Episode 43: Meet Melanie Bernhard- Writer, Journalist, and Surfer

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Show Notes

Surfing is fun and there’s no question to that. But it can be full of dangers as unforeseen occurrences may happen during your surfing trip. Even experienced surfers are susceptible to such dangers, more so with those just heading out to catch their first wave. For someone to really enjoy the trip and make beautiful memories, utmost care and reliable guide are necessary to reduce the risks. 

Melanie Bernhard is a writer by trade and a journalist along with her husband. But she is also a passionate surfer. In her entire life course, surfing has always been there and she made sure it always will. As a surfer, Melanie is knowledgeable and has personally experienced mishaps in her surfing career. Hence, her idea of a unique and helpful book for surfers was born. 

In this conversation, Melanie shares the contents of her book. She also gives some advice for surfers and mentions some of the dangers one might meet in the ocean. This guide is simply what every surfer must read. As a writer, Melanie also shares valuable wisdom and tips on how to write a quality and marketable book in no time. She also gives a strong message to the women of the world regarding motherhood and career. Surfing is more than a hobby or a sport. It is a way of life. Circumstances may change but love is eternal. Melanie’s message is: “Never, ever give up your passion.” 

Episode Highlights:

03:12 Daily Surf- Beauty and Dangers
06:21 The Surf Trip Survival Guide
12:56 A Surfer’s Greatest Risk 
18:34 How to Write With Quality in No Time 
23:25 How to Write A Sellable Book 
28:54 Catch The Green Wave
32:15 Approaching Motherhood
34:48 Career Advice For Mothers

Today I’m really excited to introduce you to Melanie Bernhard. Melanie is from Germany and she’s a journalist and a writer by trade. She joined me today to talk about her book, The Surf Trip Survival Guide that she wrote with her husband. It’s a terrific compilation of tips for surfers to actually stay alive or out of harm during surf trip and it’s riddled with fun and not so fun, real-life stories of how a surf trip could go potentially wrong, and how to fix things up.

“I… couldn't imagine a life without surfing anymore.”

Anyway, Melanie is originally a journalist from one of the biggest surfing magazines in Germany and is now established in Capbreton, where she’s living the dream as a freelance journalist and writer. In this conversation, we go through what the book is all about, how she managed to get it off the ground, her lifestyle in France and her passion for surfing, writing, and bretzels. Anyway, when I got in touch with Melanie, it was on a feed on the women who serve Facebook group where people were exchanging about how to surf when you’re pregnant. In fact, Melanie surfed until her seventh month and I was curious also to find out how she did it and why she stopped. In fact, you’ll be surprised by her answer. Anyway, Melanie has got some great advice for young mothers who want to keep the Stoke alive after the baby is born.

I hope you enjoy this episode.

Take care, have fun, and enjoy the waves.




Connect with Melanie:

Resources Links:

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“I never thought about giving up because we always knew it's a good idea.”

“I… couldn't imagine a life without surfing anymore.”

“You just have to stick to your dream. And when you're really convinced,... you will succeed.”

“It's sometimes hard as a woman and a mother and a surfer to still follow your passion, but I think it's important to not lose that passion.”

“...just go with your feeling.”


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Imi Barneaud: Hey everybody and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast, conversations with creatives, entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers who also happened to be surfers. My name’s Imi, and I am your host. If you enjoy this podcast, you can support it in a number of ways. Number one, it’s free and it helps enormously. To subscribe to this podcast, hit the subscribe button on your podcast app. Number two, tell your friends, family and buddies at the lineup that you love this podcast, this helps me reach more people and increase my ranking. And number three, support my podcast by purchasing so much. You can take a look at The Oceanriders Shop online. It’s theoceanridersshop all in one word .com (theoceanridersshop.com), and find some really nice t-shirts and hoodies, greeting cards, and even some wall art. Links to it are in the show notes. 1% of my sales are actually donated to 1% for the planets, and this year I am donating everything to Wise’s New South Wales to help wildlife recover from bushfires in Australia.

Anyway, that’s housekeeping out of the way and time to introduce you to my guest. Today, I’m really excited to introduce you to Melanie Bernhard’s. Melanie is from Germany and she’s a journalist and a writer by trade. She joined me today to talk about her book, The Surf Trip Survival Guide that she wrote with her husband. It’s a terrific completion of tips for surfers to actually stay alive or out of harm during a surf trip, and it’s riddled with fun and not so fun real life stories of how a surf trip could go potentially wrong, and how to fix things up if they do.

