We chat to the Nikita Surfrider Charlotte Bayliss from the Channel Islands about surfing with seals and choosing your subject according to sea access
Interview by Anna Langer, photos by Jaimee Arthurs
You grew up on the Channel Islands, how was that?
It was absolutely amazing!!! I moved to Jersey in 2000 and have loved every single minute of living on the island. Every time I go away I come back and realise that nowhere is as beautiful as home. We can get seals and dolphins out in the line-up on a calm day and it sounds cliché but I have never seen a sunrise or sunset better anywhere else in the world! The sea is so clean and clear and it’s a great place to be brought up. It’s very safe so I had a lot of independence as a teenager being down on the beaches and making the most of all that Jersey has to offer. I’m always thankful that Jersey is where my family ended up.
Did you start surfing pretty early on?
I had my first taste of surfing at about 12 but at the time I was horse riding and competing in that so that took up most of my spare time. I took to surfing properly at about 14 when I started going to weekend camps then it all went from there and I got hooked instantly. I saved up for my first custom board soon after this and started having a go at the island contests. When I see some of the grommets out in the water now I wish I had been able to start earlier but I appreciate that I had so many other experiences in different activities as well.
How is surfing in Cardiff, where you live now, different from back home?
I’d say that on the whole when Jersey has good waves it’s one of the best places in the UK to be, especially at the Splash on a low tide and some of the high tide spots. I managed to score Llantwit major in Cardiff amazingly the first few times I went and thought I’d found the Welsh paradise. My first surf there I was greeted with head high glass on the peak with only a couple out. Since then I haven’t been quite so lucky with any of the spots in the area but have tried to get in when I can! Hopefully I can explore a little more over the next year as I know there are some world class breaks around the coast.
You moved there to study, what’s your subject?
I am just going into my final year of my Physiotherapy degree which I am loving as we are now out on placements working in the hospitals. I always knew I wanted to do something medical and originally wanted to be a vet but with all the colleges being landlocked I ended up being swayed to become a physiotherapist and study in Cardiff. It is also something I can take anywhere in the world with me so hopefully I can travel with my career. I love helping people reach their goals, especially those with neurological injuries – it’s such a rewarding job.
Is it hard to keep up a professional career in surfing besides university?
I wouldn’t say I’ve hit the professional stage and being at university has meant that I’ve spent much less time in the water. Also not being 5 minutes from the beach like I am at home has cut down my water time. I am definitely looking forward to graduating and being able to focus more on my sport. I don’t know where it will take me but as long as I can enjoy it and share that with other people then I’m happy.
When did you realise surfing could be more than just a hobby?
I guess it was just before I went to Costa Rica last Christmas and had loads of water time the summer before and had just returned from the Europeans in Ireland (where I was actually body boarding – something which I had never done before!!!). It was more a case of give it a go and see what happens!! I felt very lucky to have been picked up by Northcore and Waxx Underwear before the trip and it was great to have them supporting me when I was out there, they are both brilliant companies. I was then really lucky to get picked up by Nikita when I got back from the trip.
How did that go down?
I decided to contact them once I returned from Costa Rica as I have always loved the brand and the ethos behind the company. There is an amazing vibe within the company and from what I’ve seen all the girls have great fun. I love to snowboard as well so I always related the company more to winter sports than the surf side of it and loved the idea of working with them. I was so stoked to get the offer to ride for them and I’ve been loving it ever since! Everyone has been really supportive and hopefully there will be some future with the girls. There are big things coming out of the company so keep your eyes peeled.
What plans do you have for the rest of the summer?
I only get a few weeks off for the summer before I head back to placement again so I am looking forward to just chilling out on the beach and getting as much water time as possible. I’ve been in Jersey for a month on a placement so it’s meant I’ve had loads of time to surf in the evenings which has been brilliant. I think I’ve been quite lucky getting waves in some shape or form most evenings. I’m spending my summer in Devon with my boyfriend so hopefully we’ll get some good waves and warm weather!
Are you gonna do any WQS events or is that not on your list (yet)?
I’ve had this year as a bit of a warm up to get used to contests as I have a tendency to freak out during my heats! The level of female surfing is phenomenal at the moment with the girls proving to the men that they are just as good. I find it awe inspiring to watch some of these girls on the WQS.
I have entered the Boardmasters in the Ladies Longboard Division as I think it will be a great experience to surf with some of the top girls in the world and learn from them. I’d love to have a go at a few of the European events just for a bit of fun and the experience to over the next few years. I never expect to get to a high level but as long as I can enjoy the sport then any experience is a good experience! We’ll just have to wait and see!
And how do you spend your winter?
As I’ve been at uni I haven’t been able to escape many winters! I worked in India for a month during my gap year and then I was in Costa Rica last Christmas for about a month. This year I only have 10 days off over Christmas so I’m heading to the slopes for some snowboarding and I can’t wait! I have plans to do a month in California and New Zealand the winter that I graduate with my other half, hopefully hire a van and follow the coast. I feel like I’ve still got itchy feet and there are a lot of places I want to explore.
Anything else you wanna get off your chest?
I think there are some amazing female surfers in the UK and Europe and it’s been great to have the opportunity to surf with some of them. I feel like I’m starting to feel comfortable on my boards and I can’t wait to have a year or so out after uni to see where my surfing can go.
I also want to say a huge thank you to Nikita, Northcore and Waxx Underwear for supporting me.