it is so easy to see how tourism and single-use plastics go hand in hand. Day to day, I try to minimize my waste by using mason jars for to-go cups for food and drinks as well as my Hydroflask for water everyday. I recently made a little silverware kit with bamboo utensils I keep at my office and in my car for meals on the go, which happens more than I like to admit!
Do you have any tips for sustainable travel?
I always bring my Hydroflask and to-go coffee mug with me when traveling. Refill them at the airport, bars, or coffee shops. I also have a small pour over filter I bring with me and make it a mission to find the best local coffee and make it myself. It saves trips to the store and waste from to go cups.
More great eco-friendly tips here!
Who are what inspires you?
I freaking love seeing chicks who RIP! I have a few girlfriends who are just so incredibly talented at surfing, it makes me want to surf more, improve my technique and surf bigger waves with better style. It's one thing to see guys in the line up ripping, but when your best friend is out there throwing down in her bikini, ripping harder than the boys, that fires me up haha.
What are your tips on overcoming bro’s and bad vibes in your sport?
Just smile, be friendly ... but also be sure to hold your own in the lineup. Guys will always try to steal waves, or think just cause you're a girl you must not be a very good surfer (skater, diver, kiter, etc.) It's fun when you have supportive, stoked men in the lineup too, calling you into waves and just as stoked seeing a girl getting waves as they are getting the wave themselves. It's all about fun, that's what's important to remember.
Have you experienced any traumatic or scary events in your sport and how did you overcome it?
As I mentioned before, my traumatic brain injury six years ago was hands down the scariest and most traumatic events of my life. I still deal everyday with side effects, anxiety, and memory loss from it. I took a hard fall while snowboarding, smacking my left temple on the snow and nearly knocking myself out. I had had two bad falls on my downhill mountain bike earlier that year, and was not technically supposed to even be snowboarding. It really messed me up... I had a subdural hematoma and brain swelling, so I couldn't lay down to sleep for weeks and had the worst anxiety of my life. Basically my brain lost all its ability to censor and sort sensory input, so I struggled with the basic things like holding conversation, being around any loud or repetitive noises, or be in hot or cold environments. I had crazy mood swings and battled feelings of hopelessness at times, and went throught a complete loss of identity as an athlete who had just had their entire career and passions stripped from them... It was a rough year or two, but taught me a lot about my resiliency, and ability to adapt and grow from the hardships. It ultimately got me surfing, and introduced me to a new, calmer, more mellow life that is more healthy and sustainable for me. I am happy where I am now in life, and am grateful to have experienced such an eye-opening event that makes me so much more grateful and aware in my life today.
What are your tips for healing?
In order to heal fully from an injury, i really believe we need to address not only the physical side of it, but also our mental, spiritual and emotional health that is also affected. As athletes we all deal with injury, and sometimes that means months without the things that make us feel alive and happy. Yoga, mediation, and educating myself on how the mind and body work has helped me to heal in better ways. Being side-lined affects our mental health so much, it's important to remember that we are affected in many ways, and to try to heal as wholesomely as possible with diet, mediation, and energy release work.
For more on feeling good in mind + body, read our tips
What's something you're really proud of doing or accomplishing?
Recently I have been doing a lot more activist work, I started Surfers For Bali, an organization that has raised money for food and necessities for families struggling with the pandemic. It has really been a great way to help channel all the hard times and heartache felt around the world, into something more positive and impactful to someone's life.