From being inspired by Bethany Hamilton’s ‘Soul Surfer’, SurfGirl gets an insight into Janina Zeitlers’ life as a pro surfer and her new film, ‘Flow Like Water’.
Photos: JZ Media Productions
Janina, you’re from land-locked Munich in Germany, so can you tell us how you first got into surfing?
Sure! I was born, raised and lived my entire life in the beautiful city of Munich, in Germany. Growing up near the Alps, surfing was never really a thought or an option of a career, being completely landlocked and having no one that had ever been born and raised in the country that could be a reference for this “crazy impossible dream”. I came across surfing only when I was 12 years old by watching the movie “Soul Surfer” that really inspired me and so I decided to give it a try. It was not something so easy to do by not having an ocean and so the only option I had to do so was in a small river wave in the middle of Munich, which was a very different experience to everything I had seen in the movies, but that’s where I started surfing and fell in love with the sport.
Can you give us a brief description of what the film is about?
‘Flow Like Water’ is a film about my unique story as a professional surfer and takes the audience in a journey through my life, through the challenges I had to face to become the most successful rapid surfer ever and the first professional surfer to be born, raised and lived in Germany, and through the transition from river surfing to professional ocean surfing which was a dream that I was always told to be impossible and not worth chasing. I can definitely relate my story and this new path I am creating for surfing in Germany, and in any other landlocked country, with water and how it flows: being frozen in the highest mountains, unfreezing and running down to the rivers that don’t stop until they reach the ocean, even if they have to open their own way to make it happen.
What inspired you to make ‘Flow Like Water’?
That’s a great question! In the beginning I personally never looked at myself or at my story as something that could be incredible or inspiring, since as I am the one living it it is hard to “look at myself from the outside perspective” and I have always been a quite reserved and humble person. But after all the messages and feedback I started receiving over the last years of people that had somehow learned about my background and of what I am doing, having me as their main inspiration to chase surfing or any of their dreams I thought that I should share my story with the world and hopefully inspire a lot of people to never give up on themselves. Apart from that, nowadays I am competing internationally in ocean competitions and most people outside of Germany never really knew who I am, or what’s my story & where I’m from, seeing me as another “normal” surfer girl, which is something that do I take as a compliment for my surfing, but as my career progresses I really want to make sure my roots are clear and that everyone is aware of where I really come from, and at the same time show to the surf community in Germany, or in any landlocked country, that it is possible for them to dream about being professional surfers as well and have me as a reference to help them get there, something that I personally never had.