Sanuk ambassador Kiana Fores finds freedom, family and fun overseas.
Interview by Adam Walker
[ADAM]: You recently graduated college. (1) Congrats! (2) What was it like walking across the commencement stage and then walking onto that plane?
[KIANA]: Thank you! It felt surreal. I checked two things off my personal goals list in a span of two weeks. I’ve always fantasized about traveling abroad, especially to Europe. It all happened so fast it was hard to digest. It felt good to finally accomplish school.
You traveled most of the trip by yourself. Were you nervous? What was going through your head?
Nah, not at all. Everyone always asked me if I was scared or worried about traveling alone, but honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Of course, anything could happen at any time over there in these times of spontaneous attacks and whatnot, but I traveled smart and lived in every moment. I always went with my gut feeling and if something wasn’t right, I’d keep moving. I learned how to read my environment, and the people around. I also learned how to navigate and dial in my sense of direction. It was great to be on my own agenda, as well. I could go where I pleased, eat wherever, whenever, and adventure on my own journey. Loved all of it. You learn so much as an individual and about yourself traveling alone. You begin to notice things and are so more observant. You learn your own dialogue within and become more in tune with your instincts. Being alone on these travels was empowering because I figured out so many solutions on my own. I can’t wait to continue on some more travels.
What made you pick Spain in the first place?
I initially was going to Bilbao, Spain, to learn Spanish and surf, but things changed and I ended up studying Spanish in Barcelona—and that city is amazing. Nonetheless, I’ve always wanted to go to Spain for many reasons. My last name is Spanish and I have some Spanish heritage, as well. I love Spanish food, Spanish wine and their culture. Plus, so many countries speak Spanish, and learning the language would allow me to enter a whole other world.
When you started planning other places to visit, what was your process like?
To be honest, I’m the worst planner. I have always gone with flow and followed my inner compass. However, I knew I couldn’t possibly go to every country in the timespan I had, so I picked ones I could see family, and surf. I bought a Eurail with a set amount of countries and traveled from place to place. Once I got to one place, I would pick the next place soon after. The tricky part for me was getting there. Figuring out trains, times, buses and places was tricky. But after getting on the wrong train a few times, you learn to laugh at yourself and get on the next.
What’s the funniest thing that happened while adventuring?
Haha, which time?! Probably one of the funnier things along the way was: I accumulated another little suitcase, filling it with things and gifts from each place I was at, and one of the wheels broke… so every time I had to get off the train and walk to my hostel there would be this awkward scraping noise that followed me. I probably looked ridiculous with two backpacks and this broken little suitcase. Felt like I was doing crossfit every time.
What’s the craziest meal you ate?
I accidentally ate cat liver… I thought it was seafood… it looked like it was a sea urchin pinxos. Now to think of it, maybe the guy was messing with me.
What’s the weirdest thing you saw?
An entire family playing racquetball on the beach naked. They didn’t care one bit and looked like they were having a ball. Their carelessness is what I admired.
Coolest custom you witnessed or participated in?
The Tour de France. Never ever thought I would see it live action!
Who was the raddest person you met on the road?
A shepherd who had a black sheep.
Did you sneak any waves in over there?
So, just coming off an injury, I hadn’t surfed in a couple months. I was frothing. I went to Hossegor and San Sebastián to get my gills wet. It was epic. I got to surf the fun beachbreaks in France with a fellow Hawaii shredder, Honolua [Bloomfield], who was there, too. And then right when I got to San Sebastián there was a summer swell and the waves were pumping! I surfed all day. And the surf shop I rented from hooked it up. The funny thing about the surf shop, its name was Hawaii, San Sebastián, so it was meant to be. However, it was special for me to surf in these places because I was able to be in my natural habitat and be around likeminded people in a whole new part of the world. Hearing their surfer talk in another language was my favorite.
What surprised you the most while traveling by yourself?
How self-entertained I am and good at figuring out my way.
Learn anything new about you?
I learned that I’m really really shy. I’ve never been one to speak up and ask for help, or even ask for a picture. Every time I was in need of help, someone would read my expression and come up to me and ask if I was okay. I also learned that I’m fascinated by languages and cultures. I can’t wait to learn more languages and step into new worlds.
Any advice for people looking to take a similar trip and/or travel by themselves?
Do it. Go for it. Infuse your senses with new things. Don’t be afraid of getting lost, because you just might find what you weren’t looking for. If you aren’t very good with direction, get Google Maps.
If you could teleport back to anywhere from that trip, where would it be and why?
San Sebastián, the Basque Country. The waves, the vibes, the pinxos and the people are incredible. I made some friends while I was there and I fell in love with the little city on the beach. I am definitely going back to spend more time there and really submerge into the Basque Country. Plus, I would die for some manchego cheese and Albariño wine.
What are you going to miss most about being over there?
Being free, roaming from place to place and being enthralled with everything that was overwhelming my senses. Also, the cheese and bread—my goodness.
Power-washing my grandfather’s patio with a power washer as strong as a water squirt gun. It took me three days to clean a cement patio that was 12’ x 15’.
So… Where to next?
I’m thinking South America, go surf some lefts. Anyone want to join?
Kauai local Kiana Fores is 22 years old. A secret child of the moon, she savors interacting with oceanic environments, sliding and gliding tides. Her perfect day consists of an early surf, “brunch with the babes,” and cruisin’ the coast jamming Oldies. A recent grad from Point Loma Nazarene University, Kiana took nature-lovin’ next level in college, focusing heavily on Sustainability. Oh! And she hates dirty sponges and the way they smell…
Stay in step with Kiana on Instagram, follow @kiana4s.