Hector Santamaria is Puerto Rico's finest export. Better than Erik Estrada. Better than Jennifer Lopez.
Hector Santamaria walks into a room and BAM! It comes alive. Colors change from drab fluorescent-lit drab to sparkly rainbow, royal purple, diggity-diamond and, best of all, platinum. Platinumch. “I see it, all arrrrrround,” he says. And then his eyes, his mad, squinty eyes widen. “Whaaaat? You don’t see the colors? You don’t feel them?” he says. And his voice, his Puerto Rican-tinged voice raises to higher and higher octaves of disbelief.
On paper he is merely a surfer. A sponsored Puerto Rican surfer from Jobos Beach. “I’m from Jobos but you can put Slowbos. That is what I call it. Hahahaha.” I ask him if the locals will care and he says, “I don’t care. It’s all about having fun. It’s not what people think. I don’t care what people think. I don’t care. I don’t care nothing. Hahahaha.” And the wildest thing is, he really does not care which takes him the rarest bird. A giant breath of fresh air. We all, everyone of us, walk down the street caring what people think. Professional surfers care more than others. Professional surfers sit for interviews and hem and haw but not Hector Santamaria. He sings.
And maybe he also sticks front flips on a surfboard. His surfing is a thing of wonder, combining all the progressive airs with all the steezy styley style. And he is most definitely filled with chi power. Chi, or qi, is best described as “life force.” It is the active principle forming any living thing. And Hector Santamaria is filled with it. “Oh that is the thing I loved about surfing first, just the chi for sure. Just like the energy I got when I stand up for the first time it’s like, ‘Ooooooh what is that, what is happening, ayeyeyeye!’ I just felt the love and I’m like, ‘I’m doing this forever.’”
But where, exactly, did Hector Santamaria learn about chi? “I read books. The Power of Now. I reeeeaaaad ch chc ch ch chchchc C.S. Lewis. He’s siiiiick. He has chi. Mega chi. And so I just love the chi of surfing. The first time I went everything just turned into particles and then my mom started taking me surfing all the time and I thought, ‘Oh yeah! This is the best, heh? I’m not going to school. Hahahahahaha!”
But what, exactly, has the most chi in surfing? “I would say airs.” Over barrels? “Yesch. Everybody says barrels and barrels are chi, fully, but when you do an air and you gotta move your body, like, three times. I even like those layback turns that Dane does when he goes shshshshshshshshshhwhwhwshs.”
But where, exactly, has the most chi? “Florida has no chi. Cali has good chi. Puerto Rico has good chi. You know where’s good chi? Fiji. They have chi but it’s kinda slow. It’s not like I thought. But Cali has the most chi for sure. I feel Cali is wicked ‘cause a lotta people live here so everything is moving….. I like Newport. I love San Clemente too. I like Surfside.”
A giant breath of fresh air. Hector Santamaria doesn’t compete. “No. I don’t like too. First of all, you need time to do what you love. You don’t want thirty minutes of stupid. Like, you cannot do a double rotation in a contest because you don’t have the…..the……the chi is not there.” He just lives. He lives bigger and wilder and more colorful and without any sort of restraint. A giant breath of fresh air.
I heard a story from Surfing Magazine’s famous Brendan Buckley. He said he paddled out one completely crowded perfect Trestles day and as he paddled he heard a loud siren coming from the lineup. As he got closer he heard people yelling at the siren, “HEY! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” but the siren didn’t shut up. And then he saw Hector Santamaria sitting on the peak, waving his arms in circles, head to the sky, screaming out a siren sound. What does he think when people yell him to shut the fuck up? “I don’t care. I don’t care. I’m just giving it my best. I’m not trying to kill anyone. When they yell, ‘HEY! SCHUT UP!’ I yell back, “You don’t pay my bills!’ Hhahahahhahaha! And then I say, ‘Chi power. Chi power. No chi suckers!’” The rarest bird. In a world where surf has turned drab fluorescent-lit drab, Hector Santamaria is our color. He is the prayer for us sinners.