Caio Ibelli and Alessa Quizon have been dating for years and living together in Dana Point, Calif., but it wasn't until Caio made the CT in 2016 that they've shared the same professional stage, too. Before the pair left Rio for the Fiji Pro and Fiji Women's Pro, they opened up about life as the tour's first competitor-couple, what they're learning from each other, and how to shift from colleague to main squeeze -- and back again -- in an average day at the beach.
WSL: You've been dating for a few years, but it's only been a few months since you've been on tour together. How has it been?
Caio Ibelli: The last few years, I've been trying to do my own thing on the QS, trying to qualify. At the same time supporting Alessa and going most places I could with her. This year definitely everything came together. We can travel the whole world and just think about it -- we are in Rio right now and we spent three months in Australia. Next stop we're going to Fiji, a place where you want to compete because of the waves. It's also a place you want to be with your girlfriend or your boyfriend. So it's exciting for us to be able to go together and support each other and adventure in new spots.
Alessa Quizon: Overall it's different, and amazing. We don't have anyone else to relate to because we're one of the first couples on tour. I feel we have like the perfect dynamic -- he understands what I need to do and what he needs to do. It makes our lives as competitive surfers and boyfriend-girlfriend so much easier. There are some pros and cons, but they're not terrible -- the pros are you get to travel almost everywhere together and he's kind of a coach for me. Because you know, he's next level. For me, I'm no coach...
Caio: She is a coach.
WSL: What are some of the cons to dating and being on Tour together?
Alessa: We argue not about relationship stuff, but surfboards or waves. In the moment it's not funny, because we're both competitive people. For instance, I catch a wave and I surf it, and then we're back in the lineup and we always have this argument...
Caio: About who got here first, who has priority.
Alessa: There was another time, this happened at Snapper. He broke his best board and I happened to have the same one from his shaper. He's like, 'Oh, let me ride your surfboard.' And I said, 'No, no you're not.'
Caio: The board was made from my shaper and was just a copy of a board I had that she took with her.
Alessa: The only difference was that it had my name on it. So we had an idea. Because I wanted to be fair I said, 'If you really need this board, it's there, I won't put my sponsor's stickers on it, you don't put your stickers on it.'
Caio: When we each need it we're going to use it.
We can be competitive at times, but I'd rather have Caio the way he is than not knowing anything about surfing. I wouldn't want it any other way.
Alessa: And I carried the board from California, and I was opening up my board bag and then I said, 'Wait Caio, why do I have one of your boards in my board bag?' So I turn it over and it has my name on it, but his stickers on it.
Caio: I told her, 'If you're really not going to let me use the board, you're going to take my stickers off.' I thought she would never do it, but then I see her peeling off my stickers.
Alessa: I slapped a Billabong sticker on there. He ended up not needing it and I actually needed it for Bells.
Alessa: We can be competitive at times, but I'd rather have him the way he is than say, him not knowing anything about surfing. I wouldn't want it any other way.
WSL: Alessa, how has having Caio on tour changed things? It sounds like you've each had to change your contest routines to accommodate each other.
Alessa: Exactly. Surfing is such an individual sport, and like you said, everyone has their own routine. I had to adjust to his routine and he had to do the same with me. And of course, that throws you off at first. For the first two years, I didn't really have him on tour, he was with me but he wasn't in the competition. So it was less responsibility, all I had to do was think about myself. Now, I have myself to think about and then on top of that I need to be the girlfriend that's supportive. So juggling that, it can be hard at times. But we're getting better. We're figuring out what works and what doesn't.
WSL: How do you support each other, especially when you're both competing in the same day?
Alessa: It all depends on who is surfing first. We both have to wake up early, we're going to get the free surf in the morning out of the way. Say I'm the morning heat and he is heat 3 or 4. He's looking out for me, asking if I need water or he'll give me a few tips. He'll be the boyfriend. And then as soon as I surf my heat, we switch. We just turn it off. It depends too, if I surf again or he does. We offer the each other the chance to go home and then come back before the other's heat. But we're too nice to each other and we just end up staying.
Caio: We stick together most of the time. The switch works so well. Suddenly she'll finish her heat and she knows it's not about her anymore. She'll try to help me right away. One thing we do a lot, for example, if she surfs first or if I surf first, we give each other tips about what's going on and what's changing in the water. It's great. In Bells I had the last heat of the Men's and she had the first heat of the Women's. So we got to be in the water together, and I could tell her, 'The waves are getting slow. Whatever you see, just catch it and try to complete your waves.'
Alessa: He was watching my heat in the water.
Caio: Yeah, I was really scared I was going to get a fine. I just paddled really slow as if I was going in, but I stayed in the water for about 15 minutes. It was fun to watch her. She finished a bunch of waves right next to me. It was really nice to let her know how she was doing and encourage her during her heat.
WSL: When something goes wrong and maybe you lose a heat, how do you take care of each other?
Alessa: It's so hard for me this year, right now Caio is doing extremely well. It's inspiration, but at times it's hard to see. In human nature, you want the best for them but at the same you look at yourself and think, ‘What am I doing wrong? Why can't I be where he is right now?' It does get a little stressful, but gives you some perspective on what you need to change.
It's so hard for me this year, right now Caio is doing extremely well. It's inspiration, but at times it's hard to see. I was being doubtful about my own abilities and kind of negative. And Caio said, You surf so well. It is going to happen for you.
I lost the other day [in Rio] and I was really sad. I was in this moment where I was questioning myself and being doubtful about my own abilities and kind of negative. And he was looking at me and said, 'You surf so well. It is going to happen for you. It's not like you lost.'
