BY SARAH KIM BONNER
There is a depth to Candra Jordan. At the age of 28, she is exactly what you expect a professional surfer to be and exactly what you don’t, and her curious combination makes Jordan someone you need to know.
A San Diego, California native, Jordan, naturally felt at home in the water. “Even as a baby,” Jordan says, “my mom would take me to the beach or put me in water and I would always calm down.” Growing up, her home environment was plagued with drug and alcohol abuse and the instability kept pushing Jordan back to the water. “I learned how to surf and I connected with the ocean. I felt calm and felt I had a place. It physically took me off the land that was making me feel uncomfortable,” Jordan says. Jordan started surfing before and after school, found friends, started to compete, and felt a sense that surfing “was her thing”.
At 18, Jordan left home and moved to Santa Cruz but things were not what she was expecting. “I was super lost and lonely. I was overwhelmed,” Jordan says. “I started drinking a lot and going down a path I wasn’t proud of. I stopped surfing,” Jordan admits. She explains how her choices during that year never felt good. The guilt and fear she was turning toward the very unhealthy habits that caused the pain of her childhood created an internal battle that constantly told Jordan this wasn’t her path. While it sounds like a year most young adults have at some point or another, Jordan’s coming of age was a lot more deep and decisive.
“I went surfing one day and I met some people in the water and it pulled me out of the dark space. I had just met these people and they cared,” Jordan says. It was that connection to strangers that reminded her: “This is healthy, happiness, and community,” she says. “It was turning point, and I surfed the next day and didn’t drink. And then I surfed the next day and didn’t drink. And then I surfed the next day and didn’t drink.”
“I fell in love with surfing again. I won a contest, got a mentor, and that was the start of pro surfing,” Jordan says. She started training more seriously, even incorporating swimming in her training for fitness conditioning. “It might look like a relaxing sport but if you want to be good, it does require a lot of fitness, cardio, and leg, core, and back strength, and swimming offers all of that without impact,” Jordan says.
Jordan has competed with the best in the world in the World Surfing League (WSL) and travelled the planet competing and coaching. Although competition has been on hold for COVID19, Jordan is currently ranked 25th in the world and has her sights set on the top 10. “I’m glad I stuck with my sport,” Jordan affirms, considering the dark path she avoided. While she doesn’t struggle with her relationship to alcohol anymore—adding that she avoids the party scene at competitions—Jordan says surfing always helps no matter what she is facing but especially with her confidence.
“I didn’t start believing in myself until 4 years ago,” Jordan says. “First, I got confidence in my surfing and then in myself,” she explains. “I was self-conscious. Someone would paddle up to me and say they like my [surfing] style and I would be like ‘who, me?’,” she laughs. But the more Jordan put into the water, the more she got out of it. Not only did she improve as an athlete, in turn gaining her invitations to international surfing competitions and more attention from sponsors, but her self-confidence off the surfboard improved too.
She admits she still has to work on her confidence “everyday” but it’s a work for growth, not survival, and anytime she needs it, the water is there to support her. “Surfing is more spiritual and emotional for me to than most people. If I’m having a bad day, I seek surfing. Not a lot of people look at surfing that way but I look at it as therapy,” Jordan says. Whatever is in the water, clearly it’s working.