|Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald photographed by Ming Nomchong.
Certain people have a natural gift of glowing happy energy and Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald’s positive vibes are like a radiating halo of light. We’re addicted to bouncing off her contagious warmth that you can’t help but feel happy when you’re around her.
Seea and Chrystal came to meet through mutual Aussie-loving friends and we've been uplifted and inspired by the aesthetic beauty and feminine aura of Chrystal’s photography and motion pictures ever since. We felt blessed to find out that Chrystal enjoyed surfing in Seea too. “I appreciated the classy cuts and prints I thought it was very original and unique,” says Chrystal of her initial impressions of Seea. “The first one I put on, [The Hermosa,] fit like a glove and felt amazing… They give extra coverage where needed and do so in an elegant way.”
Originally from the Big Island of Hawaii, Chrystal came to Sydney, Australia nearly eight years ago to study for a master’s degree in Media Arts and Productions at the University of Technology Sydney. Both Hawaii and Australia share the characteristics of being sparsely populated naturally wild islands, and Chrystal quickly adapted to coastal Australia as her second home. She now lives in Byron Bay, located on the eastern Gold Coast region of Australia, with her husband and surfboard shaper Joel Fitzgerald.
|Life in Australia. Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald in the Palmas with a board shaped by her husband, Joel Fitzgerald. Photo by Joel Fitzgerald.
Byron Bay’s famous point breaks, natural surroundings and tight knit community are a magnet for open-minded surfers desiring an escape from city life. “Here in the Byron Bay area, people are supportive of one another and take time to connect, as opposed to the fast pace of Sydney,” Chrystal explains. “Australia is wild in many places and nature comprises most of the space here. I love Australia for her space, for the amazing long white sand beaches, long point breaks, for the wildlife, trees, sunshine, deserts and people."
Please welcome Chrystal to the Seeababe family as she shares with us why she loves the unique culture of Byron Bay, her work as a woman filmmaker and the perks of having a surfboard shaper for a husband.
|The glorious wild oceans of Australia. Chrystal paddles with dolphins!
What’s unique and special about living in Byron Bay?
Byron is a very creative and inspiring place to be, with an ever-expanding community of writers, artist,s activists, raw foodists, organic farmers, free thinkers, fashion designers and filmmakers all living, grooving, and surfing together. There are also two world-class point breaks here: Lennox Point and The Pass at Byron Bay are less then 30 minutes apart. On any given afternoon at The Pass you can see the widest variety of surfing crafts I have ever witnessed in a single lineup. Finless, alaia's, paipos, single fins, logs, surf mats, twin fins, the occasional thruster, and much much more. Its a hub for alternative craft, shapers, and riders, plus there are always interesting people to meet in and out of the water.
When and where did you start surfing?
Although I grew up in the islands I didn’t start surfing till I was in my late teens. I learned to surf at Lymans and Pinetrees on the Big Island of Hawaii where I grew up. My best friends Heather Alley and Brittnay Wood were my inspirations and helped me along the way.
|Chrystal with her just a sampling of her family surfboard quiver.
What does an average day of work look for you while you are in Australia?
With a creative media background I find myself wearing many different hats for work. An average day in my mobile office consist of checking my emails, responding to inquires for my husband Joel Fitzgerald's surfboard business, updating and maintaining the blogs and sites I manage, creating content, and doing research. When I am hired out I am either editing, or videoing, lately I have also been doing a little bit of photography.
When I am traveling I just take my work with me. The most challenging part is finding a place with a good internet connection as most of my work is web related or dependent. Uploading projects to clients for feedback or managing sites all require a high-speed internet connection. If I am going to be without it, I just work on gathering material and storing it on my portable hard drives in preparation for the next Wi-Fi spot.
|Crystal layers a neoprene jacket under the San-O in Limestone to keep warm. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.
We loved your short film, The Duette! And thank you for featuring the Hermosa :) What’s the story behind how it got made?
After a meditation circle at she and Dave Rastovich's house, Lauren L Hill asked me if I would like to make shore film for 'Women of the Seven Seas,' which was to be the first ever women's surf film festival in New York. Lauren had been invited by the festival director to submit, and at the time Lauren and I were newly acquainted. We had just a few weeks to prepare. I said yes, and we embarked on the journey together, which amongst other joys a deep friendship was born. We didn't get much swell so we did our best with the waves and time had. During my afternoon sessions at the Pass, I had witnessed and enjoyed the surfing of local glider Maddie Gross who alternated between a fun sized mid-length and longboard. She had a great style and good vibes so approached her about getting involved in the short. This is how the Duette was formed.
