For years I have been following Marjolein. Having grown up in Belgium myself, it was amazing to see another female Flemish surfer travelling to these exotic places and ripping up these awe-inspiring waves with so much style and power. I always gave a little cheer whenever I saw her appear on Zealous Clothing's Instagram, putting their beautiful surfbikinis to the test in some real waves. Coming from a pretty average-waved (on a lucky day) country such a Belgium, it kind of forms an instant bond when you meet other female surfers. You know the dedication it takes to get somewhere... With the new Lowlands Blog Series I'd like to put these amazingly dedicated ocean women in the spotlight and ask them a little more about what motivated them to start surfing and keep travelling for proper waves.
So here's to all these awesome water women from the Lowlands!
Marjolein, considering you're from Belgium, a country not famous for its waves... how and when did you first get in touch with surfing?
I first got in touch with surfing when watching the movie “Blue Crush” when I was a teenager together with my sister. We were mesmerised by these cool surfing girls in Hawaï and wanted to try surfing for ourselves. Our parents took us to a surfing lesson on the Belgian Coast but since we lived over an hour drive from the coast we didn’t keep on surfing. Until a few years later when my sister went to a surf camp in Portugal and got completely hooked. When she came back, she surfed in the North Sea all through winter and the next summer she went back to that same surf camp and this time she dragged me along with her. Up until that point I wasn’t a very active young lady, haha. Though I was always good at sports, I preferred staying on the sofa watching Friends or reading a book. So shoutout to my sister for pushing me to come surfing with her. After that surf camp we never stopped.
"Shoutout to my sister for pushing me to come surfing with her."
Since that camp in Portugal, where has surfing taken you?
Ever since I started surfing, every decision I have made has been with surfing in the back of my mind. From studying, to working, to the place where I ended up living and the guy I ended up marrying, it was all because of surfing.
When did you decide to leave average-wave-Belgium for better shores?
I got my first job abroad when I was 18. A summer job in a little bar in South-West France. From there I pretty much didn’t stop traveling, studying and working abroad. I lived/studied/worked in France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia until eventually landing a job in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia at the start of 2017. After four years of doing my dream job as a surf resort manager, that dream has now made place for another one and since 2021, my husband and I are now fulltime living on the islands, building our house and surfing as much as we can (which is a lot less than you’d expect actually since our priorities are elsewhere at the moment ;) ).
"My husband and I are now fulltime living on the islands, building our house and surfing as much as we can."
Do you call Indo home now?
There is this saying that goes something like: “You’ll never be completely at home again. Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”. That quote just resonates so much. My roots will always be in Belgium but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be 100% at home again anywhere.
Is surfing still impacting every decision in your travels?
For years surfing was the driving force of all my travels. And not only travels but pretty much everything else in life. But the last few years that has changed a bit. Living a 5 minutes boat ride from some of the best waves in the world and knowing they will always be there, I now also love doing different things when I go on a trip. Like hiking, trying different foods, chilling in coffeeshops or just spending quality time with friends and family.
Is there anything in particular that surfing has brought you in life that you wouldn't have had or known if you didn't surf?
It has brought me so much but it has also taken away so much. It has brought me friendships, incredible experiences, work opportunities, love and above all, JOY. Every time I jump in the water I feel like a little kid again. But it has also made me move far away from family. It’s made me give up living around the corner from my best friends and being there for loved ones 100% of the time. And that’s not always easy. Living abroad isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Just like anywhere else in the world, there are ups and downs too. Sometimes I feel that people don’t really talk about that.
"Just like anywhere else in the world, there are ups and downs too."
After travelling all these places, where would you say is your favourite spot?
Oh there are so many! One that stands out is probably Pitstops here in the Mentawais, that’s where my husband and I met and it’s just a super fun wave. I have surfed it countless times and never left the water without a smile on my face.
Is there anything you’ve learnt from your surf and travel experience and wish you could tell your younger self?
Get yourself a surf bestie! When I started surfing I was always super intimidated by other surfers and if it weren’t for my sister I would not have kept surfing those first years I think. It really helps if you can motivate each other and surf together.
What's on the bucket list for the near future?
I’d love to discover more of Indonesia. With and without surfboard. I’d also love to do something completely opposite of my daily life, like a trip to Scandinavia in winter or something.
Last words of wisdom to other ocean women?
Be nice to everyone in the water! Start a random chat with someone in the line up. Connect and make new friends, surfing is so much more fun when we lift each other up!