Women surfing on a wave in the ocean

Waves Within: A novel of empowerment in Bali

Written by @inga_maria_panten
Cover Image: Inga surfing by Shannon

It started with a moment of frustration while surfing. I was with some girlfriends in the southeast of Bali, at my favorite spot at the time. A few years later, the Ritz Carlton was going to destroy the original wave to create a swimming cove, but that’s another story. It was crowded in the water and once again I didn’t get as many waves as I had hoped for. Hello, expectations! Then came the final moment; the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could no longer pull myself together and let out a loud sigh of exasperation, hitting the water with my hand so hard it splashed. At that moment I knew that something was very wrong. Then my friend Anna paddled up to me and said with a serious look: “Inga, when you’re like this, it’s really no fun surfing with you.” She is usually the kindest and most smiley surfer out there. Her words hit me like a slap in the face and dejectedly I paddled back to the beach. What had just happened?

Arriving at the beach, I dropped my board onto the sand and sank down next to it. I was on the verge of tears, enraged by my helplessness because I didn’t understand what was going on within me. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go on like this. Surfing was my refuge and my playground where I could laugh and be myself, have fun with my friends. What had gone wrong here? I didn’t recognize myself, so I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing.

For a few months I had been taking occasional notes in a small pink notebook after surfing. How the waves were, what I had experienced and learned. At the beginning I “only” wanted to create a guide about the waves, so I knew which surf spot worked best in which conditions. Those notes eventually turned into so much more than I could have imagined.

When I talked to my girlfriends about the fact that I had started journaling about my surfing experiences, it turned out that they felt the same way. They too were frustrated, had fears in the water and days when nothing seemed to work at all. The more we talked about it, the more I felt I needed to compile all of the insights in one place, in order to ease the journey of other female surfers. So I created a new file on my laptop called “The Surfgirl Guide.” Over the years, I didn’t really take the project seriously. I was busy working on my previous blog “German Mermaid Diary” and only journaled every now and then when I needed to blow off steam after surfing or had experienced something special in the ocean.

It took until 2022 that I finally had the courage to take the book project seriously. I wrote to my editor friend Sandra to ask if she would take a look at the manuscript, because after all those years I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. She was glad to read it, her feedback was enthusiastic and she advised me to contact Whispering Voice Publishing, with whom she had also worked before. At first, I didn’t have the courage. I had heard how hard it was to find a literary agent as a new author, let
alone approach a publisher directly with a manuscript (a no-go in the literary scene). But so many years had passed in which I had only let the book gather dust in the drawer. I decided that I finally had to do something about it instead of just talking, and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. The most difficult thing was to defeat my weaker self, to overcome my self-doubts. Would anyone even be interested in the book?

There was no more room for these kinds of thoughts now. I wrote to the publisher and a few days later I had the first call with the co-founder, Vera. There was an immediate familiarity, as if we had known each other for years. And best of all, she was interested in my manuscript! I could hardly believe my luck. Paradoxically, my self-doubts were more intense than ever, but I faced them. Fast forward one year, the publishing contract is signed and the book is on its way. We already have a great illustrator, too, the wonderfully talented Alexandra Siebert. I love her fun, playful and simultaneously fierce and empowering images of female surfers. They suit the book perfectly. But wait, what is the novel actually about? It is about the waves in us; commonalities that move us as ‘spiritual beings having a human experience’ (in the words of philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). It’s about my journey through 16 years of surfing and how I am learning to surrender and play, a little more each day.

About the author:

Inga started surfing in 2007 in Moliets, on the French Atlantic coast. Later on, she lived in Australia for two years. In 2014, she moved to Bali where she has been building her life by the ocean and writes articles for magazines, as a freelance writer. Inga is self-employed and also offers workshops in creative writing. In her free time, she loves to walk her dogs and attend poetry slams/ open stage events (@voices_unleashed_), where she recites her poetry and sometimes volunteers as a host.

Credit: Qolis (@alfarisigusman) | Inga at an Voices Unleashed Event in Bali

For updates, follow Inga and the book’s journey at @inga_maria_panten

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