What was your thesis for the film and what do you hope your audience gets from it?
The Duette is a short film about how two women nurture themselves in and out of the sea on a daily basis. I am interested in human experiences and our deep eclectic wild nature as women who surf. It was filmed entirely within the Byron Bay area here in Australia.
The reason I made this short film and will make a longer feature length film is because I want to participate in the sharing and telling of stories about our culture. As a woman and a storyteller I think it is incredibly important and empowering to take an active role in sharing my unique view and experience of the world. This helps on a global scale, adding a view to our collective medias that is not as often celebrated. I have a voice and I am using it to share what I see, and what I love. To me it is a way of giving back to a community and culture that I am a part of and have been nurtured by.
The Vignettes I am working on are for and about the love of the sea and the joy of the glide from a woman's perspective — snapshots of the dreamscape and culture that we live and slide in. My mission is to capture and share moments of joy, wonder and fun from the surf to the sky.
|Quite possibly the raddest quiver shot ever. Chrystal and Joel Fitzgerald with their babies.
You are also very much apart of your husband's surfboard shaping business. What's it like having unlimited access to surfboards?
It has been a real privilege and bonus for me to have a wider range of surfboards to ride since Joel and I got together. Joel has always ridden all types of craft and grew up in a surfing family. Joel's style and experimental edge has influenced my surfing and board choices dramatically. Working with him on what boards I want for differing conditions, and objectives has been exciting and rewarding. My quiver at the moment consists of a 9'0 single fin longboard, 5'9 keel fin fish, 6'1 twin fin swallow tail short board that can be ridden as a thruster, a 7'0 midlength drifter, 5'6 egg, and a 5'7 quadfin pod. These boards support me through the year and our travels internationally.
|Chrystal with one of her magic carpets shaped by Joel Fitzgerald.
What’s the dynamic of you working together?
Being a part of Joel Fitzgerald Surfboards has been a most enjoyable experience for me as we continue to grow into what the company is becoming. Joel has a lifetime of surfing knowledge and deep passion for shaping. He crafts each board with care, with the sole intention that they are good boards that ride well so people will enjoy the stoke of surfing as much as he does. I love this about him and get inspired by that too. Myself, I love color, textures, fabrics, and stories. With our passions combined together and the help of some very creative laminators, we have been able to produce some exceptional one-of-a-kind boards that look and surf really well.
|Chrystal does a spot check in the San-O in Limestone.
You've gotten to travel around a lot! What are some of the important lessons that you've learned while traveling?
Yes, it is a blessing and privilege to travel I never forget this and praise God for the opportunities that I have been given to do so. Some of the important lessons I have learned whilst traveling are to always remain open, be humble listen and give of what you have. When on the road I always take organic coconut oil with me, I use it for oil pulling in the mornings, on my hair and skin as well as ingesting it.
Again I have a deep affinity for textiles, if I do purchase souvenirs I select the hand dyed, hand made items, unique sarongs, wall tapestries and fabrics that are locally available made.
|Chrystal trims and glides in The Hermosa. Photographed by Ming Nomchong.
What do you see are common values of surfers you have met all around the world?
What I see as common values of many surfers around the world is the celebration of the simple life. It is cliche but that idea of surf, eat, sleep remains prevalent in my journeys. The love of adventure and reverence for nature is also there. The core values are respect and freedom.
You are very passionate about ocean conservation. What are some of the projects you are working on and why are they important?
With passion and education comes responsibility. I am passionate about my work with the not for profit organization Living Ocean and their No Plastic Please campaign. I am also a supporter of Sea Shepherd. I admire the work that Patagonia, and the Take 3 are doing and think that we can all be the change. Reducing our intake of products that are disposable and plastic-based is a big start. One of the things I collect most of on my beach walks are plastic bottles and plastic straws. I think that the more aware one becomes of their enjoyment the more likely they are to care for it. To me it is the local grass roots movements that matter most, we must start local to become global.
|Chrystal in bloom. Photo by Bethany Ryles.
|Chrystal waxes up her fish in The Hermosa. Photo by Chris Prestidge.
To see more of Chrystal’s visual storytelling, check out her Vignettes of the Slide blog!