A Conversation with Eric Noel Muñoz, author of “Peli Can Surf”.
Eric Noel Muñoz, author of Peli can Surf, is a southern California native with a deep love for the ocean, the California coast and nearby Baja California.
About the Author of Peli can surf, Eric Noel Muñoz
He has a degree in Physical Geography from San Diego State University and enjoys a land use planning career with experience working as a staff planner with the city of Carlsbad, and also has experience working with the city of Del Mar, both in north San Diego County. Eric has been land use planning consultant based in San Diego County since 2005 working for a variety of public sector clients like the Port of San Diego and school districts. He also has a California real estate license.
He served as President for the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation in Carlsbad; Vice-President for the California Surf Museum in Oceanside; Board Member for the California Shore and Beach Preservation Association; and Member of the Conservation Committee for Wild Coast based out of Imperial Beach with operations in central Baja and Mainland Mexico. Eric is one of the Founders of the Palm Springs Surf Club opening late 2023 and is part of the team with For The Oceans Foundation, an ocean conservation group based in Costa Rica.
Interview with Eric Noel Muñoz, author Peli can surf
What did you like to read when you were a little boy?
When I was a little boy, I was fascinated with reading about pirates, and the great Spanish, Portuguese, and English explorers who expanded the boundaries of their known world and chased their dreams across the ocean horizon. I also enjoyed reading about volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes since they represent tremendous forces of nature. I credit my grandmother with instilling the magic of reading in me to understand the world and have an open mind to other people, places, and cultures.
What inspired you to write Peli’s story?
As a lifelong surfer I have seen pelicans glide over ocean swells with elegance and grace. It is absolutely captivating but as soon as the swell begins to feel the ocean bottom and starts to break, the pelicans soar to the swell line behind the one they were gliding over. At some point, every surfer thinks wow, too bad they don’t ride the wave while it is actually breaking. Knowing that to ride the tube of a wave, you use your hand to slow down and control your board speed to ride the hollow wave, I realized I needed to have a unique pelican to actually surf the tube and came up with the idea of a pelican born with a bent wing.
I named her Peli and she was the outcast of her local crew. One day, alone up the coast, she saw surfers using the hand to control their board and ride the tube and was inspired to use her wing in the same manner. She becomes a good tube rider and then one day at her local beach with huge waves she shows her local crew how she masters the tubes and instantly becomes accepted and a leader. I have several sequence stories where she has many adventures with dolphins and whales; and travels the world surfing waves and becomes involved with environmental issues affecting ocean health and marine resources.
Have you always wished to be a writer?
I have always enjoyed reading, and I think that writing is related to reading, because at some point, you want to channel your creative energy and then to read what you wrote is very satisfying. But the other part of writing is storytelling, and I have always enjoyed travel, my version of adventure, interacting with others, and generating stories from those experiences. Writing is a way to capture and preserve that experience. I would love to be a full time writer and if I pursue my joy of writing, my aim is to move in that direction. I get very humbled and satisfied when people can learn, be entertained, or be inspired by my written words.
Eric Noel Muñoz, you are known for your books, such as “Caulerpa Conquest: A Biological Eradication on the California Coast” and “Peli Can Surf”. Which current or further topic you would like to write more about?
I want to write about coastal issues, the invasive species that threaten our natural environments; I would like to write about enjoying the ocean through surfing, paddling or just experiencing other cultures so that more people can have compassion and calmness. As a geographer, I have interest in almost anything that involves land, water, people and the relationships between all three.
Please tell us about any of your upcoming release or future projects.
As part of my research for my Caulerpa Conquest book, I went to the Mediterranean Sea in late 2015. As a side trip, I went to Venice, Italy with my inflatable stand up paddle (SUP) board. I spent just over a week paddling the canals of Venice and had an amazing, life-changing time. I wrote a detailed account of my experience soon after, and then left it alone. Late last year (2022) I got inspired to dust if off and launched an effort to produce an e-book, which will now be released during May 2023: SUP Venice: My 2015 Venice Adventure Stand Up Paddleboarding.
It will have over 50 photos, many of which I shot while on my SUP. And I will have a companion YouTube channel with about 25 video clips that will take the viewer onto the deck on my SUP as I weave through back canals, and also the Grand Canal of Venice. I have since learned that SUP is now mostly banned in Venice, which I can fully understand and respect. But in 2015 I did not generate any trouble or law enforcement and am excited to share my story of a very special experience.
Another project I want to pursue, is a fictional storyline that is based on reality and some experiences I had in Panama and the incredible coastline of that country. It combines Panama party life, surfing, fishing, drug cartels, and an offshore prison island to tell a story of adventure, survival, and a variety of life challenges.
What is a typical writing day like for you? And, when you sit down to start a new book what are your surroundings?
