Profile – Victoria Fuller

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(Intro by Ty Kramer)
Baddassedry. It comes in myriad types and styles; big-wave chargers, aerial specialists, deep-water free divers. Then, there are those who command respect and awe through their every-day exploits: they aim for the stars, plan their work, and work their plan.
Case in point is our featured Blacks Beach local, Victoria Fuller, or “Torie” as she’s known outside the office. Nothing keeps her out of the water—not injury or rehab, not motherhood, nor the demands of a full litigation calendar. The years of practice in the water have shaped her into a hard-charging, elegant surfer, who can recover from a beat-down and paddle right back into the lineup, and whose children follow in her footsteps with stingray venom in their veins (seriously, Victoria explains further below).
Think you’re a baddass? Try surfing while pregnant. For many, that might be biologically unfeasible, so before your next paddle out, try stuffing a basketball down the front of your wetsuit and see how many waves you get. Or see how you fare in the court of high-stakes law with all eyes and ears on you as you make your case against the advocates bent on defeating you.
From her downtown San Diego office on the 21st floor, she commands heaps of respect. She’s certified as a specialist in appellate law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization – a spot earned by only 1% of California lawyers, and she has been selected to the distinction of Super Lawyers, a group of top-rated attorneys recognized by their peers. She has risen through the ranks in a competitive industry to that of a named partner at Niddrie Addams Fuller Singh, LLP, all the while holding down her spot in a lineup at one of the world’s best beach breaks.

Michael Schoaff, Blacks Beach Foundation Editor caught up with Victoria recently to find out more about her life, career, and the reasons that Blacks Beach is so special to her and her family.

Michael: Hey Victoria, could you tell us about your passion for surfing?
Victoria: So, I came to surfing twice. The first time was when I was about 13, and at that time I was intimidated by the surf, and by the fact that there were no other girls out there, so I came to it and left it pretty quickly. Then later in my early 20s, I suffered a pretty big injury snowboarding, and while I was healing, I just thought ‘What am I doing not surfing?’ I actually started learning at Blacks and just started surfing every day from then forward. Now it’s my big passion. There’s something about surfing—the feeling of getting into the ocean seems to wash so much stuff away and it just feels beautiful.

Michael: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
Victoria: I’m a twin! I have a twin brother named Randy. We’re very close. Our big thing is seeing music together. When we were growing up, we would see punk rock shows, and now we go see live music with my kids.
Michael: Do you have any nicknames? If so, what’s the significance?
Victoria: Torie, which my parents came up with. My parents never liked ‘Vicki.’ I’d say about half the people in my life call me Torie now, while the other half call me Victoria. I have zero preference, so I end up just deferring to whatever people like.
Michael: Can you tell us about your profession?
Victoria: Yes, I’m an attorney, and I specialize in civil appeals. Civil cases, meaning no criminal cases, but all different kinds of civil cases; and appeals, meaning the case has been resolved in the trial court. It’s gone to trial, or it’s been knocked out before trial, and someone wants to appeal. The trial courts decide what the facts are, who to believe, and who not to believe, while the courts of appeal decide how the law should be applied throughout California. I view my role as this: if I’m doing my best to advocate for my side, and if my opponent does the same thing, then we’re helping the court of appeal decide how the law should develop in California. If they decide to publish a decision in the case, it will become part of the law.

Michael: Please share with us how you got started surfing.
Victoria: I broke my forearm snowboarding between college and law school. When I was healing, I was going to the beach a lot, and that’s when I decided I needed to start surfing. No one taught me, so I didn’t know that you should start in the whitewater and then go and try to catch waves. I just went straight to trying to catch waves, so it took me a lot longer. I remember being about four months in and I was still struggling. I went down one day and thought, you know, if I don’t get it today then I guess this just isn’t for me. Lo and behold, I got it that day. I caught a wave and surfed it, and after that it was like riding a bike. I just kept going from there.
Michael: When did you first surf Blacks?
Victoria: Sometime in 1997.
Michael: What is the most important thing about surfing?
Victoria: I’ve gone through a lot of cycles with surfing. I took my kids out for family surfs when they were younger at Scripps, and now that they’re older, we go to Blacks. But what I’ve found is that I really need to surf for myself also. I get a lot of inner strength and power from it, even when experiencing difficult times. I realized at some point that the one thing that gives me strength more than anything else is surfing. If I can be out there on an intense day, I can do anything. I even think about that when I’m going into oral argument at the court of appeal, which is an intense experience. You’ve got multiple judges throwing all sorts of questions at you, and a lot of people watching you, but it’s nothing compared to what we all do down at Blacks.

