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By Robert Waldner
Photo by Kate Gardiner
If you live in St. Augustine, whether you’re a surfer or not, it’s a good bet that you know at least one person who is. In a community so richly laden with surfing culture, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a whole lot of local surfers who haven’t been riding the waves since shortly after learning to walk. In fact, there seems to be a widely preconceived notion that if you’re approaching mid-life and haven’t been surfing since childhood, you just aren’t a surfer. However, people like Gina Blevins want you to know that notion just isn’t true.
“I just celebrated my third surfing anniversary on July 20th,” says Blevins. “I’m originally from Ohio. I moved here in the fall of 1994 to attend Flagler College and never left.” The fact that Blevins has been employed with Dat’l Do It, Inc. since 1995 and is now part of the management team there, is a testament to the fact that when she gets into a good thing, there is nothing pulling her away. It’s s no different with surfing. “My friend, Beth Masters, put me on a longboard back in 2015 and I couldn’t stop laughing,” says Blevins. “I had so much fun my first time out that I was hooked. Beth has taught me a lot. In fact, we have this thing where I call her my ‘Surfing Sensei’ and she calls me her ‘Grasshopper.’” Blevins decided to give surfing a shot after spending years surrounded by friends and co-workers who were completely immersed in the sport. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” she says. “Between people at the office who were always going out surfing, plus a friend I met in my running group, I just felt that it was time for me to try it.” A long-time runner, Blevins says, “I used to use running as an outlet to de-stress and clear my mind, but once I started surfing I realized it was more effective for me. It doesn’t allow me to think about anything else, because I always have to be focused on catching that next wave.”
Surfing has become so much of a passion for Blevins in the last three years that she has begun the tradition of taking international surf trips. “The running group I have been part of has actually become more of a surfing travel group recently,” she says.
The group, self-titled “Team WIT” (Women In Training) has been to Puerto Rico, Panama, and Costa Rica over the last few years. Of course, the trips do more than just expose the ladies to great waves, they also introduce them to different cultures. “We are all taking Spanish lessons,” says Blevins.
The phrase “Never mix business with pleasure” doesn’t apply to Blevins, who has incorporated her favorite new pastime into her professional life. “When the surf is really good, we have ‘board meetings’ on the water. It’s a great way to get out of the office for a bit and regain our focus in a more natural environment,” she says.
“It’s a big journey,” says Blevins. “I’ve been to beautiful places and I have met a lot of great people through surfing.” She also has a very unique way of commemorating each session. “When I first started, my ‘Surf Sensei’ gave me a mason jar with a note on it that reads, ‘Every Time You Surf, Grab a Shell.’”
She admits, “I’m currently working on my third jar.”