Parents of pro surfers get a bad rap. They’re stereotyped as too pushy (though nothing will ever top this crazy skate dad!), as has-beens living vicariously through their own kids, or even for making the ASP Tour all tame and boring and not the party fest of yore through their very presence on it. But what does it actually feel like to parent a young pro surfer in 2014? Watching them deal with the pressure from contests, sponsors, fans, not to mention the forces that say young women surfers should look a certain way to get paid…
We caught up with Anne Fish, mother of the young Aussie WQS surfer Georgia Fish, to hear her story.
When did you first realise Georgia had surfing talent?
Georgia was naturally competitive at everything at a young age – she always wanted to be doing the things that her older sister was doing. She had great focus and determination. When she set her mind to something none of us could ever convince her otherwise! Georgia could really do anything. But she wasn’t one of those kids that stood out – you know when everyone looks at a 9 or 10 year old surfer and gets all excited saying they’re going to be a World Champion (the bad side of Junior Surfing!).
She just loved surfing and wanted to go out and catch waves and get better and better at it. She didn’t really love the competitive side because it wasn’t always a “fair” system, that “ugly parent” syndrome that seemed to follow some of the Junior events upset her. Georgia is a very black and white person and fairness is very important to her. A good example is that for her whole primary school life, she invited the whole class to her birthday party because she didn’t want anyone to be left out (even the bullies who had bullied her!). When she sat down aged 5 and explained to us why she needed everyone to come Richard and I surrendered! Luckily it was a small school, only 25 kids, but every year for 7 years!
How did you feel when you realised surfing could be a career?
Having worked in a very male dominated industry (pre-anti-discrimination days), I knew making a career out of surfing wouldn’t be an easy journey for her. Particularly as there is very little financial support for the girls. When she finished school, she decided to do a year on the WQS, no expectations, but see what it was all about, and whether she really wanted to give it a go. She has learned and grown so much in these last 3 years and we are happy that she has had the opportunity to be pursue something that she loves.
Were you guys pushy parents. What do you think about the phenomenon!?
No definitely not. We have always told her that any decision has to be hers – we can advise her when she is unsure about things, but only she can make those choices for herself. But I think that question should be answered by Georgia anyway! And I hate the pushy parent phenomenon – whether it be in sport, education, careers – parents are there to guide but help the kids to make more informed choices in their lives – not tell them what those choices should be.
What’s the best thing about motherhood and the worst?
Seeing your children feel good about themselves.