Anyway, Melanie is originally a journalist from one of the biggest surfing magazines in Germany and is now established [inaudible] where she’s living the dream as a freelance journalist and writer. In this conversation, we go through what the book is all about, how she managed to get it off the ground, her lifestyle in France, and her passion for surfing, writing and bretzels. Anyway, when I got in touch with Melanie, it was on a feed on the Women Who Surf Facebook group where people were exchanging about how to surf when you’re pregnant. In fact, Melanie surf until her seventh month, and I was curious to find out how she did it, and why she stopped. In fact, you’ll be surprised by her answer. Anyway, Melanie’s got some great advice for young mothers who want to keep the stoke alive after the baby is born.

So without further ado, please welcome Melanie Bernhard.

Hello Melanie, and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast. How are you today?

Melanie Bernhard: Hey Imi, I’m very fine. Thank you., about you?

Imi Barneaud: I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s a lovely winter’s day over here in France and I’m just really, really stoked to meet you and to talk about your book. So I guess before we start, maybe you could introduce yourself to the listeners.

Melanie Bernhard: All right. My name’s Melanie. I’m 39 years old. I’m originally from Germany, from a little village in the mountains in the very South of Germany. And yeah, I moved to France almost 10 years ago in order to be able to go surfing every day. Actually, that was my motivation.

Imi Barneaud: That’s fantastic. And actually I saw that you used to surf the Eisbach river now. Could you tell us a bit more about what that’s like?

Melanie Bernhard: Yes, I love the Eisbach river. Well, I started surfing at the ocean and at the Eisbach at the same time. So you don’t know how to surf the ocean in order to surf a river wave. So it’s an artificial, Oh, well no, it’s not an artificial life actually. It’s a natural standing wave in the middle of Munich. It wasn’t far from the university, so I always went there during university, and it’s about 10 meters wide, and maybe just hip to chest high. It’s a part of the river, which is flowing through Munich, and there are some stones underneath, and it, yeah, well, it’s creating that natural artificial wave.

Imi Barneaud: A static wave. Yeah. I was in Munich a few weeks ago, and I actually went there on purpose that they did a pilgrimage and saw these guys. And what was quite amazing was the way they have to jump on their boards and it just goes, and that must be really technical.

Melanie Bernhard: It is. I mean, I never used to jump on my board. I always sat on the side, that just sat on the side, put your board on the wave, and then stand on it, and do your first turns.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Melanie Bernhard: But yeah, I was always a little bit scared because it’s all concrete. The walls are all concrete. And back in the days, I mean it was 15 years ago or 17 years ago, I started surfing there. They went that many technically good surfers. There were a few surfers who used to jump on their boards, but it was not the norm. And nowadays, the level just progressed so much and all of them are now jumping on their boards doing crazy tricks in airs. And it’s really amazing to see actually.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Yeah. And I was quite surprised to see, we really do need to know how to turn on a surfboard because otherwise you can just shooting straight into the wall opposite.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah, exactly. It’s quite dangerous as hell. There’s some rock underneath. So when you fall and you get pushed into the washing machine as we call it, a little part of whitewater behind the wave, you can get thrown at the rocks and then the water, you should know how to surf a river wave when you want to give it a try. Already a lot of pro surfers giving it a try, getting it it’s quite unusual because the water is coming towards you and not pushing from behind. So the visuals are quite different to–

Imi Barneaud: Of course.

Melanie Bernhard: It’s so much fun.

Imi Barneaud: Yes, it’s brilliant. Sorry we’re getting a bit diverted from the whole subject which is actually your book, which is called the Surf Trip Survival Guide. And I really would like to thank you for sending it to me because I had a great read. I just wanted to know, I love the way you put where it starts where the Stormrider Guide ends, and could you sort of describe what this book is all about?

Melanie Bernhard: All right. Yeah. I mean, as you said, it starts with the Stormrider Guide. And so the Stormrider Guide, which is a fantastic book, gives you all those dream destinations where to travel to as a surfer, but we were kind of wondering, there’s no book really like they can be a lot of stuff going wrong on surf trips, — to Europe, get injured, you boat sinks, or whatever, that’s like the worst case of course. But it’s a lot of little things that can happen to you while on a surf trip, and with our book we wanted to give it a little guideline, like a little help to what to do when, for example, when you’ve got a fin cut, how to disinfect the wound correctly because a lot people don’t know that in warm borders, in the tropics, there’s a lot of bacteria in the water so you really have to take care of yourself, or how to wipe out correctly. Well, not correctly, but there are some tricks but it’s not only really useful tips, for example, what to do when a shark is approaching you, there’s also some tips about that. If you still have the chance to react, also some funny stuff which is not too serious. For example, when you getting in a bar fight, how to be the strongest, how to surf with a hangover, what kind of cures can you take to still be able to surf. So it’s a funny yet useful little little book.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, it’s really, really cool. And I love the way you treat it by subject. So yeah, you’ve got the bar fights, thingies, and then you’ve got female problems, and then you, you know, all sorts of travel stories.