Caio: Because I surf with her every single day, I do physical training with her, we sleep together, we do everything together, I know how much she works. I know her reputation, I know she hasn't reached her full potential. But I hate to see when she's sad, because I know how far she can go. When we lose, we try to encourage each other because we know how much we've trained, how much we try, how much effort we've put in. But sometimes a good hug can solve everything, and some nice words.
Alessa: Most of the time... or we'll go eat dinner and figure everything out. But it is something that we're still figuring out. We get happy from each other's success -- but we're in an individual sport.
Caio: And there's always going to be someone better than you. But we try to feed each other and not bring the other down.
WSL: What are you learning from each other, both professionally, and personally?
Alessa: For me, professionally, guys are more straight to the point. Sometimes it takes me longer to process things, we analyze things in a different way. The way Caio is so determined, if I add a little more of what he has, maybe I'll get where I want to be more quickly. I've learned more about being on top of things: Like when he loses he wants to train again. When I lose, I want to have a glass of wine and think about it.
Sometimes it takes me longer to process things. When Caio loses he wants to train again. When I lose, I want to have a glass of wine and think about it.
In terms of the relationship, we're learning each other's soft spots, what hurts and what doesn't. When he was on the QS and I was on the CT he didn't fully understand what it's like to be here. Points do matter, making a heat does matter. Now he sees that because he's in the same boat. He knows now how to approach me in the right way, trying to give me tips.
Caio: I've learned with her, so far this year, that she is sensitive.
Alessa: Wait, is this the relationship part?
Caio: Well, sometimes my approach as a competitor, I can be a little aggressive for her.
Alessa: Men just have this ego...he can learn to be more humble around me.
Caio: She's a woman, she can be sensitive. It can be hard because even if I know she's doing something she needs to change, I can't just straight-up tell her. I have to put my head down and give her a hug and be the boyfriend, and switch gears from being a competitor and ask her what's on her mind, instead of telling her what I think she could do.
I'm her boyfriend first, and have to be there for her the way she expects, no matter what. She does the same for me -- she helps me, and is considerate of me. So this year, I try to be a boyfriend first and then a coach. I'm learning how to communicate with her.
AD: What else do you think you've learned from Alessa?
Caio: As a person, I've learned I need to be more considerate. When I lose, her approach with me is way different from my approach with her. She just gives me a hug and doesn't say anything about the heat, and just encourages me for the next one. So that's what I'm learning from her as a person: I can be really intense, I don't always know how to take my job out of my personal relationships, which is hard, when 100 percent of the time I'm thinking about surf, surf, surf, surf.
I don't always know how to take my job out of my personal relationships, which is hard, when 100 percent of the time I'm thinking about surf, surf, surf. -- Ibelli
Alessa: Yeah, that's the one-track mind thing. You can't let only surfing define you. He lives and breathes surfing, and sometimes I say, 'Let's take a break.' If you surf too much, you can get burnt out.
Caio: She's showed me that in life there are a lot of fun things to do besides surfing. I was never somebody who liked to sit on the beach. Just surf all day long, go home, and come back to surf again. She shows me this other side of things, even on the beach.
Alessa: It took me a while to take him to go watch a movie. I asked for a while.
Caio: The hardest thing for her was to convince me to swim in the ocean. I was like, ‘Look, I don't go in the ocean without a surfboard. If you're going to go swim, why don't you bring your board and swim with your board?' And she said, 'Oh, let's just sit in the sand and swim and play a little bit.' And now we do it often, especially when we're at her house in Hawaii.
WSL: When you live together and work together, what does date night look like?
Alessa: This is my favorite question, because you're helping me encourage him that we do need date nights. To be honest, we don't go on dates at all.
Caio: Oh my god. We go to sushi all the time. If there is sushi involved, I'm happy, she's happy.
Alessa: That could just be going out to dinner. Date night is when you get all dressed up to impress your significant other. That's what makes it different from going out to dinner. It's candlelit.
Caio: Every date should be date night. We have dinner out. --
Alessa: That's just eating dinner!
WSL: So Caio what you're saying is, every day is special.
Caio: Yeah, we don't need a date night. Whether we are eating out, or cooking at home -- which is something I really like to do, because you are putting a lot of effort to make that food for each other. That's date night, when you're giving each other your time, and eating good food and laughing. But sushi does a good job for us...
WSL: Are there any topics that you don't touch -- after a heat, or beyond?
Alessa: For me, my eating habits aren't the best. He's been trying to tell me for years and at this point, I just want him to let me enjoy my meal. For him I think, where I don't go is when he doesn't do well in a heat, I don't say much. I don't want him to see me as that person -- we're so intimately involved, we can butt heads at times. And where he's at, I don't want it to ruin the relationship part, because it's hard not to take that personally. I enjoy the criticism but I learned with him, he's a little sensitive about that part. Critiquing, he doesn't want that from me.
Caio: That's definitely the main thing.
Alessa: He prefers like the cherry on the cake, but I want it directly.
Caio: I want the good things before the bad part.
Alessa: It's also the way we grew up, we come from different ways of living. The way I grew up, in Makaha [on Oahu's west side], I'm a little more tough. The way he grew up, it's ideal. That's what I love about him, too. He teaches me to be that way. I didn't grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, it was really hard. Plus I have four other siblings. But with him, opportunities were easier, he was a little more sheltered.
Caio: She saw a lot growing up and saw that things will go wrong eventually. But I think, no, things will never go wrong, they're only going to get better.
Alessa: He's an optimist, and I'm a realist. I need to be more optimistic -- Caio: And I need to be more of a realist. Things will get harder. But together it's a great team. It works, and we are happy and support each other. That's the whole relationship: To be with someone that you love, someone with whom you share good times, and someone that can push you up and take you out of the dark spots when you need it. I think that's why -- she helps me so much and I help her. And that's what we're doing.