Wild Woman: Umi Surf Yoga Founder Christina Irisarri
37-year-old Christina Irisarri (@umisurfyoga) grew up in Ferrol, a small village on the northwest coast of Spain, surfing with her family, some of the pioneers of surfing in Spain. She now lives at Doniños beach close by where she has started Umi Surf Yoga, a project to combine her loves of yoga and surfing. While surfing was something she was practically born into—and has traveled the world doing—yoga came later in life. A breast cancer survivor, Christina found yoga to be so therapeutic in her recovery that she became a Yoga4Cancer specialist, teaching yoga specifically aimed at helping people in all stages of cancer. Read on to see what this amazing surf and yoga teacher and student has to say!
When did you first start practicing yoga?
Christina: The first time ever was at a Roxy Surf training camp that all we on the European team used to do every year; it was with Tom Carroll in Lanzarote. A few years later, I tried again in London and when I came back to live in Spain I continued practicing. At the beginning, it was just a complementary routine to my surfing, but little by little I started to understand the practice as a whole and have been doing it on a daily basis for the last 5 years
When did you first start surfing?
Christina: I can’t remember, it was something natural I did since I was a kid; my dad, my uncles, my brother, all of them are surfers. My family are some of the pioneer surfers in Spain.
Why do you think yoga and surfing go well together?
Christina: I think yoga can be combined with all sports—it gives you strength, flexibility, and balance. It’s great to train if you do an intense physical practice and it’s also great to recover after a surf session. It’s so versatile that you can adapt your practice to your daily needs. It’s also very helpful to control your mind in extreme situations working with breath, what yogis call pranayama exercises.
What was your relationship to the outdoors like growing up?
Christina: I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors so much, all our family life involves nature, beach, and mountains.
Tell me about starting Umi Surf Yoga?
Christina: Umi Surf Yoga is a project that I’m developing to communicate my two main passions in life: surfing and yoga. As I said before, for me yoga and surfing are so related that I wanted to put them together under a concept of wellness to connect with yourself and nature through yoga, surfing, and kindness.
What is Umi Surf Yoga all about? What’s the vision?
Christina: “Umi” means “ocean” in Japanese, but for me it is much more than that. Umi is a concept of calm, peace, light, serenity, freedom and harmony. It is feeling good about our surroundings and with ourselves. Surfing and yoga come together in this project that seeks to feel good being part of the sea and nature, taking all these sensations to our inner self.
Umi unites the best that the ocean and surfing have to offer and transfers it into our inner being through a practice of conscious yoga and respect for ourselves and the environment.
The vision is to move and connect freely with other like-minded souls through conscious experiences to nourish body and mind
What is a Yoga4Cancer specialist?
Christina: It’s a style of yoga developed to support people in a cancer process, no matter if they are in treatment or have finished it. We work in a very conscious way with our bodies and minds to adjust the practice in every stage of the process. I’m a breast cancer survivor and since I was diagnosed, my yoga practice has supported me in each stage, and it was so helpful for me that I really wanted to share it with other people in the same situation.
Have you traveled elsewhere to surf?
Christina: Yes, I have traveled a lot of thanks of surfing. I have surfed in many different parts of the world such as Hawaii, Indonesia, South Africa, Japan, California, Costa Rica, Panamá, Australia, Morocco, around Europe…
What’s your favorite pre- or post-yoga or surfing snack?
Christina: I love fruit, fresh and dried. And if I can combine it with nuts, I love it! Tasty and healthy!