Interview With Inês Catarino – Surfer & Founder Of Handmade Surfboard Bag Company Flahica

Interview With Inês Catarino – Surfer & Founder Of Handmade Surfboard Bag Company Flahica

Inês Catarino grew up in a little town in the Portuguese countryside called Maceira (halfway between Leiria and Nazaré). Luckily she was only 15 minutes away from the amazing west coast surf beach of Paredes da Vitoria and only 20 minutes from the infamous Nazaré where she would spend most of her free time.

As a child, she always loved being in the ocean and was inspired by her dad’s love of it too. Starting off catching shore break waves with her foam board, she quickly immersed herself in surf culture, buying all the surf magazines that she could find and reading them for hours daydreaming about the water. She continued to follow this passion, surfing as often as she could, which led to her current role as a surf instructor and founder of Flahica – a company that sells bespoke surfboard bags.

How did you get into sewing and eventually making board bags for your business Flahica?
I never had much experience with sewing. I always did some basic sewing with my mum and grandma by hand or with those beautiful old foot-operated Singer sewing machines. The making of the board bags started much much later when I moved to Baleal to work as a surf instructor.
One day I was hanging out at our ‘get together for some beers stop’ and I was sewing a bag for myself. A friend of mine Billy (shaper at Foil Surfboards) saw me doing it and asked if I could do a nice board bag for his brand new longboard. He wanted a travel bag with protective foam, not just a sock, but with beautiful fabrics instead of the normal grey ones that are found in most surf shops. He had the idea of a one-of-a-kind board bag and I knew how to sew it for him. I experimented with that idea and it took me a long time but finally, I came up with a good way to do it. It turned out so nice that other friends started to ask me to do more and that was it!

The ideas started to grow and I began using old wetsuits and laptop bags as materials. Now I make my board bags with neoprene from old wetsuits that people or surf schools have given me. I also use old laptop bags, camera bags, straps and anything else people ask me to use. The best part all of my pieces is that they’re fully unique which gives a lot of room for my creativity.
Where do you get the materials from for your board bags?
All my materials are bought at small local shops around the area (Peniche, Leiria, Caldas da Rainha). My fabrics are all from little shops with amazing old fabrics (this is the favourite part of my shopping list) and the neoprene I use is from surf schools that give me their old unusable wetsuits.

What is so important about being environmentally conscious?

We came from nature and without it, we wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have this beautiful, amazing place to live and to enjoy so we need to preserve it. We must preserve what we love and what keeps us alive.
What’s your key piece of advice to living a happy life?
Love what you do, be happy with what you do and surround yourself with what you love.
Your favourite place to surf?
Anywhere with good waves, good friends, good vibes and surrounded by amazing scenery.

What does a typical day look like for you?
Depends on how the waves are (and how much work I have to do!) Firstly, it’s coffee then checking the waves. If it’s good then I go in, then I work (at some point I have to), lunch preference is a bbq at the Foil Surfboards workshop where my own workshop is hopefully, there’ll be some sun (the west coast can be tricky for that). Then I’ll work a little more and maybe, on a perfect wave day, I’ll surf again. I’ll finish with a beer with friends at sunset or I’ll continue to work into the evening before having dinner and watching a movie (surf movies are always good for inspiration) before falling into bed tired and happy.
What are your plans for the future?
I have learnt that all our plans can change in a blink. From going through medical uni and being a handball player, I then never ever planned on being a seamstress and a surf instructor. It’s such a cliché but I only plan to be happy! I want to surf as much as possible, continue with my creations, share them with more people around the world and travel lots!
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