Tia Blanco found her way into the national spotlight with tv appearances and celebrity connections. But surfing is what drives her.
After winning the first and only series of ABC’s the Ultimate Surfer, set at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Central California, Tia Blanco earned several wildcard entries on this year’s World Surfing League Championship tour events. She’s an incredible surfer, currently ranking as No. 22 in the world.
“Surfing is very cathartic for me,” says Tia. “It helps me kind of tune in and tap back into my core values. I’m not a very religious person, but surfing can be quite spiritual for me. It’s just a way that I can kind of release any stress and take my mind off of things, and it’s the time where I could just immerse myself in the present moment, which I love.”
Tia began turning heads when she won gold at the 2015 ISA Open Women’s Championship, and successfully defended her title the following year. But like many pros, she has been surfing for most of her life. Her dad taught her to surf from the tender age of three.
“I have had surfing be a part of my life since forever and I couldn’t imagine my life without surfing. My dad was in the Coast Guard for 30 years, so we always lived by the coast, and he passed his love and passion for surfing and the ocean on to me at a very young age.”
Having been born in Puerto Rico and lived in both San Clemente and Hawaii as a child, it’s clear that living next to the ocean has inspired Tia to flourish as a surfer. Tia honored her Puerto Rican roots in 2018 when she represented the island in surfing competitions.
“My dad served in the US military in Puerto Rico. I surfed a few times out there but the place has always been a part of my background,” says Tia. “I love that surfing allows me to be in the ocean every day. I’ve always been a water child and ocean lover. It’s important to be respectful to the ocean and the local surfers wherever you paddle out.”
Television helped Tia Blanco make her pro surfing dreams come true
Her first taste of the TV limelight was in 2017, when she appeared on MTV’s The Challenge: Champs vs Pros, where contestants competed to raise money for charity. During her time on the show, Tia raised $1,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Previously, Tia has said that her dream was to make it on the WSL someday.
“I have tasted victory and I know what it’s like to succeed,” Tia told the Inertia. “It gives me a lot of confidence moving forward to hopefully make it on the WSL. The WSL showcases the best 15 women in the surfing world. It would be my dream to be amongst those women and to compete with them.”
Tia skyrocketed to fame when she won ABC’s only season of The Ultimate Surfer, alongside Zeke Lau, and has become one of the most recognizable faces of female surfing in mainstream media. Both contestants won $100,000 and were offered wildcard entries onto the WSL Championship Tour. A chance of achieving her surfing dreams.
Her first wildcard entry into the MEOPro in Portugal this year resulted in Tia being defeated by Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore in the first round, and then again by Tyler Wright and India Robinson in the elimination round. But Tia hasn’t let this keep her down, as any athlete will tell you that a loss is a learning opportunity to help guide you towards a future win.
“It definitely took a little bit of a toll on my confidence,” says Tia. “But that’s just a part of competition, it’s how you handle the losses. It was definitely not how I imagined my first event going, but can only get better. Sometimes the losses are essential stepping stones. So I learned a lot from the last event, and it will be good for me to reapply myself. I found an amazing surf coach that I’ve been working with for the past two years, so I’m hopeful going into these next few events.”
Tia is also known for proudly sharing her holistic lifestyle on social media, practicing yoga, meditation, and veganism. Tia credits her veganism to her mom, as she grew up in a vegetarian household and states that she has never eaten meat in her life. Tia is known for sharing tips and advice with her fans via her Instagram account and YouTube channel on how to stay healthy as a vegan. With inspiring advice and aspirational photos of Tia in breath-taking places, it’s easy to see how Tia has gained a cult following of over 451k followers. Her fanbase looks up to her positive energy, healthy outlook on life, and ability to make waves as a pro surfer.
“I feel like a lot of what I do kind of comes hand in hand with each other,” says Tia. “I just like to do things that feel the best and perform the best. I’m really into the Mamba mentality. I was a big fan of Kobe Bryant for all of my life. He’s a big proponent of how can you be the best version of yourself every single day and be better than you were yesterday. And even though you might fail, there’s always another opportunity to prevail, and it’s never going to be permanent. All your failures, you can overcome.”
“I’m also really passionate about my health, animals and the environment. I love the way that eating a plant-based diet makes me feel physically and mentally. Diet plays a big role in more than just your well-being, it’s also impactful on the environment.”
Tia recently made mainstream headlines for who she’s currently dating. But while it’s great for the surfing community when an athlete transcends into mainstream media, when it’s because of who they are dating, we run the risk of reducing that athlete’s worthiness to their celebrity counterpart.
But it’s clear that Tia’s talents as an athlete and celebrity persona are worthy of commercial success no matter who she chooses to be with. Beyond the headlines, Tia is currently preparing for a surfing event next month and has recently designed a new clothing collection that will be released in the fall of this year. When preparing for an event, Tia likes to spend as much time as possible in the water.
“The best way to prepare for any surf contest is to get more water time,” says Tia. “I’ll do some yoga, check the waves, and try to get in the water one or two times a day. Obviously, the ocean doesn’t always provide so that’s when I do my cross-training and weight training. At my apartment, there’s a little lap pool so I’ve been doing plenty of exercise out of the water.”
“I’ve never been that athlete that sticks to one type of training. I like to do yoga, ballet, boxing — I like to do it all, and over time I’ve found some of my favorite activewear pieces, and I made the perfect line in my eyes that is really well-rounded for all types of activities and people. I am designing an activewear line with JOLYN clothing. I have worked on every little detail. There are so many different elements that I never understood as a consumer, but I’ve learned so much.”
“I don’t feel like I am done with the competitive side of surfing,” says Tia. “I want to push myself and reach goals in the competitive surfing world, and I’m going to take on the opportunities as they come. But I would love to dive deeper into the fashion world because I’ve loved the journey I’ve been on designing my own collection. All in all, I just want to keep doing me.”