Alessandro Ponzanelli
Alessandro Ponzanelli is an Ital­ian surfer whom we recently dis­cov­ered via Face­book. When we asked his fellow country­man who was the best surfer in the region was, he exclaimed “Ponzanelli!” A visit to YouTube confirmed that he was indeed an amazing surfer. Allessan­dro spent some time with to tell us about the Italian surf scene and his inspired life.

by Glenn Sakamoto
What was your life like growing up?
I was born in Pietrasanta, the youngest of three brothers. I grew up in Ver­silia, a seaside area known more for its discos and night­clubs rather than for its waves. My family used to spend its summers at seaside resort “Wanda”. It was run by Ario Bertacca, one of the pioneers of the Italian surfing. Together with some friends of mine and with my elder brother Luca, I approached surfing when I was only 12, but in spite of this my mother let me go with them even during summer wind swells. At first, I used to stop surfing during winter. But when I was about 15 and surf had already become something impor­tant and real in my life, I bought a wetsuit and started surfing at every swell. With my friends, I used to hang out at Nim­bus Surfing Club, and when it was flat we used to go sail­ing and windsurfing.

When did you get your first surfboard?
It was my brother who gave me my first board an old shortboard Costa Ovest, a local brand. It was sprayed and had a curious slogan on the tail: No alla mafia nello sport (“No mafia in sport”). I went on for some seasons to bor­row long­boards so as to be able to go surfing as often as possible. In the end, I bought one.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood up on a surfboard?
That moment is still impressed in my mind. “Free­dom” is probably the right word to describe the sensation.

Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young man?
When I was a little child, my mod­els were my elder brothers, Michele and Luca. I often went out with them and their friends, and I know to them I was a real pain in the ass!! I preferred staying with older guys because people of my age did nothing else but play­ing football and I had other inter­ests. As a surfer, I’ve always admired Joel Tudor and I grew up watch­ing (and studying) old Herbie Fletcher videos.

What should we know about the surfing scene in Italy?
Despite what they say, it is possible to go surfing in Italy, but you need a lot of free time since you usually have to drive a lot to find the right place and in winter you’ve to face freezing conditions. Many pro surfers have visited our peninsula some were lucky and surfed waves they would have never imag­ined to find in the Mediter­ranean. Others were not as lucky. The problem is that swells are sporadic, especially in summer when you can face long flat spells.

Who/what inspires you?
Many surfers, be they famous or not, have inspired me over the years. Among them, Oliver Parker (whom I surfed with while in California). He’s probably one of the best longboarders at Rincon; he’s got a great style and can surf reg­u­lar or goofy with­out you realizing which is his stance.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
That you should never cease to believe in your dreams.

What are you most proud of?
I’m doing what I love doing and I’m proud of it, proud of the goals I’ve reached in surfing, proud to work with Sundek, which supports me and allows me to travel.

Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
The poor conditions of the Italian surf pushed me to travel a lot, over the years, in the end­less search for the place where I could find the per­fect waves and settle down. A safe place, but also an uncontaminated one. I think Australia can be this place. Another place I love to go to, and which is quite near from where I live, is Sardinia, a happy island in the middle of the Mediterranean. To Ital­ian surfers, this island is like Hawaii, a wonderful place with some of the most beautiful spots in the Mediterranean. It’s there that I found some of the best waves I’ve ever surfed and the water is really clear.

What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I’m a reserved per­son and I’m at ease when I’m out with my board my mind free of thoughts. I gave up study­ing, and I know this could be penal­iz­ing in the future, but I’ve learned a lot from traveling and meet­ing several per­sons who positively influ­enced me and my way to look at things. Every­body should have his own dream and this is mine.


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