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Ale Romo, surf photographer and co-owner of Donosti Chill.

Have you ever seen pictures that instantly give you an unexpected desire of being somewhere else? Not because this place is perfect compared to your current location, but simply because you would like to become a part of moments that are worth remembering and worth capturing. I have felt that way before, and Ale Romo is the one to blame.

Ale is a photographer that travels around the globe to surf and capture the small moments in between. Originally from Mexico, she decided to move to the States when she was younger with the typical American dream in her mind. Not exactly what she was expecting once living there, she moved to France in search of new horizons. She then fell in love with the sport of surfing while working for Surfrider Foundation and moved to San Sebastian, which allowed her to surf on a daily basis. If you had to know one thing about her, it’s that she’s obsessed with women’s surfing and wish there were more groups of females going on surf trips to remote places. She wants to challenge surfing and she’s planning to do so with her camera.

Ale isn’t only taking pictures of people and the ocean, but she is also capturing the soul of the world through her lens to allow the viewers to feel what she felt at that specific moment. Throughout her photos, she wishes to make you realize that living off your passion isn’t as wild and difficult as they say it is; you just need to follow the passion.


Can you tell me a bit more about where you are from and how you ended up working within the surf industry?

I was born in Mexico, moved to the States and moved to France afterwards. I decided to go to Barcelona to do a master degree and stayed there ever since. I started to surf eight or nine years ago when I was volunteering at the Surfrider Foundation.

The whole summer, we were travelling up north to surf because there is not a lot of surfing in Barcelona. I quickly became more involve with the foundation as I was doing their marketing campaign and one day, they were looking for someone that speaks English, French and Spanish; I thought it could be the perfect job for me. I sent my resume and I got the job, so I moved to San Sebastian. It was a great opportunity as all I wanted was to surf every day.

I was running the office of Surfrider for Spain and Portugal for three years. I was constantly learning something new and made a lot of contacts in the surf industry. My contract ended up one year and a half ago, then I didn’t know what to do. I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua, so I went there for three months. I realized that I didn’t want to go back to an office job, not anymore. This realization made me take photography more seriously and this is why I am now shooting every day.

So, what are you doing in Barcelona now? I think you’ve got a business going on?

Yes, exactly. During my first year in Nicaragua, I really got inspired to do a lot of things and I started working on it. One of the things I really wanted to do was to organize surf and yoga retreats.

Did you start your company on your own or you have a business partner?

I have a business partner that I actually met in Nicaragua. She’s originally from Holland, but she now lives in Bali. I decided to stay two more months than her to connect with people doing similar things.

How does it work to go on one of your retreat?

It really depends on the place. Just right now, I’m working on a project to have a house here, in San Sebastian, to do a retreat for the summer. Normally, our retreat can be seven to ten days. The one in Nicaragua is 10 days. We offer some dates, you check it out and apply on the procedure online. I send you a PayPal form so you can pay the deposit and after you pay the rest. The retreat is about everything related to surfing: healthy food, surfing and yoga.

Easy and fun, exactly what we like!
You’re working on so many things all at once that I am even surprised you’ve found the time to talk to me today! How did you manage to take the time to focus on the retreat?  

Last year was a crazy year because I wanted to do everything: writing, organizing, shooting pictures… I was also working for some surf events, doing the communication and press. It was too much. So, this year, I’m trying to focus on bigger projects instead. I am still writing, but not as much. I’m writing more intelligently because I want to put my energy on the things that really matter, like my pictures.

Woah, you’re on fire [laughs]!
You also started your own blog, “From Where You’d Rather Be”—can you tell us a bit more about it? 

When I went to the Nicaragua for the first time, I wanted to start a Tumblr. I had one already for my California’s adventures called “California Mission” and the pictures were all black and white. It went well, so when I went to Nicaragua. I decided to start another one. So, I started this site as a blog, mainly for posting pictures and to talk about my experiences.

It’s more to showcase my adventures but also my work and what I do. I just started planning the retreat and usually, I put the information for the retreat on there as well. It kind of developed as a business brand; “From Where You Rather Be”. It speaks. During the wintertime, a lot of people write to me to tell me that they’re going to Nicaragua because of my pictures and it’s something really cool to hear!

Do you remember your first camera? Did you expect it would become such a big part of your life? 

The first camera I got was from my father. He bought it when he got married to my mother 30 years ago and he gave it to me while I was in high school. I still got that camera and it’s really amazing because I’m usually losing everything! I hope I’m not going to lose it in the future, especially that it’s a really cool camera, it’s a Minolta. I still use it, it’s very good, but only for some pictures. I’m usually using digital because films tend to be a bit more expensive.

What would your dream assignment be? 

When I started to take pictures, what I really wanted to do is go on an adventure with girls that surf. Not necessarily pro surfers, but go to the Maldives with like, 10 girls, take pictures and document it all. I really love to shoot girls that surf, even though I only have few pictures of them.

What do you think of the presence of girls in the surf industry? Is it enough? 

I think men are always more present, but it’s in every sport. The sport is changing though. I don’t think a lot of women were motivated to try surfing before because it is originally such a macho sport. You see all these guys ripping and shredding while the girls you see in the video are just hanging at the beach with mini bikinis. If we compare with last year though, it evolved a bit more and we can now finally see women’s skills, not just their body.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? 

The hardest part is to be able to go whenever you want to go. It takes a lot of commitment to say: “ok, I am going to work for this long and after I will go away.” It’s not like an office job that you can just go and come back to. The lifestyle I chose is more difficult in that term: I have to drive a lot of projects, propose them and fight for them. I don’t enjoy being in an office, but I see why it’s so comfortable. The routine is good, but I’m just tired of that. I really like to work on my projects. I want to do it for me, not for other people.

What is it about surfing that makes it so appealing to a photographer? 

I think it’s because I surf so I just want to share the feeling. I see the waves and I see the people surfing and I’m super stoked! Sometimes when I am shooting, I start thinking that I should leave my camera right here and go surf instead, but I need to tell myself that I can surf any other days and that today is about photography.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far because of photography?

I think photography taught me how to connect with people. It’s always harder at the beginning, but I’m trying to connect with the subject before taking photos.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

This is hard to say, it’s so far! I could see myself with a surfing family, going here and there. Running our own business with a kid. 

See more from Ale Romo: Instagram

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