Michael: What is your vision of the Blacks surfing experiences?
Victoria: It’s a combination of beautiful surf, beautiful waves, and that inner strength and power. That sense of getting in the ocean that just makes everything feel better immediately. I think the one thing that’s unique at Blacks is our community. It’s like nothing else. I don’t know if you can get that at any another break. We’ve all seen each other through a lot, and that’s very special.
Michael: Any surfing stories you’d like to share?
Victoria: I surfed while pregnant with both of my children, and when I couldn’t lay on my belly any more, I boogie-boarded Blacks. My daughter was much smaller than my son, so with her, I surfed all the way up until about a month before I delivered. During that time, I got stung by a stingray. I’ve always told my daughter that one of the reasons she’s so strong in the water is that she’s part stingray, because she had the venom flowing through her when she was a baby. So, it’s just natural that she gets right in the water and she feels so at home.
Michael: What is your biggest surfing pet peeve?
Victoria: Honestly, I try not to have those. There’s so much that we can’t control, and my goal is to keep my love of surfing. So, if there’s a crowd that’s driving me crazy, I try to avoid it. I guess I just try to make decisions that enable me to make sure that I’m having fun.
Michael: Do you have any cool surf travel stories you want to share?
Victoria: Oh, I think my coolest surf travel experience was surfing Scotland. That’s my favorite surf trip that I’ve ever taken. It was so wild and cold, but not crazy cold. We went in September, and we happened to catch a heat wave, in terms of what a heat wave means in the UK, which meant it wasn’t ridiculously cold. We had some sunny days and instead of being in the 50s or even colder, the water was around 62 the whole trip. They have crazy winds, so you deal with a lot of really strong offshore winds. When we got there, we surfed Thurso, this beautiful break right in front of this gorgeous castle. Other Europeans surfed that break, and you could paddle out and see other people there, but there wouldn’t be anyone on the rest of the beach. There are all of these incredible waves all along the coastline, and I remember coming across one. It was just beautiful and offshore, and I had a wet cold wetsuit from surfing earlier, but I just couldn’t pass it up. We hopped out and surfed, and then from somewhere, I don’t know where, because there were no houses in the immediate area, but a little boy walked down and was crouching on a rock watching us. He was the only other person we saw the whole afternoon. Beautiful surf, beautiful landscape, and a really cool experience.
Michael: Where did you grow up? What your family life was like?
Victoria: I grew up in San Diego. I was born here, and I had an amazing family life. I’m very lucky to have my twin brother. My mom passed away when I was pregnant with my daughter, and so that was very difficult. She and I were best friends and she was a wonderful role model. She headed and developed a victim witness assistance program at the district attorney’s office. She started off as a secretary, worked her way up, and ended up being the number two person under the District Attorney with 30 or so years in the office. She touched a lot of people’s lives by helping victims of crime. She wasn’t a lawyer, she actually didn’t even go to college. My dad was a banker, and he coached some of my teams when I was young. We were all very close. He lives in Coronado, and he’s remarried. It’s nice that we all live in the same area.
Michael: So, you said teams. What sports did you play?
Victoria: I played soccer and softball in elementary school. When I got into high school, I swam on a year-round team, and then toward the end of my high school career, I played water polo. That was interesting because they didn’t have girls teams then, so we played on the JV boys team. So we played against guys. Only one female could play on the on the varsity team. At Coronado, most of those guys went off to play at Berkeley, Stanford, and the like, so they were giant and super talented, and most of us girls couldn’t compete with them. I remember the one girl who made it on the varsity team eventually became a firefighter… She was big enough and strong enough to compete with the varsity guys.
Michael: Who have been your strongest influences in life?
Victoria: Probably my parents. Professionally, I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing mentors. Actually, the person who married Brian [Brian Bright is also a Blacks Beach regular] and me is my former boss and my longtime friend and mentor. He’s just an absolutely wonderful person.
Michael: What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Victoria: My family, and seeing my kids evolve into really good humans. Having a career where I feel like I make a difference. And I’m proud of finding a way to balance both of those things in a healthy way, as well as things like surfing and yoga, which bring so much joy and peace to my life.

Michael: What is your vision for the future?
Victoria: Still surfing with my kids, teaching grandkids how to surf, and establishing healthy habits and healthy lifestyles.
Michael: What’s your dream surf session?
Victoria: I had one session that stands out. It was a very unusual day. There was a lot of size, very clean, and it started to rain. This crazy downpour, and then a huge rainbow emerged, and then there were dolphins surfing, too. It was spectacular.
Michael: I know you and your family go down to Baja regularly, do you care to share about your love for Baja?
Victoria: I guess that’s another thing people don’t know about me: I’m half Mexican. My mom was first generation American, so she wasn’t born in Mexico, but my grandparents were, and when I was growing up, that had a lot of that influence in my life. My grandmother had a Mexican restaurant, and growing up, everything centered around that part of our culture and history. When my grandmother passed away, six months before my mom, I lost a lot of that, and I found that my kids weren’t experiencing the culture that I grew up with. Funny enough, when I met Brian, he’d been going to Mexico for decades. He loves Mexico, and he’s never had a person in his life who wanted to share that with him. We started going down together. Finally having that back in my life and sharing it with my kids has been wonderful.
Michael: Do you have a favorite board?
Victoria: I think the board that I have now is my favorite board ever. The 6’8” Torq. It’s perfect in terms the amount of volume and also the maneuverability.
Michael: Do you have a song that routinely plays in your head while surfing?
Victoria: Weezer’s “Feels Like Summer,” even when it’s really cold. Another one is a song that I sang to Brian when we got married as a surprise. It came on when the kids and I were in the car one day. It’s called “Let’s Go Surfing” by The Drums. It’s a very goofy song, and it sounds just like Brian. It’s about this guy who’s waking up his girlfriend early in the morning to go surfing together. The kids and I decided that that was Brian’s and my theme song, and so my daughter and I sang it when he and I got married.
Michael: Do you have a favorite post-surf meal?
Victoria: There are just too many to say. I love chorizo and eggs with all the fixings, sour cream, cilantro, and tomatoes. Donuts. I love a big pancake breakfast. I guess something with lots of volume.
Michael: What else do you like to do besides surf?
Victoria: I love to practice yoga. That, to me, is equally important and for similar reasons, maintaining calm, strength, and flexibility.
Michael: Are there any questions that I should have asked you?
Victoria: One thing I would love to say is how much I appreciate all of the friendships made along the way. I can’t believe how long I’ve known people like Ty [Kramer], Ernie [Hahn], you, and others, and seeing each other through all sorts of things that happen in life, good and bad. It’s really nice to be a part of that.