Welcome To
Soul Surface

Each individual has a story. In a series of intimate interviews, we explore the emotional and intriguing human experience through the lens of students navigating self identity within their newfound freedom.

The Female Surfer

For nineteen-year-old molecular biology student, Samantha Apodaca, surfing surpasses the realm of sport and resonates on a deeper level. It encompasses the essence of exhilaration, providing a fluid form of self-expression and a unique lifestyle that extends beyond the ocean. In this photo essay, Sam offers a rare glimpse of her life outside of the water, the aspects of the world and the people in it that inspire her and how she embraces the stoke in every moment.

February 8, 2017 | In San Luis Obispo, sophomore Sam Apodaca's onshore safe haven is her bedroom. Decorated with constant reminders and odes to the ocean, it reflects what she values most in life.  Everything seems to be inspired by water, from the hanger made of driftwood displaying her jewelry, to her surfboard peeking out from behind the dresser.  “My room is my happy place, my serenity.  Just like the ocean, it calms me.” February 8, 2017 |  From the minute she wakes up, Apodaca is surrounded by surf memorabilia to inspire her, even when outside conditions do not permit her to pursue her passion.  “With all of the rain lately, I have only been able to paddle out about once a week.  I get really antsy to surf.  If I don't for a while, it gets to me.” February 8, 2017 |  “My favorite part about surfing is the community, when we go to the same spots over and over and develop a family with the people that go there,” Apodaca reminisces on past surf sessions, sifting through a stack of polaroids featuring friends and fellow teammates on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Surf Team, of which she has been a member for the past two years.  “The best mornings are when I wake up, meet up with friends and mob over to the beach, frantically putting our wetsuits on, blasting music and yelling out of excitement as we paddle out, then going to get breakfast burritos or making pancakes at my house.” February 8, 2017 |  Apodaca ventures outside to show off her wetsuit hanging from her balcony, excess drops of seawater falling from the smooth edges.  “I have such an affinity for nature, so finding the balance between everyday life and surf is definitely hard,” she divulges, her gaze lingering on the wetsuit.  “It’s such a struggle when my friends are begging me to come surf an awesome break but I’m in the library studying for a midterm.” February 8, 2017 |  Though most surf sessions are good ones, not every moment spent in the water is a positive experience.  “I used to not paddle out that much alone, because as a girl, it’s intimidating,”  Sam explains. “Depending on the environment, people might not take you seriously and it’s hard to get waves.  I get cut off all the time, even if it’s clearly my wave.  Because I’m a girl, they pretend like they don’t see me.” February 5, 2017 | Many women in the sport have voiced similar experiences regarding unfair treatment due to their gender, but Apodaca finds solace and support from the other water women in her life.  Avalon Johnson, a fourth year biology major and fellow Cal Poly SLO Surf Team member, expresses the importance of female connection through surf: “I love being with other women in the water.  Being with your girl friends and seeing other groups of girls in the water together is such an awesome and empowering feeling.”  Apodaca (left) paddles out with Johnson (right) for their team competition in Ventura, California. February 8, 2017 | All of the women in Apodaca’s life have a heavy influence on her and she is consistently inspired by them, in and out of the water.  Her neighbor’s mom gifted her this necklace, that she keeps hung around the rearview mirror of her car.  “Her life motto is, ‘go with the flow,’ and to me it’s so important,” Sam smiles.  “This always reminds me of that.” February 8, 2017 | Though she finds inspiration from every aspect of life, not all of Apodaca’s philosophy comes from the external.  “I believe there’s an energy in the world, and you just have to go with it,” she says, pointing out the wave sticker on her car, which she suggests symbolizes this motion and energy.  “Sometimes you might have to step outside of it or alter its course, but that’s just life.” February 8, 2016 |  Back in her bedroom, amongst a cluttered bedside table scattered with The Mindfulness Coloring Book, seashells and her personal journal, Apodaca finds a heartfelt note she recently received from a friend.  Quickly glancing over the written words, she reiterates the importance of female confidence in surfing.  “For any girls that are just starting out or are too afraid to get in the water, it may sound lame, but my advice is to just do it,” she urges.  “It’s intimidating with all those guys out there, but just catch your first wave and stand up.  It’s all uphill from there.” February 8, 2017 |  Something in the corner of the room catches Apodaca’s eye, and she scrambles over to pull out her surfboard.  She cradles it as if it’s her anchor, almost like a second limb.  “My relationship with the ocean and surfing definitely affects the way I approach the rest of my life,”  She says, never letting go of her board.  “For me, surfing is confidence.  It helps me try new things and have a certain fearlessness because what’s the worst that’s going to happen?  If you fall, it’s only water.”

The Drag Queen

A fearless creative, Cal Poly junior Jordan Collins constantly pushes societal boundaries, redefining gender as a fluid spectrum. Collins provides a radically expressive insight into his experience in drag, revealing how it increases his confidence, shifts his perspective and empowers his individuality.

The DJs

With the incredible power to evoke emotion and capitivate an audience with the curation of melodies, students Jack Boyce, Alice Neary and Chris Tom are individually making waves in the electronic music scene. These beat weavers reflect on their love of performing and examine their intimate connection to the music they create. Hover over each photograph to hear their story.

Pursuit of Passion

"Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things." - Denis Diderot