Melanie Bernhard: Finding the perfect surf bikini isn’t that easy.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, exactly. And I love the way you’ve also interviewed a lot of very prominent influences in terms of surfing and who’ve had an amazing stories. There was one that really clicked in my mind was the guy [inaudible] Jose who spent 300 days stranded on an Island. How did you actually get to interview these people?

Melanie Bernhard: First, we collected all those ideas, what could be useful for the book? What to write about in the book? And then we both journalists, my husband and I, so we know how to find out stuff, how to find out people. So yeah, we heard about [inaudible] because he used to be a professional snowboarder. So we heard about his project while doing some research on the internet, and we just contacted him and asked him if he would be up to give us a little interview about his adventure on that Island. And even though he’s not a surfer, you know, as a surfer it could happen. It already happened to some people that both sank and they had to swim to the next Island. And [inaudible] was giving useful tips, how to find water, how to make your first fire, how difficult it is, how to build a shelter and stuff like that. So it was really interesting to talk to people like him.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, it was beautiful, it’s really good. And you got Laird Hamilton on there, and you’ve got all sorts of other really famous surfers and adventurers. It’s a great read, and I guess it’s what you should put in your backpack before you go off for a surf trip, definitely. So Melanie, how did you guys come up with the idea of the book?

Melanie Bernhard: Well, it was a very personal story that led you to the whole idea because we were on a surf trip to Bali with one of our best friends. And on the very last day he cut his leg on his fin, wasn’t very deeper cut. It was, well, maybe 10 centimeters and not too deep, but well, it was bleeding. And he made the mistake that he didn’t disinfect the wound properly. He was like, ah, it’s just a small scratch, you know? And he went surfing again, the next morning he woke up, his leg was almost double the size closer on the shin, and it was almost double the size. And he had a fever, and he was really not feeling very well, but we had to take the flight back to Munich. And he was like, yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine. So we get him some painkillers from pharmacy, went into the airplane. During the flights, he almost passed out. He gets really high fever, his leg was swollen, a flight attendant touched him by accident and he was freaking out because it was so painful. And then we landed in Frankfurt and had to take another flight to Munich and he couldn’t even walk in Frankfurt. So to the next terminal, we had to carry him in the wheelchair and he was really bad. So when we landed in Munich, we went straight to the hospital with him. And I think one week later, he got a new heart valve.

Imi Barneaud: What?

Melanie Bernhard: Yes. And because the bacteria went to his heart and kind of damage the heart so badly, they had to put in an artificial valve, and that actually led to his all fine now but that showed us that a tiny mistake, sometimes you don’t know much about stuff like that and you don’t pay attention. But traveling to remote destinations, tropical destinations also means there are some dangers which in European normally don’t have. On the border, there are a lot of factories, so shit can happen. So we said, why don’t we have to learn from our own mistakes if you could learn from other mistakes. So we tried to write up little stories that already happened or that could happen. And his story is also part of the book. And then we show the reader how to really disinfect the wound properly, what to do.

Imi Barneaud: That’s really important. In fact, when my kids were little and we’d go traveling to tropical, we went to Costa Rica a couple of times, and we went to Bali, obviously. And yeah, our biggest concern was having enough, like the whole first aid kits ready just in case something happened, and disinfectant, and the topical antibiotic cream, all sorts of different things like that, but you do it for your kids, but you don’t necessarily think about it for yourself. And that’s the danger. Yeah, exactly. Okay, well, that’s a really, really important story for people to think about.

Melanie Bernhard: Hopefully it will never happened. As it says on our book, better be ready when the shit goes down.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic. And according to your experience of writing the book, what is the greatest risk for a surfer?

