When Surf the Greats approached me about doing a surf & music collaboration I was STOKED to say the least. You want me to write a monthly piece about two of my favourite things AND make accompanying playlists? DONE. Now I know this probably looks like a joke; some girl named Waves is contributing to a surf brand. Wow, how fitting. But yes—how fitting indeed.
If you don’t actually know me IRL, my name is in fact Waves. I’ve been a DJ in the Toronto scene for 8+ years now and surfing & skateboarding off and on (sadly, I’m quite accident prone) for my entire life. People always ask me how I settled on my DJ name, and aside from just liking the sound of it, there’s two reasons:
- The boringly obvious reason being that it relates to sound waves and the nature of audio.
- I’m obsessed with the beach. I was fortunate enough to spend every summer from the time I was 5 years old up until I was 18 at my family’s condo in Treasure Island, Florida. The one month a year that I’d spend in Florida was always when I was happiest. I surfed, skateboarded, biked, paddle-boarded, boogie-boarded, skim-boarded, drove jet skis…basically anything and everything that would keep me outside in the sunshine and in the water for as long as possible.
Et voila. DJ Waves. The perfect pairing of my favourite things.
Aside from the beach, the only other time I’ve ever felt an immense sense of comfort and ability to just relax into my true self is with music. Both have been major influences in my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve shaped my identity through both water sports and musical activities like piano, guitar and DJing. The water has allowed me to tap into my inner child. To be foolish and fearless. To be sucked into Mother Nature’s swell, tumbled, and spit back out with a new sense of determination (and scars from all the times I ate shit off a board). Music has given me solace and been a safe outlet to express my creativity. Together, they’ve both given me confidence and driven me to continuously challenge myself.
Motivation and drive have always been key elements in my life, especially considering most of the things I’m into are male-dominated. The music industry is notorious for being a “boys club” and more often than not, I still get mistaken to be a girlfriend or a server who’s hanging around the DJ booth and not the actual DJ. Men are still often surprised when I talk about rock n’ roll or metal and show that I do in fact listen to the band whose vintage shirt I’m wearing. Same goes for a lot of sports. I admittedly gave up on skateboarding as a kid because I was terrified of seeing all the dudes at the skatepark who were better than me, and I didn’t know any other girls at the time who were into it. Sure, I played baseball and field hockey. And there’s that time I broke my wrist snowboarding because I got cocky and thought I could land a jump that turned out to be bigger than my ego. But even with water sports, I played it relatively safe and only really came out of my shell when down in Florida. The beach culture that housed surfing and skateboarding was much more prevalent than anything I’d found in Canada.
Community is everything, and that’s one of the major reasons I love Surf the Greats so much. Having strong will power and goals are great, but when you find the right group of people that will support you and push you to be your best—amazing things happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 20 year veteran or a 2 month long enthusiast. We all start somewhere and having a group of like-minded people to get stoked with, no matter where you are on your journey, makes it all that much more fun. I myself got back into skateboarding last summer at the ripe age of 26 because my friend and I had been coming to the shop pretty frequently for coffees on our way to the beach. A few months later, I bought a cruiser and she got a surfskate board. The remainder of summer 2019 was spent re-teaching myself how to kick turn and just cruising aimlessly along beach paths with a massive smile across my face.
Something else happened though. I felt a renewed sense of wonder and enthusiasm for being active outside of a mundane gym workout. I dusted off my bicycle, I got back into SUP (which has been my main squeeze this summer), and I started to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I was having fun in ways that I hadn’t in years because I had previously been afraid to try something and (god-forbid) be bad at it. What an eye-roll.
Same goes for music, and any creative endeavour really. The more time you spend just enjoying the moment and letting yourself TRY, the happier you’ll be. We all start somewhere and go through the painful process of learning. There’s magic in the process of surrendering to the wave, to gravity, or to the rigid metronome that steadily keeps the beat as you try to build up muscle memory in your hands with an instrument. Try, fail, try again, fail harder. You think you suck until finally it clicks and you’re in a state of total bliss and mastery.
Surfing and music aren’t meant to be a pissing contest. You don’t get a gold star for picking up on a trick sooner than everyone else, or for owning the newest shiny toy. And you sure as hell won’t come off as cool for having an elite taste that bashes anything that you deem sucks. Plus, variety is the spice of life, right? In terms of community, variety in who’s involved is what makes it special. Young, old, straight, gay, white, Black, purple—all are welcome. If you’re into surf and/or music culture, we’ll get along just fine! Everybody has something cool to bring to the table in terms of experiences and aspirations. Plus the more people I meet in both these realms, the more I realize that there’s actually a ton of people like me. There’s a ton of people who are picking up a board or an instrument for the first time this year. There’s a ton of people who are diving back into an old hobby. And there’s a ton of people who are somewhere in the middle, just stoked on doing whatever fun thing comes their way.
I’m sure there’s a ton of people out there who are total music nerds as well. This month’s playlist is a collection of songs and artists that have impacted me in one way or another, be it beach jams, road trip soundtracks, or concert memories. Hopefully it gives you some more insight into who I am. Hit play, crank it, and share it. Make it the soundtrack to you trying something new and failing with absolute flair.
DJ Waves is a Toronto based creative who's been in the music industry for 8+ years. She's a regular on the resident DJ team for Budweiser Stage, moonlights as a guest host on U of T's CIUT radio station, and is a frequent headbanger at local shows. Spinning vinyl and digital tracks, her sets span every genre and time-period, making for an eclectic collection of sounds that is groovy, nostalgic, daring, and euphoric. Her sets and playlists often draw on a variety of experiences and interests that form her unique sound. She's got a penchant for hats, muscle cars, the desert, and coffee. If she's not behind a DJ booth she's most likely at Toronto's Cherry Beach, floating on a SUP or taking an aimless drive at sunset with the radio cranked. Find her on Instagram.