Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious
#93 “(Canadian) Beach Weather”

Some surfers take themselves waaaay too seriously. Robin Lanei isn’t one of those surfers. Based in Sayulita, Mexico, Robin is a surfer/artist/surf instructor extraordinaire whose work reflects the fun and ridiculous moments in surfing. Which, let’s be honest, happen a LOT.

Robin’s work is so relatable because it’s based on the tiny challenges and victories that surfers face every day, in and out of the water. Whether it’s wrestling into a wet wetsuit, progressing to a shorter board, or staring down someone paddling for your wave– she not only feels your pain, but has a knack for drawing it in a way that will make you laugh and tag a friend.

In May 2016, Robin decided to take on the challenge of drawing every day for a year (#366DaysOfDrawing), and a brilliant Instagram diary of surf hilariousness was born. The drawings are sarcastic, silly, self-deprecating, and downright whimsical at times. When I found Robin’s Instagram account, I read through practically every single post and literally laughed out loud.

I reached out to Robin to tell us the stories behind her favorite ten drawings, and learn a bit more about how her hilarious mind works 🙂 .

Check out her Instagram at @robinlanei_art, or visit her website where you can purchase your fav prints. Aaand if you have a fun/funny/struggle surf story, share it with Robin here and she might just make your story Insta-famous in one of her drawings!


#32 “Dolphin Games”

There’s usually dolphins hanging about on the the central coast and they like to get pretty close. Which is too close when all you see is the fin! One swam underneath my surfboard and even though I knew it was a dolphin I put my feet up. I’m sure they get a big kick out of it…

#32 “Every Goddamn Time”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

Raise your hand if this has happened to you. Put your hand down, you’re reading don’t be weird. There’s a spot in Mexico called La Lancha which is a super beginner friendly wave but DAMN IT, its got you paddling from the inside peak to the outside peak and chasing the wide sets in circles.

#25 “Hasta La Cocina”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

“Hasta la cocina” is Spanish for “until the kitchen” and is often used if for an example a defender or mid fielder runs the ball all the way down the field and makes a goal. Or if you catch a wave all the way to the beach. In AMANDA’s case though…

#50 “I Dare you”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

I wrote on the Instagram caption that it took years to perfect this look and its 100% true. One thing I’ve learned about surfing crowded spots is that, if that’s your wave, paddle like its your wave and look them in the eye. And don’t miss it…

#13 “Kook 1, Me 0”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

This is an early one and in contrast to the one before. It’s when so and so doesn’t see you or your i-dare-you-look wasn’t nearly confident enough and he in fact, dared. Before you even get a chance to call him off and yell, “dick!!!” you’ve already fallen and karma takes a point.

#49 “Alternative Party Wave”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

So this hasn’t really happened to me but I like to think I would try it one day. Some poor unsuspecting kook and suddenly, “HEY CAN I GET A LIFT?” or the flip side and someone decides to hitch a ride on your back.

#17 “Pearl”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

This is probably my favorite one of all. I like that in one image it encompasses all the “durp” moments in surfing that remind me to never take myself too seriously. By all means, take the ocean seriously and respect surfing and other surfers, but no one is Kelly Slater except for Kelly Slater and we’re all kooks when it comes down to it.

#26 “Smack Down”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

This one makes me laugh every time because I know my friend Papas would never do this to anyone on purpose but come on. If i were a stand up paddle, I’d put that paddle to real use and start some paddle golf. Or paddle hockey, or paddle croquet.

#36 “How I Learned to Surf”

I drew this one on Fathers Day and yes my dad was a strong advocate for, “90% is just making it out to the line up” like that was supposed to cheer me up…and “ok see you out there.” if anything it taught me to take the pounding, be tough, don’t stop paddling and you will make it out.

#20 “That Girl”

Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious

Well this hasn’t happened to me either, but I hope it does because I would deserve it. We’ve all been that girl, “accidentally” dropping in, I don’t know, maybe it was my boobs, I just had so much momentum? I couldn’t stop? I didn’t see you? Did I mention I have boobs?


Robin Lanei / Robin Lanei Art
photo by Ed Fladung

My name is Robin Lanei, but you know that. I was born in Monterey, CA. Kind of the lame step down from Santa Cruz but hey we still have waves. My parents are veterinarians that met in vet school at UC Davis and opened a clinic in Salinas. My dad surfed since I can remember but the dreaded Surfer’s Ear left him 90% deaf and being in the water gives him vertigo.

girl with surfboard on oceanview balcony

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Sadly he stopped surfing but I picked it up in his place. Well, it took a few tries… I was a bit reluctant at 9 years old and that water is cold. I remember him dawn patrolling, tossing me in the jeep, going to my uncle’s house to get him and my cousin. My dad and my uncle left me and Wyatt wrapped in sleeping bags on the beach Moss Landing while they surfed. Wyatt would stay, but I would get out and walk around to find someone to talk to.