Melanie Bernhard: Oh, wow. That’s a difficult question. Actually, the greatest risk, well, the obvious would be probably a shark attack, even though it doesn’t happen very often. So the chances are quite low that you would get attacked by a shark. But as a kid, I was always so scared of sharks and I still am, even though it gets better with the surfing, so I’m not that, like when I started surfing, I said I will never surf somewhere where they could be possibly sharks. And now, well, I went to Indonesia, surf there. We went to Taiwan where they caught the biggest great white shark in history. So well, I think you just see the waves and then you don’t care about them, the other stuff anymore. But getting back to your question, I would probably say sharks, for me, it’s not a very obvious.

Imi Barneaud: Well, I must say out of all the things that go wrong, I must have lived at least 10 of them. Like getting [inaudible] a stingray, all sorts of things like that, there’s little risks, but they’re all quite painful.

Melanie Bernhard: Or getting cheated when you’re buying a surfboard, something like that.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, or money changer.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah. We tried to cover all of these little — in our book.

Imi Barneaud: It was great. So to rewind a bit, how did you actually still get into writing in the first place?

Melanie Bernhard: Well, it all started, I think during university. I studied in Munich, and after school, I have to say I was a little bit lost. I didn’t know what to do, what to study. I didn’t want to become a lawyer or a doctor, so I didn’t have any idea. And then a friend, before, so I was just taking on some econometric courses just to do something, and I hated it. So a friend then told me, well, maybe you could do an internship at a magazine, you like to read, you like to write, maybe that could be something that you like. So I applied for an internship at a city magazine in Munich, which was quite popular back in the days, which had everything, they wrote about parties and what’s happening in the city, about sports and all kinds of stuff. And I really liked it, so I knew, Oh, wow, that’s really what I would like to do. And then I did a test at a journalism school in Munich, really famous one, and failed. And I was really desperate, so I was all, no, so I’m not meant to be a journalist. Oh, I was lost again. And then one of the editors at the magazine I was doing an internship at, she told me that she had studied American culture history and that was quite interesting as a subject, and that I wouldn’t need to study journalism to become a journalist. So she wants to show me alternative ways how to get there, that I should stick with the internship, and maybe apply as a freelancer afterwards and do my studies besides. And actually, I really liked the idea. So I started my studies for American cultural history, and literature, and politics, and I just continued working for the magazine besides my studies, besides university. And one thing happens, well, the next, so there were some more projects, journalistic project, some other magazine I’ve worked for, and that’s what I did during my, my whole university time. Yeah. And after university, again, I was lost because it’s not very easy to find a job as a journalist for a magazine, to find a real job. And I did an internship at man’s magazine, FHM, I don’t know if you know that kind of magazine. And really, I liked the work. It’s hard to say, but I didn’t really, it was not my passion to write about the stuff they published in the magazines, so they offered me a job, but I denied. I said, no, I don’t want to. And everyone called me crazy. You, that’s a real job, and you’re gonna earn a lot of money. And I said: “Yeah, but it’s not my thing. I’m not happy every morning I’m going to work. I don’t want to spend time with people that are nice, but that don’t live my passion, and that I cannot really talk about, you know?”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah. And some weeks later, my then boyfriend, which is now my husband. Well, he saw a magazine that we’re looking, in a newspaper, he saw that a magazine, Snowboard Magazine was looking for an editor, German editor, and it was ONBOARD. And that was the magazine of my childhood–

Imi Barneaud: Oh, my God.

Melanie Bernhard: And I read ONBOARD, which was the biggest magazine back in the days. And they were looking for German editor, and I applied, and I got the job, and I was super stoked. I didn’t earn much, but it was enough for my first job. And yeah. Well, from then on it kind of went in the same direction.

Imi Barneaud: So today is your full time job to write for one of the biggest surfing magazines?

Melanie Bernhard: Well, now I’m working for German Surf Magazine. I left ONBOARD after three years because I was a little bit tired of traveling all the time and I decided to become a freelance, again, because I just felt that was my passion. And yeah, now I’m doing freelance projects. I’m working for Prime Surfing besides Surf Magazine in Germany, besides I’m still publishing my own books, and I’m doing some translations as well for companies, and writing texts, and all kinds of stuff.

Imi Barneaud: Brilliant. That’s brilliant. So you actually get to surf in [inaudible] and living, which is so cool.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah.

Imi Barneaud: So what did you have to do to actually write a book, because it’s a very long process. Do you have a process? Or do you have a kind of routine that you apply everyday to actually work on projects? How do you manage that?

