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Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Water colors from Courtney Conlogue

By Cristina Goyanes
Special to espnW.com

Courtney Conlogue
Courtney Conlogue, who spends two or three hours painting her surfboards, gravitates toward subjects that make her laugh.

Courtney Conlogue is blond and beautiful. She stands 5-feet-8 and often wears a neon-colored Billabong wetsuit. But the most stunning thing about her is what's tucked under her arm as she makes her way up the beach.

Splashed across her surfboard is a cool, colorful design painted by the 21-year-old herself. A passionate artist, Conlogue takes the art of surfing to a whole new level.

"I've always loved drawing since I was a little girl," said Conlogue, the third-ranked surfer in the world. "I picked it up from my mom, who is a very talented artist with an emphasis on pointillism."

Courtney Conlogue
Courtney Conlogue will conclude her 2013 surfing season this week at the EDP Cascais Girls Pro in Portugal.

It was during her freshman year at Sage Hill High (Santa Ana, Calif.) when she was introduced to other mediums, including canvases and ceramics, and new tools to help expand her ideas and imagination. To support and encourage her out-of-the-water passion, her parents gave her an easel at age 16. Then they built her a 5-by-3-foot studio in their garage just two years ago while she was on tour.

"I love spending time in my little rectangular studio," said Conlogue, who prefers to work on big canvases with acrylic paints. After she learned the basics in school, she was then able to home in on her own personal aesthetics. She found herself gravitating toward the juxtaposition of light and dark colors as well as unconventional materials, such as cigar ashes, to add unique textures to her pieces. As she continued to find new ways to express her thoughts and ideas, she began craving more and more time in front of her easel.

"When everything is just so busy and I'm so stressed or if I just need a little 'me time' to just think and get away, I go to my studio, grab a blank canvas and my palette and start painting," said Conlogue, who will conclude her season this week in Portugal at the EDP Cascais Girls Pro. "It's a good healing technique."

Though she paints for herself, she's not one to keep her artwork private. In fact, her most visible pieces can be found right on her surfboards, which feature popular images such as Dr. Seuss characters Thing 1 and Thing 2 and minions from the animated film "Despicable Me 2."

"I painted my first surfboard when I was 11," said Conlogue, who will take two to three hours to paint her boards, then coat them with a protective polyurethane.

How does she choose her subjects?

"I put the minions on my board to make me laugh, which helps put my head in a different mind space. I want to keep things happy and light when I surf," she said.

Her favorite board at the moment is her tribute to the popular children's book "Oh, the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss.

"That board has traveled with me around the globe. It's such a great representation of what I'm doing and where I'm going," she said.

Taking notice of her "other" talent, her surf sponsor Swatch approached her in 2011 to design a watch for their 2012 summer sports collection.

"When they asked me, I was bouncing out of my skin, I was so excited to have this opportunity," Conlogue said of the Wonder Drift watch she created for the brand. "With this watch, I decided to sketch something that combined both the natural elements of what I do, specifically the sand, and the vibrant, neon colors that I love. It was so awesome to work on something like this. I hope to do more."

The experience has opened her eyes to a new potential passion for fashion design. Since it's hard for her to paint while on the road, she now finds herself sketching in her Strathmore notebook dresses, pants and more watch ideas. Like with surfing, she lets waves of inspiration take her where they will.

"Surfing and creating art are so similar -- there's strategy and adaptation," she said. "Being able to acclimate to change is so important. You have your A plan, B plan and C plan, but then you have your instinct and sometimes that's the way you have to go when you're surfing and painting."