Ever since I learned to write my name I’ve been obsessed with expressing myself whether it be through drawing, painting, writing, sewing, singing, acting, building, destroying, creating. Surfing, growing up, was this awesome and terrifying act that all I knew was I wanted to know how to express myself… like that. Like the beautiful surfer girls on the posters in surf shops and in the magazines in our PO box. As a kid I saw them as happy and strong and beautiful as I saw myself, or I saw what I wanted to be when I grew up. Yes shallow, I know. BUT the surfing part was HARD and that’s where the passion was ignited.

photo by Seeking Peaks

I thought I was capable of most active things but surfing was so fucking hard I became obsessed. It took work, and discipline and patience and humiliation but every second of standing on that stupid BZ blue/fluorescent orange, every minute of tortured paddling/turtles in my too small wetsuit-with-holes, and every hour of sitting out there catching nothing, was the only way I ever felt like myself. 100% myself. Nothing is good without the struggle. This is known and this is why my doodles are funny, apparently. 😉

What do you love about surfing?

Good Lord there’s so much I love about surfing. I think there’s a million of magazines and movies and books and poems about all the things that we love about surfing. You know what’s funny? What I hate about surfing. SUP’pers, go somewhere else! haha jk, not really…

What does the ocean mean to you?

The Ocean is a Master, a maestro, a teacher. “The sea’s only gifts are its harsh blows and occasionally the chance to feel strong.” I saw that on a shirt somewhere…  (inserts shout out to Quality Peoples T-Shirts*)

Why were you drawn (no pun intended) to doing a series on surfing?

Hah! Honestly, it was a crowded day out front in Sayulita and I had just started this #366DaysofDrawing project and I just needed to vent about it. Surfing and now this drawing project were part of my day-to-day.

Your work captures so many fun and funny surfing moments that are so relatable. Where do you get your inspiration?

Oh man, I’m sure you’ve been to Waikiki or Malibu on a small sunny day. Sayulita is a circus in the “designated lesson area.” I could sit out there for hours and watch the shit show. Absolute carnage, it’s beautiful. And it’s fun, everyone out there is eating shit and laughing about it and so are we, out here in the internet world.

There’s also a touch of whimsy to your work, (like the wetsuit disco and the surfer coming out the barrel with a school of fish)… how do you come up with these scenarios?

Good question. I could say that’s how I see it in my mind, because it’s true, but I don’t just plainly see a disco ball come from the sky. I guess what is something that anyone could see and immediately associate with dancing? Besides silly little music notes… I don’t want music I want dance club dancing and so, a disco ball comes from the sky. Does that make sense? It turns this you-had-to-have-been-there-moment between my friend Amanda and myself, to something everyone can relate to.

Who are the people in your illustrations? Friends, strangers, or anyone you see?

Some friends, like the previously mentioned Amanda. She’s one of my best friends, surfer, homie, co-worker, boss, mentor. She appears a number of times usually represented by a white girl with brown swoop bangs and a hat. Which also applies to cartoons about my friend Leah now that I think about it… I represent myself as the darker skinned girl with black hair.

I don’t know why I don’t put hair on any of the men. I think they just look funnier without hair. Little crudely drawn people with dots for eyes can only vary so much. But there are a few, like “Diego’s Dream Wave” where if you know Diego Cadena you would say it looks like him or when “Papas” smacks the surfer down with his paddle. Most of them must be strangers, because they’re usually the ones kooking it up out there, going for gold.

In what medium do you draw your illustrations? Do you use software? What’s your process?

ITS A SOOPER SECRET. So shhhhh…. I *whispers* draw it out with pen, take a picture of it with my phone and use an APP. It’s called YouDoodle and its free and I use paint bucket and the little brush to add color and edit. And VOILA!

Who are your favorite artists?

Growing up I loved those Garfield and Farside books, so yeah Gary Larson and whoever drew Garfield. My best friend growing up, her dad was Bill Bates, a cartoonist for the local paper and he taught me a lot when I came over. Like how to draw hands, and make one weird squiggle into something else by adding some lines here and there. I’m also a fan of Kris Goto, love her illustrations, they describe how I feel on the inside when I’m not a cynical, dry, don’t-talk-to-me-before-coffee biotch. Like the moment I’m sliding down the face of a wave, that’s what I feel when I see her drawings.

What’s next for Robin Lanei Art? What happens after the 366 days of drawing?

Well after the 366, I plan to publish a coffee table book, nothing fancy, of all the drawings. Yet to decide if I’ll make one of just the surfing cartoons, or of all 366 drawings. I have about 200 left, plenty of time to decide. This is just the beginning of what I want to bring into this world, I got a lot up my sleeves.

Follow Robin’s Instagram here or check out her website at

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3 thoughts on “Surfing Cartoons / Artist Robin Lanei’s Struggle is Real… and Hilarious”

  1. Hi Robin … #37 “Happy International Smurfing Day” is on the refrigerator and greets Mom and Me every morning. We’re excited to follow your life adventures, “… livin’ the Dream!” Everyone that surfs relates to your work … and laughs. See you after “MexiLogFest 2017” in May. Love you … Dad.

  2. Love the artwork Binsky!! My fav is # 36. Making it out to the line up is a big plus, but the bonus for us girls in cold water with no hoods is, a dry hair paddle out! Such an accomplishment. Love Aunt J

  3. Love the art Robin. Quite a challenge to do one a day. So funny as we can relate to each one of the ten, except the SUP GOLF, never thot of that one but gives me ideas. Live it girl!