Melanie Bernhard: It’s difficult. I mean, in the beginning it’s the idea, you need to have an idea. You really, you’re burning for, you’re putting all your passion and energy in because I’m doing it together with my husband. It’s a lot easier because I’m not by myself. We have a little office here in our house, and so we make a plan. First you have to know how big the book will be, how many chapters, how many pages, how many stories do you need. And then we just go step-by-step really. We try to write a little story everyday, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t because, well, some stories are a little bit more complicated. Is that what you mean?

Imi Barneaud: Yes, exactly. So how long did it take for you to get that inception idea to the day it launched? And was it online, you know, you could buy it online?

Melanie Bernhard: I think from the idea to the point where we started writing took maybe two months to really find out, can we do this? How can we do it? How do we publish it? Stuff like that. And then really the process of writing was about three to four month, I would say.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, that’s interesting. And then afterwards you brought in to the illustrator and all that together. And what kind of self publishing outlets did you use for the book?

Melanie Bernhard: To be honest, it isn’t a big idea behind that. We just that, well we have a little bit of money aside. So we put that in the book and just look for a printer.

Imi Barneaud: Right.

Melanie Bernhard: Well, yeah, that was it actually. And then we all did it I think, learning by doing, I guess. Because what I have to say before we did our first book, we already published three books I think together with a publishing house. So we were paid as writers. We gave them the idea, but we were also paid as writers to finish the book. So after it was finished, we had handed in our texts, we didn’t have any control about the books anymore, and we found it kind of sad because you live for that project, really put a lot of passion into the whole writing and so we wanted to do it by ourselves, to really approach the right shops to do all the retail, as well by ourselves.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, that’s the difficult part. If you’re not used to sales, and distribution, and everything, that must be very difficult. And what actually kept you going when you wanted to give up? Is there any moments during the writing that you sort of thought, Oh God–

Melanie Bernhard: No, no, no, I don’t think so. No, because we, I think it’s really easy because we are two.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Melanie Bernhard: There’s two of us, and so, no. Well, sometimes I have to say, because my husband and I, we are very different in our writing, very rational. And for him it’s easier to write a text because he’s very structured, and I’m more the emotional writer. So for me, sometimes it’s hard to not lose the focus, and I could go on and on when I’m talking about one subject. So sometimes we had our little fights, or he would say: “Oh, I didn’t like that text very much.” And I would go like: “Why don’t you like my texts?” And I started crying. He was like: “Why are you crying?” It’s just a job, you know? And I took it very personal. So there were some moments which were a little bit tense, but I never thought about giving up because we always knew it’s a good idea. I think it’s gonna succeed and we’re going to sell a little book, and that’s what happened actually.

“I never thought about giving up because we always knew it's a good idea.”

Imi Barneaud: So where is it available now?

Melanie Bernhard: It’s available on our website, The Surf Trip Survival Guide, and also in retail stores all over the world. Actually, we have the English version, we have in Bali for example at the Drifter Surfshop.

Imi Barneaud: Drifter Surfshop.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah, we are very stoked about that. And we even had a whole package sent to Australia, there are some books there, and we have a retailer for example. No, sorry, not a retailer. We have a distributor in England, so yeah, available in some surf shops in England as well. And it’s funny, some of my friends, sometimes when they’re going on a trip, they’re sending me pictures, they see our book in one of the shops saying: “Oh, I just saw your book.” And that makes us really happy.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s wonderful. So what would be your best advice to somebody who’s planning on writing a book? You know, make it a success, and to be able to get it to all the outlets?

Melanie Bernhard: I think the idea is the most important. So if you find a topic that is really unusual, that you feel that hasn’t been there yet, I think that’s a good start, so maybe that would be my first advice. I mean, now with the crowd funding, it’s not that difficult, I think anymore to publish a book. We invested a few thousand euros in order to print our book, and that’s kind of a risk because you don’t know if you will succeed and if the book will sell. But I think now with crowdfunding websites, you have a great tool to actually follow your dream and just give it a try. And yeah, I think you just have to stick to your dream, and when you’re really convinced, I think you will succeed.

“You just have to stick to your dream. And when you're really convinced,... you will succeed.”

Imi Barneaud: That’s brilliant advice. And is there any sort of bootstrapping tips that you’d have, I mean, software that you use, or something that could make life easier for a writer in terms of either promotion, or writing, or page setup, or sorts of things like that.

Melanie Bernhard: Oh, I’m really bad and stuff like that, so old school. I’m really happy when I can use my computer and just to be able to use pages.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah.