I really don’t have a typical writing day, since I am juggling jobs, projects, and clients along with my daily pursuit to be active and get in the ocean water in some form. But all my writing is done on my lap top; although many times I will hand write some ideas, or a storyline on a piece of paper that I eventually capture into a computer document. I can sit down and write almost anywhere; I have become good at blocking out noise or distractions. I have VW van, a camper kombi that has electrical outlet and I love to write in there next to the beach on a coastal bluff. However, I am most productive writing at night. That way I don’t feel I am missing daylight hours to be outside and active. Writing while there is rain is also very productive for me.
What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your writing?
I get this question very often, and I used to think that I have no challenges because I do not have ‘writer’s block’ where my mind freezes and I can no produce thoughts or words. And if I have a writing assignment with a topic, and maximum word count and a deadline, I can complete it with very little challenge. But I have come to realize, as I note in the answer above, that my greatest challenge to writing is the sun. I feel that the day to be lived and experienced and then at night I can write and capture the experiences in words.
What is your opinion of e-books? Do you think that people prefer reading your works on an electronic reader instead of in print?
I think e-books are great. They are modern. They should be embraced. An e-book reader can hold a huge amount of ‘books’ and that is great to have so many reading options in one device. And they can include photos and be linked to a platform like YouTube for videos.
But there is also something timeless about holding a book in your hand. Reading the words on a page that you turn as you advance your way to the final page. I am not sure about the overall preference of people between the two options. And sometimes I fear that reading is becoming a lost art and people have shortened attention spans to actually read a complete book. So, I think having options for reading is good and would like my books to provide both options, although SUP Venice will only be an e-book since it is full of photos.
“Peli Can Surf” has been translated into Italian by Severino Ricci (founder of italy2california) and Andrea Colombo (a 9-year-old boy). Can you tell us where this idea and collaboration came from?
This fantastic idea must be credited to my good friend and collaborator Seve, and his longtime friend Paolo and of course his son Colombo. As I understand it, Seve with great enthusiasm shared my story and book with amazing art by my illustrator Bonnie Bright. The story resonated so much with Paolo, an Italian surfer, and his surfing friends, that they wanted their kids to know the story. And that is where young Andrea came into the effort.
I can not describe how honored I am to have my story in Italian, and now have requests from surfing friends in Mexico and Costa Rica to translate Peli in to Spanish. I cherish my Italian connection and partners and hope to bring the story of Peli to the world’s coastlines. Grazie Seve, Paolo, and Andrea! We have much to do together.
Tell us about your passion for surfing. Have you always been a surf lover?
Waves have been breaking on the world’s coastlines forever. But only relatively recently has the magic of riding waves been done by humans. Indigenous coastal cultures have a commonality of being in the ocean for fishing, survival, transport, and recreation. Riding waves on various crafts is not new at all. But a modern surfboard allows humans to dance on moving walls of water. I believe surfing is a true privilege and amazing way to go through life and explore the world, meet people, make lifelong friends, and enjoy being alive.
My parents were from Puerto Rico and my earliest memories as a 3-year old include white sand, green palm trees and warm blue water from our visits there. I was always swimming and at 14 surrendered to the pursuit of riding waves and learning to surf. Surfing, paddling, and swimming consume my day dreams and I can be dry for a long time. Any form of water captivates, and I want to enter it. Surfing a good wave anywhere is the best thing I think my mind and body can do while not sleeping.
We know about your experience in Venice. Can you tell us more about it? Are you planning a new adventure to Italy?
Experiencing Venice took my love of water to a whole new level. I read a lot about the history of Venice and by the time I got there, I was frothing to savor all of it. The marvel of how it was built, how they traded with points east and west, the maritime mastery of the Venetians. Paddling in the canals was a sublime, dreamy experience.
I smell the food cooking, hear the church bells and dogs barking, people talking in many languages. And joining the gondoliers on their local waters was quite an experience, which I describe in my book. I was mindful to always show respect and not get in anybody’s way. I felt like I was paddling in the wake of Marco Polo: like I was in a time machine paddling on my modern inflatable SUP board. I feel like I experienced Venice in a way that very few people ever have or ever will, including those that live there. I feel honored and privileged for that experience. Venice touched my heart and hope my story reflects the endless respect and appreciation I have for that magic water wonderland.
I would love to return to Italy and also to Sardinia where I got surf some beautiful waves on a beautiful island with amazing people, food, and landscapes. Visiting Rome and the Colosseum was another amazing experience. I would like to help Italy put a spotlight on environmental issues and also know that controlling the amount of tourism in a sustainable manner is needed to keep the balance of exposure and protection. I would love to find a way to do that while exploring more of Italy’s coastlines.
When you’re not working, what are some of your favorite ways to relax and have fun?
Be in the water. Jump in the ocean. Even if for 10 minutes it will change the day into a better day. If the waves are not good, I am very happy to paddle on one of my boards. Walking on the soft sand at the beach. I love to feel the beach air in my face and the light wind on my head. I feel relaxed. My brain can breathe. And I can address the things in need to do, and the things I want to accomplish during my day and in my life. I also cherish many friendships and having adventures or even a good lunch or dinner. Being near, in and on the ocean provides me with fuel to seek happiness and balance my work obligations with my dreams.
by Severino Ricci
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