Alena Ehrenbold - Surf Film Director & Freesurfer
Land-locked Switzerland isn’t the first place you would expect to find a female freesurfer … but then there is a lot about Alena Ehrenbold that is unexpected. Transitioning from university lecturer to surfing for Switzerland, becoming a sponsored freesurfer and most recently, directing surf movies, Alena has dream-chasing down to an art form! Ambitious, fearless, entrepreneurial and all with an infectious smile and ample surf stoke, Alena is not afraid to take the leap into the unknown and do things more than a little differently. Currently in the process of directing her third surf movie, we catch up with Alena in the throes of surf coaching in the Mentawai’s.
Firstly, where are you from?
I’m from Lucerne, Switzerland
Where do you live now and how did you end up there?
I quit my fix job as an economics and law teacher three years ago. Now I’m following the waves and the surfing projects around the world.
Being from the landlocked country, how did your passion for surfing start?
At the age of 21 I had a boyfriend who surfed. He told me “either you surf as well or you take pictures of me”. So I decided to surf rather than stay at the beach.
How did you make the jump from surfing as a passion, to freesurfer, freelance surf journalist and later film producer & director?
During the six years of teaching, I got more and more offers for surf projects (World Surfing Games with the swiss team, film projects, advertising campaigns) and more and more support from sponsors. So at one stage I decided to quit my job and try make a living out of it.
What drew you to film production and directing?
I started to publish surf and travel articles, but I always wanted to give my readers more information. I was looking for a more complete way to transfer the feelings, the vibe, the adventure to them. As I’m not gifted with cameras, I was looking for film makers and finally I met the right people and started to produce/direct surf films.
Tell us about the first surf film you produced, “I Wanna Surf”.
This was the first documentary about the Swiss surfing community. We are landlocked but there are many passionate surfers around – we even surf rivers. I thought this could be interesting to do a documentary about.
What was the inspiration behind directing and producing your second film “Blue Road”?
When I was deciding, for myself, what role surfing should play in my life, I realized that there are many other people with the same question. Especially girls. So I decided to realize “Blue Road” and tell my story alongside the story of Rachel from Australia and Annabel from France.
What’s the best thing about what you do, and what is the most challenging?
It’s the surfing. There is so much more to learn – it’s sooo exciting and sometimes so frustrating.
It must be amazing to watch your films on the big screen! Which film showing location sticks out for you most from your film tours?
The very first time – the world premiere on a big screen with audience- is always really special! And then all the festivals have their own charm. I love the outdoor festivals, but there is always the risk with the weather conditions.
Unfortunately there are not many women in the surf film industry! What advice would you give other women diving into the surf film world, particularly producing and directing?
Just do it! There is nothing more to be afraid of than any in other business.
You are also on the Swiss surf team, and are currently ranked number one in Switzerland. How did you get into competing and what has been your favourite event so far?
In 2008 I participated for the first time at the Swiss Championships as I was there with friends who were competing. As there were not enough girls to complete the heat sheets, I agreed to participate. This was a lot of fun, so I continued to do the Champs and at some stage I qualified for the Swiss surfing team. The best competition so far was the World Surfing Games in Panama in 2011. But I love big waves and tubes and I’m not a great competitor, so I do a lot more freesurfing stuff than comps.
What are you working on now & what’s up next for you?
At this very moment, I’m coaching five girls in Indonesia, that’s always a lot of fun. I’m currently working on my third film – it will be a film about a French shaper/surfer. It should be coming out in May or June. And as I was working a lot during the last few month (winter in Europe) on my laptop in Switzerland, it is time to get back in the water and back in shape for this surfing season!
When and how did your passion for surfing start?
When I was 21, beginner course in Portugal as my boyfriend at the time was already a good surfer.
What does surfing mean to you, and how has it changed your life?
My whole life is created around surfing at the moment – surfing changed literary everything in my life.
Favourite surf location?
Indonesia / Mentawais and Sumbawa
Most memorable session?
There are too many…
Beside the pros, I’ve met so many incredible stylish, radical, smooth surfers that nobody knows, so it would be a mix of all those people. But in general, the surfer next to me who let me have a really good set wave are my favorite ones.
Biggest surf mission or most hardcore surf spot you've visited?
Tow in session with Ibon Amatriain in Spain and winter swells in Portugal
What are you known for?
For smiling a lot and being straight forward/honest with people.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
Nature, people and their stories.
If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?
I wouldn’t care who I would be, I would be just so curious to be any other person for a day!
Home-made cake, wine and beer
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
To be myself.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
What are you most grateful for?
To have a great family and true friends.
Where can we find you online?
Posted by: Emma Gibbons, on March 14, 2018
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