Melanie Bernhard: But well, we had to use InDesign for sure to do all the layout. But apart from that, I fear I don’t really have any good advice for

Imi Barneaud: I just need to create the content, I guess. You just need to punch it out, and be consistent, and be motivated, and have that goal of the book. That’s really interesting. So how did that transpire with your job at the major surfing magazine in Germany? Was that convenient to actually have all the contacts to all the famous people that had surf stories to tell?

Melanie Bernhard: I started my job at Prime Surfing after we had published books, so I just started that job in 2016. So in the book we published already in 2011, already a long time ago, not really, well, I already wrote some articles for German Magazines about some surfers before, about professional surfers. So you have all these contacts to PR departments or how to contact people, so for sure that already helped. We had a little bit of experience in how to approach people, and how to write articles.

Imi Barneaud: All right. And in terms of, actually to the magazine industry, what is your feeding on the status of the magazine industry right now? Is there still a kind of, is paper and print still something that’s working in Germany, for example, do you notice any changes, new shifts?

Melanie Bernhard: Oh, for sure. I mean the ONBOARD, it’s not exists in it, so they shut down all the magazines. So if your biggest European Surf Magazine, it’s not anymore. So I guess the print industry has a heart, has a very tough time at the moment, and the same for Germany. I mean, normally German surfers soak in all kind of surf culture, surf literature, and stuff like that because they are so far off the ocean. But it’s not that you’re lacking readers, it’s that you’re lacking advertising, because without advertising, you cannot publish a magazine. And I think that’s the point about it because all the companies are not doing that good anymore. The surf industry is really down at the moment, I would say. But at least they are not advertising in print magazine.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. They haven’t got the budgets anymore.

Melanie Bernhard: I would say print is still alive and it’s still a really important medium. People love reading books, people love reading magazines, having surf images on paper are so much better than just on screen. So I think it’s never dying. Magazines, it’s hard if you really want to make a living out of it, I’d say so yeah.

Imi Barneaud: So if you’re good at writing, there are outlets in journalism, but you have several trades and skills that you could barter for.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah. I think only relying on surf journalism or writing for surf magazines, I think doesn’t pay your bills, unfortunately.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. And you were saying the onboard magazine actually made you travel a lot. So do you do the same for the surfing magazines too? Do they make you travel a lot?

Melanie Bernhard: Well, not that much anymore, I have to say, because we are living right at the coast so we don’t have the necessity to travel. We used to travel a lot back in the days, but now I also have a little boy of three years old, and it’s getting a little bit more difficult to travel. But I’ve also been to Hawaii for a story, we traveled to Taiwan and to surf there, Indonesia, of course, we are still traveling, but not as much anymore, unfortunately. But I think that will come back.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, absolutely. Well that’s really interesting, but it’s great advice for anybody who’s thinking about wanting to be a surf journalist or a magazine journalist to know that there are limits to that kind of job and the challenges the magazines face today. So yeah, that’s really interesting. I guess moving on to your experience with surfing, so could you tell us what you felt when you caught your first wave in the ocean?

Melanie Bernhard: Yes, I still, it remembered it very, very well. My first greenwave was in Portugal on a holiday trip that my now husband Bernie, and wow, I was so stoked. It was just the best feeling ever. Every surf I can probably relate to that feeling. And just the fact that I still remember that one wave, which was tiny and really a, it was not a very good surfing day just proves that. Well, the beginning is hard, I would say. The first two trips, because we were still living in Germany back then, we could only surf when going on holidays. So the first two holidays trips, I was really desperate, and you’re only there for two weeks, three weeks, you don’t get really a much, much practice. And I was desperate, I was crying at the beach, really frustrated that I’m not able to surf. And then it just clicked I guess, and from that moment on I just felt pure joy every time I was [inaudible] out and trying to progress every session.

Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s terrific. That’s really cool.

Melanie Bernhard: Yeah. From that moment on, life changed because you just know that what I really want to do, and can imagine a life without surfing anymore.

“I… couldn't imagine a life without surfing anymore.”

Imi Barneaud: And how was the transition to the French culture? Cause there’s quite a culture shock.

Melanie Bernhard: Well, yeah, it’s different. It’s different to Germany, but in a positive way, I would say. I would say my life in Munich was very stressed, very intense, very driven by, consumed by going out, consuming looking for a good job, earning money paying your rent which is horrific. And moving to France? I would say, I don’t want to generalize, but I would say down here in that region that the people way more relaxed. It’s more about living with your friends, with your family, food is very important, cooking, being outside, at the beach. Of course, a good example, is for example, that Germans are very tight. Normally you would arrive for a date, you would arrive five minutes before and not at the right time, and the French would probably arrive 20 minutes late.

