Spotlight on Pro Surfer and Panama Jack Ambassador, Fiona Sargente
Photo credit: JKingS
Panama Jack isn't just a brand that provides top-quality sun-protection and travel gear—it’s a lifestyle dedicated to horizon-chasing and adventuring of all kinds. With this spirit of perpetual summer in mind, we’re proud to champion like minded sun-seekers around the world. One such individual is the fearless professional surfer and Panama Jack ambassador, Fiona Sargente, hailing from Palm Bay, Florida. Fiona's passion for chasing waves and living her dreams is matched only by her dedication to keeping sun safety at the forefront of her pursuits. In this exclusive spotlight, we sit down with Fiona to discuss her journey, uncovering what drives her and revealing how she embodies the very essence of Panama Jack.
When did you start surfing and what inspired you to pursue it professionally?
I started surfing around the age of 12 years old. My older sister showed me how to surf and ever since, my love for the sport has grown immensely. Not long after, I had my first taste of competing and won my very first surf competition, which pushed me to keep competing.
What is your training routine like? How do you stay physically fit and mentally focused?
I train in the water 3 to 4 days out of the week. On days when there aren’t many waves, I train with weightlifting in the gym to keep my body ready for bigger surf swells, and for when I travel to compete. My mental state is something I always try to keep positive and calm. I have set goals for my surfing career, and I have been taking it one step at a time, but I’m always progressing my skills to move forward! Even though I know how to surf competitively, I keep my mind open to learning new things from my surf coaches, competitors and judges.
What is the most challenging wave you've ever surfed? Tell us about that experience.
The most challenging surf break I have ever experienced would have to be Jobos Beach in Puerto Rico. The waves there are fast and quite big, and when I surfed this particular break, it was around 8-10 ft and very choppy, meaning not calm whatsoever! I learned how to paddle with all my strength to get out on a longboard and caught some of the biggest waves I have surfed so far, because I live in Florida where it's [comparatively] small most of the time.
How do you manage the risks involved in big wave surfing, and what safety measures do you take?
I always make sure I have a strong leash so it will not snap while I'm in the water. When it comes to surfing big waves on a longboard, you have to be extremely careful and trained. Other than that, I just stay in a calm mindset and surf the waves as long as possible—or even all the way into the shore.
Can you share a particular highlight from your surfing career so far?
I recently took a win in the USA Women's Longboarding Championship located in California. It felt amazing winning such an honorable title. To say I am number 1 in the US for women's longboard (ages 18 to 39) is a goal I accomplished that I will cherish forever!
How do you balance your surfing career with other aspects of your life, such as family and friends, school, etc.?
While being in college to become a sonogram tech, balance is the key for me to reach both academic and surfing goals. I make certain days to train and focus, but there are always days where school is first. My friends and family always support me. I come from a big family and I’m a triplet (with two brothers), so I am always pushed, being that I’m the only girl since my other three sisters have moved out and become successful.
How did you become a sponsored athlete for Panama Jack, and what does that partnership mean to you?
I have always loved Panama Jack products and my parents are big fans. I was offered to represent and have never been more excited! This opportunity to be sponsored is so honorable and I am beyond thankful.
How important is sunscreen to your surfing lifestyle? What about outside of the water?
As a girl with lots of freckles, I really love my sun care! Sunscreen is so important while I'm surfing. I surf for hours at a time and love a sunscreen that doesn't run into my eyes and truly protects me. The Panama Jack Sport sunscreens are my favorite to wear. I apply it once before I paddle out and it goes on clear—it's amazing!
How do you choose the right sun care products?
When I have surf competitions on the weekends, it's an all day ordeal. I like to pick a sunscreen that lasts. Mineral sunscreen has been a favorite of mine because it's good for my body when the UV [index] is high.
How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep pushing your limits as a surfer?
I motivate myself to learn new maneuvers to keep bettering myself, and that's honestly what I love about surfing. It's your own style and you can express the way you feel on the waves. Competitions and winning are always a confidence boost as well.
What are some of the challenges that women face in the surfing industry, and how can we overcome them?
Women in the surfing world have to compete against men, as well as each other. At local competitions, I always have to surf against men because they make it an open heat, meaning both men and women compete. They always have another men’s only heat, but not a women’s only equivalent, which I think is unfair—but it does feel good when I have won against some male surfers. We can overcome [such obstacles] by just pushing ourselves and proving to others we are just as good and deserving of equal judging.
What advice would you give to aspiring female surfers who want to make it as pro athletes?
It’s something you should love and do for fun. Surfing is a sport that not many people can do, so be proud of yourself and know that you do it for yourself.
What do you hope to achieve in the future with your surfing career? What are your goals, and what else do you hope to achieve beyond surfing?
I really hope to achieve my goal of competing in another WSL World Surf League competition and placing! I want to inspire other girls to start longboarding and to not be afraid. I also want to show that when you believe in yourself, it will happen.
How do you give back to the surfing community, and what social or environmental causes are important to you?
I always loved giving surf lessons, so as a side job, I teach surfing to disabled or autistic children. I love to volunteer at the Surfing For Autism competition every year, and to show them that anything is possible.
What message would you like to share with your fans and supporters, and what legacy do you want to leave as a surfer?
As a surfer, I have been one to believe that you need to chase your goals for something you love. It will never just come to you—you have to work hard for what you want and do it.