The Legends Series: INTERVIEW -- Keala Mimistrobell (Originally posted 8/25/2008)

Within the pages of SurfWatch is the rich history of Second Life (SL) surfing from the mouths of the surfers that created or developed or promoted or excelled in this virtual sport over the years.  Enjoy these interviews and the perspective from these surf legends as SurfWatch begins "The Legends Series":

By Tauri Tigerpaw. Exclusive to SurfWatch.

SurfWatch recently caught up with one of Second Life surfing's pioneers Keala Mimistrobell, founder-owner of Namiko Surf Company, organiser of Second Life's first surfing competition (the Namiko Pro at Chi Island, March 2007) and one of the few early members of Second Life's surfing community. Namiko, which loosely translated means ‘child of the wave’ in Japanese, donates a percentage of sales revenue to the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Namiko has eighteen retail stores in Second Life.

SurfWatch: Almost everyone has seen your name and knows you're associated with Namiko and the beginnings of Second Life surfing. How did you get involved with surfing in Second Life?

Keala: Well, I came to Second Life in search of surf... and so one of the first places I landed was Quan Li. Seb [Sebastian Saramago] and Heather [Goodliffe] had been making some of Quan Li's first surfboards (ones that actually worked!). Some of the people I met at Quan Li lent me their boards to use... gave me know, helping out the noob [smiles]. And gradually, I got it into my head that we needed a real surf company in Second Life. But not something that was just about wearing the clothes... it was about spreading the joy of surf... spreading the stoke! We wanted people who didn't know anything about surfing to be introduced to it. Maybe they'd take their new found joy and try it in real life too.

SurfWatch: You came to Second Life specifically for surfing? That's a first!

Keala: Well, they said anything was possible in Second Life! People came here to virtually travel to the Great Wall of China... or race cars... or fly.. or whatever. So I thought I'd look and see if there was any surfing.

SurfWatch: Who were your first surfing influences in Second Life?
Keala: Luckily, Seb, Heather and Joe [SurferJoe Wind] were here. Lessons didn't exist back in those days [smiles]. In November 2006, it was just past the sign-up boom for Second Life. There were tonnes of noobs just messing everyone up. Almost no surfers around. Joe was the first real surfer I met and so he showed me a couple things on the board.

SurfWatch: So, just a handful of surfers?

Keala: Absolutely. Seb, Heather, Poid [Mahovlich], Joe...There were a couple more people on the beach who surfed in real life. From all over... Europe, Japan. But not a lot of Cali boys ... and definitely no Tofino girls!

SurfWatch: Tell us about the first
Second Life surfing competition.
Keala: I had mentioned the idea a bunch of times to Heather, Hey... say... wouldn't it be cool if we ran surf competitions? And she agreed but didn't think Quan Li was the place to do it... it being low-prim and all. So, I introduced myself to Sally [LaSalle] and Poid who co-owned Chi Island at the time. They were the only class-5 surf spot on the grid at the time. We ran a demonstration event with the team riders I had started to put together, to get spectators out to watch a surf event. It went over great and we ended up running our first comp there.

How big was the first event?

Keala: I guess when I arrived, there were these great boards that Seb and Heather were working on, but no one knew about them. And at the same time, Rad's [Radical Twang] company Reaction was up and running, but it wasn't at all involved in the 'surf community'.. so there was this gap between the people, the activity, the brands.... really the 'lifestyle' was not cohesive.
I think the competitions gave the community a focus.

What do you think about it all now? The sophistication of the competitions, the whole subculture of the community etc.?

Keala: Well, I think it was inevitable and foreseeable. In real life, I have been administering amateur sports events for years and the formation of the SLSA and their competition system is exactly what was destined to happen. I totally appreciate that there are people who feel so strongly about this activity now that they are willing to dedicate so much blood, sweat, tears and breath to maintaining the system. But of course, with any system, there will be people who want to rebel against it. Both in real life and Second Life. So you'll get the 'soul surfers' who won't compete, but I think there is space for everyone in this community.

SurfWatch: Where do you foresee things going in the future?

Keala: As long as we are kind, love each other and take care of each other, we will be fine. However, I can see it going as it has in real life, from my experiences. Basically, SLSA will continue to function if and only if it maintains the right people. Right now, Sally is super involved and is the mainstay. Most others seem to get excited, burn out and fade away.

SurfWatch: So with elections coming up soon, how would you define 'the right people'?

Keala: Okay, how do I explain...The system that has been created is sophisticated, yes, and needs to be maintained. It's kind of like feeding the monster! Every SLSA board that comes along makes changes and adds new layers of complexity. It's a lot for people to maintain. It can be overwhelming: especially since it is done in this difficult virtual medium. So people get burnt out quickly. People quit the board very soon after they join, after they realize how much work it is to feed the monster. I've met so many people in Second Life and they are all wonderful in their own right. Everyone has valid and passionate reasons for joining the board. But I think there can be characteristics of a person that will make it a lot more productive, not so set in their ways. So, people who can be open minded, flexible, communicative, passionate, but not stubborn. This is a growing community, a growing period, so we all have to be open to change [laughs] Does that make any sense?

SurfWatch: Well spoken! And your own future in Second Life surfing?
Keala: [laughs] My own future is to stay happy and keep surfing.
I hope that all the competitions and all the team politics and personalities don't end up taking away from that original, core feeling. That in the end, it's you on the board hearing the rush of the water. I hope people are able to find peace with themselves through surfing.

In the meantime, I'm building this surf/snow sim and working on snowboards too, on the other side of this island. We're not finished yet, but soon.... I'm still building out the terrain park and stuff. Heather's been a gem, designing improvements to the snowboards.
Snowboarding is a whole other story... [smiles]

Useful links

SurfWatch Surf Report: Chi, unique surf breaks with a touch of Zen
URL: Namiko Surf
URL Surfrider Foundation
SLURL: Namiko Surf
SLURL: Chi Island
SLURL: Quan Li

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