Imi Barneaud: Yes, yes.

Melanie Bernhard: When I had my first meeting with someone from Billabong because I was doing a freelance project for them, I will stay at five minutes to 2:00, and my date arrived 20 minutes later. Is that professional? No, it’s not. And today I would still say I wouldn’t arrive 20 minutes late, but now I’m also five minutes late, that is absolutely okay.

Imi Barneaud: Yeah, in Provence where I’m from, they call it the [inaudible] so it means the quarter of an hour. The [inaudible], which is the standard of delay that you’re allowed in a meeting.

Melanie Bernhard: I don’t know, it’s nice. People are not that rushed and stressed.

Imi Barneaud: Absolutely. So how long did you surf while you were pregnant?

Melanie Bernhard: I surf until the end of the seventh month.

Imi Barneaud: Really?

Melanie Bernhard: I still remember the very last session because my husband, I think he was quite embarrassed already a little bit because I was having such a big bump. People would stare at me and stare at him, and you would see in their faces that they would laugh to tell him: “Why are you taking your poor wife to go surfing?” And it wasn’t him, you know, it was me that really wanted to surf and that didn’t want to stop. And I think I would have gone on the, if it would have been summer, and it was in February so it was getting colder and colder, and with all the thick wetsuit, I didn’t feel it anymore, but yeah, I was surfing until the end of the seven months.


Imi Barneaud: As I sorta didn’t never surf pregnant that far on. I was just wondering if the bump prevents you from balancing on the board while you’re paddling. Is that a problem?

Melanie Bernhard: No, I didn’t feel it. Disturbing was something because I was having a short board with a little bit of volume still in there. So 5’10 one bit, short one bit board. So it was a little bit in the water because I was so heavy. So it was a little bit more in the water than usual, so I didn’t feel very uncomfortable. It was just what I felt was getting more and more uncomfortable was pop up because I couldn’t really pop up with a lot of speed anymore, I wouldn’t get a lot of waves anymore. And yeah, I think that’s, that’s just too heavy. And after the birth, how long did it take you to get back in? The water would have loved to go straight away I think. By the first time, it was six weeks after giving birth and I was still feeling so exhausted, I was still breastfeeding, and I was scared that the little one, you know, we went to the beach and was scared, he would cry, and starting to get hungry, so I was really nervous during my session. And I think I caught one wave and I was out of there. But it felt just so good to be alone in the water because the first weeks are quite intense for the baby. You’re always there, you’re always, you know, you’re sleeping with baby and everything. And it just felt really good to have that little moment of independency, and again, and just do what you love. And even though I sucked at it at that day, it was just a really lucky moment, and I almost cried, I think.

Imi Barneaud: And what would you recommend pregnant women to handle in their pregnancy? What’s your experience from that?

Melanie Bernhard: I think it’s really difficult to tell because every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different. So I wasn’t having a big bump, and I was really well trained. I was doing a lot of sports before, and still doing during pregnancy, but I felt okay. I was maybe a little bit more exhausted, I wasn’t sick, I felt alright. It really depends on yourself. If you’re scared, maybe you shouldn’t do it. I wasn’t scared, I really had just a natural confidence that nothing would harm us, so it felt alright. But if you’re scared and you’re not sure, maybe you shouldn’t do that. It always depends on yourself as an individual, and you should just go with your feelings.

“...just go with your feeling.”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. And then a few years later, you get to surf with your kids, which is just so fun.

Melanie Bernhard: Oh, he’s becoming a chess player.

Imi Barneaud: Well, actually I forced my kids, I forced them. They were excited, but I took them to surfing classes as an excuse to actually go surfing while they were babysat in a surf class. So their weekly — would be to actually get the wetsuit on and over their heads and whatnot. Because that was really, really complicated for them. But otherwise, it was good fun. And they both surfers so it’s succeeded. So the legacy, the legacy remains. Yeah.

