Surf ATL Community Spotlight: Santiago & Santi
Every surfer has a story and this is the latest installment of our Surf ATL Community Spotlight series where we will feature surfers and those part of the surf culture in the Atlanta area. Check out our previous spotlights on Thomas Roginsky, Spencer Broome, Anthony Kennedy, Nick Bramwell, the Merlo Family, Mike Dobbs, Kristian Erik Bjerke, Jamie Eichler, Doug Paul, Brandon Spivia, Robert Hanson, Liam Spoon, Eric Ilustrisimo, Susan Bond, Jason Smith, Garrett Gilfillan, Silvia Saey, Scott Mennicke, Tammie Dalrymple, Wes Espinosa, Peter Gudbrandsen, Kelby Graham, Kayvon Nazarian, Abigail Pierce, Clark Campbell, Katy Harrison, Sam Burrafato, Maggie Maziarz, Erik Barron, Erin Keith, Jenny Serwitz, Adam Hunter, Joyce and Mack, Jackson Kearns, Jessica Luna, Tyler Urrutia, Mike Pappas, Scott Stone, Emily McLarty, Emilio Castro, Kurt Ehlers, and Westry Whitaker.
My name is Santiago and my son is Santi Vega. We belong in the ocean, but our family ties brought us to Atlanta. Half of our family is in Peru, and the other half is in Cumming, GA.
Santi is 12 years old and we share the same love for the ocean and the peace it provides.
Do you ocean surf, wake surf, river surf, paddle surf? Any or all of the above?
We love to surf in the ocean as much as possible. However, we’re excited to try wake surfing soon.
How did you get into surfing? In Atlanta or somewhere else?
I grew up next to the ocean. Lima is a crowded city, and for us, the ocean was our backyard. We spent many hours at the beach over the summers. However, I did not get my first surfboard until I was 37 years old.
For Santi, it was different. He would ride on my paddleboard since he was three years old. I would take him for long rides in the ocean and for his age, that was the only time he would sit still. When he was five, he started taking some lessons from surf schools in Peru. But then we came back to ATL in 2016.
Where and how often do you surf?
After we moved back to ATL. I felt like a piece of me was missing. I no longer could surf any day of the week. We visited the Florida panhandle and were frustrated by the lack of waves. Surfing was over, we turned our focus to soccer which we also love. We only had a chance to surf when visiting Lima.
In 2019, we luckily had family that moved to Jacksonville. We made a trip to visit but had zero expectations. When we got there, we saw people surfing and some decent sets. Santi and I looked at each other and smiled. We ran to the closest surf shop and rented a board. Shortly after that, surfboards came in the mail, and we started paddling at Lake Lanier. We finally had something to look forward to, that would keep us connected to surfing.
We try to visit Jacksonville as much as possible. And get to travel to Peru 2–3 times per year.
What is your favorite thing about surfing? What do you do to advance your surfing?
More so than surfing, just being in the ocean makes us feel we are connected to nature and God. The peace that the ocean provides clears our minds from the daily worries and re-focus on what’s important to us.
I always hear from other surfers that the best surfer is the one that has the most fun. The feeling of riding a wave has no comparison to me. That is what keeps us going back.
What are your hopes for the Atlanta surfing community in the future?
We hope to continue connecting with people that share a love for the sport. Organizing activities and surf trips are a great way to get to know everyone and know that we’re not alone in this. Bringing a surf pool to ATL would be the ultimate life-changer for us. We hope to be part of this and figure out how we can contribute to this great community in the short term.