Melanie Bernhard: That’s great. I also wanted to say, yeah, it’s sometimes hard as a woman, and a mother, and a surfer to still follow your passion. But I think it’s important to not lose that passion. I see some of my friends became moms and gave up surfing because in the beginning it’s a lot of organization, you have to deal with your partner, you take turns, and you go to the beach, and you have a lot of stuff to carry, and it’s very exhausting, and that is so much worth it because if you give it up a seed now, some of them on their early 40’s, and they’re starting to get those midlife –, and they don’t have a hobby, they don’t have a passion anymore, and they are just living for the kids and the family. And I think it’s important to not lose that because it makes you happy. And you should always remember how happy it made you, and to continue with it. And also later, I think with your partner, if you have a partner who’s also a surfer, that gives a great connection, and you’re not, I think it avoids losing yourself sometimes in life. When you’re together for a long time, that happens often. But if you have something to share, a passion to share and to spend time with your partner in the water, going surfing was awesome and goes with your kid.

“It's sometimes hard as a woman and a mother and a surfer to still follow your passion, but I think it's important to not lose that passion.”

Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Yeah. It really reconnects you with the basics.

Melanie Bernhard: Yup. Yup.

Imi Barneaud: That’s fantastic. Well, thank you for sharing this, and it’s lovely to talk about that. I guess it’s up to every woman to decide when and how they get back into surfing. But yeah, going back to it is really, really exciting. I was just wondering, so what are the plans for the future in terms of the book? Are you writing a second volume?

Melanie Bernhard: We already did a second volume, but only in German, I have to say. Yeah, we didn’t do the English translation yet. Yeah, because my son was born, we didn’t have a lot of time. We found a translator but it didn’t work out. So we had to stick that one back a little bit. But we are working on a new book at the moment, not on the third part, a completely new book, and don’t want to tell too much, but it has also something to do with surfing. So it’s coming out next spring, hopefully.

Imi Barneaud: Fantastic. That’s so exciting. Brilliant. Just to recap, how can we get ahold of the book? Do you have any social media accounts so that we can connect with you?

Melanie Bernhard: You can get the book on our website, surftrip-survival-guide.com. We also on social media, we’re on Instagram, The Surf Trip Survival Guide, and on Facebook.

Imi Barneaud: That’s excellent. We’ll put all these details in the show notes and so the listeners can check them online either on their podcast app or on on the website on theoceanriderspodcast.com. Melanie, this has been a delightful conversation. I’m so happy to have met you, and your book is a success and it’s spreading all over the world. I would definitely encourage all the listeners to give it a read, to go and get it online.

Melanie Bernhard: Thank you very much, Imi. It was lovely talking to you.

Imi Barneaud: It was lovely talking to you. Take care Melanie.

Melanie Bernhard: Thank you.

Imi Barneaud: Greetings to you and you family.

Melanie Bernhard: Thank you very much. Have a nice day.

Imi Barneaud: Bye-bye.

Melanie Bernhard: Bye-bye.

Imi Barneaud: That was a delightful conversation. I hope you enjoyed it too. I love the way Melanie has kept surfing in her life since her baby was born and how is she keeping the stoke alive as a family. If you want to get hold of The Surf Trip Survival Guide, head over to surftrip-survival-guide.com or ask your favorite surf shop to stock it. You can also keep updated on Instagram and Facebook at The Surf Trip Survival Guide handle.

All the information mentioned in this podcast is available on my website and in the show notes of this episode (just check them out on your podcast app). On theoceanriderspodcast.com you’ll also find some great info and photos of my guest so, please don’t hesitate to have a look. Links to it are in the show notes.

If you enjoy this podcast, please share the love. You can tell your friends, family, fellow surfers in the lineup about the podcast, but if you want to do a bit more to support me, you can as well. I’ve created an online merch shop called theoceanridersshop.com, and it’s got a collection of t-shirts, sweatshirts, greeting cards, and wall art for all types of budgets tastes, so be sure to check them out on theoceanridersshop.com. Links to it are in the show notes. or via my website, theoceanriderspodcast.com. All profits will go to paying for my awesome podcast editor Leng, and 1% of the sales will automatically be donated to 1% with the planet. And this year, all my 1% proceeds are going to Wise’s New South Wales. It’s a wildlife rescue organization in Australia that’s doing its best to save as many wild animals as possible in heartbreaking Australian bushfires.

Next episode is a conversation with a big wave writing pioneer. His name is Vincent Lartizien, or Vincent Lartizien with a French accent. So stay tuned for an epic conversation about surfing jazz in the 80’s, running a hemp business, and the spiritual side of surfing. Until the next episode, take care, have fun, and enjoy the waves. Ciao.


Consider buying some Oceanriders merch'! Profits from the merchandise will be used to pay for equipment, podcast editor and promotion of the podcast on social networks. Find some beautiful art and limited 100% organic apparel. 1% of my sales will be donated to WIRES Australia (Australian wildlife rescue)

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