With Boardmasters going off in Newquay right now, we catch up with the former Euro Champ surfer to chat why the event is so special, the problem with sexing up women's surfing and how she'd be down with using wave pools to get surfing in the Olympics
Hey Sarah, how's summer?
Summer's been nice, I've been spending a bit of time in California which has been a good for a little change and I went to Nicaragua to work at a surf camp for a bit. I've been out of the water for a while as I tore my hamstring so I'm just glad to be back in.
You're over for Boardmasters? How is it to be back?
It's always good to be back in Newquay. Catch up with friends, have a couple of drinks and get some surfs in.
What's special to you about Boardmasters?
It's been going on for years and it's always so much fun. I only came when there was a girls WQS event and it was disappointing when this event stopped. But it's great to see a girls' division this year as a UKPST event with a bit of prize money up for grabs. I'm just hoping it's not as flat as it is today for our heats!
And how about the UK surf scene right now?
I don't really know what's going on to be honest. I come back to the UK every year as I always have and if there's an event with some prize money while I'm in the country I'll give it a bash.
It seems the funding problems in UK surfing are worse than ever, do you have any magic solutions?
I made the English team to compete at the Europeans in the Azores this year. I would have liked to have gone to try and defend my European title for England but it was just too expensive. Even the English judge has to fork out the money for expenses to go and work for the week. The majority of the other teams have their government supporting their athletes with expenses paid and often incentives. I'm not sure how we can persuade the government that surfing is getting bigger and better in England and it's a great way to promote and attract tourism as well as destination branding. Most people look at you funny when you say there is surf in England! That's because the country doesn't properly see it as a 'sport'.
And what are you doing right now? Still pro? Or are you using your degree joining the real world haha
Looking to join the real world at the moment, but trying to find a way that I can still surf and do the odd trip away. I'm so happy I completed my Business degree while I was competing and travelling as I can utilise this knowledge as well as my experience for what is next. I had a couple of set backs this year, I went to Maui and Sons in America where I learnt exactly how not to treat people then to a surf camp in Nicaragua which wasn't quite right so decided to stay in Salvador for a bit where I snapped all my boards and tore my hamstring. I learnt a lot in these few months and met some fantastic people so it was worth it. I have some ideas I am working on at the minute, but just deciding where I want to be based. I am also working alongside a really cool company called Blu Kicks who are based out of San Francisco.
Could you imagine getting a city job or do you need to surf everyday?
I love surfing but it's been actually quite refreshing not being in the water as much. It would be hard to be away from the beach but if the right job came along it could be worth the sacrifice.
Are you watching the ASP Women's Tour much this year and if so who's impressing you the most?
I haven't been watching the comps. I follow the results of my friends but as for watching one or two foot waves it's a waste of time. I watch the men's comps like the one in Fiji... I sit back with a glass of wine because it's exciting and you can learn from them, I like barrel riding and watching barrels. It's funny because people say no one watches the girls and I mean, why would they? It's not exciting at all and being competitive is not 'feminine' in the surf industry so they can't seem to or don't know how to market the World Title Race. From watching the Nike, 'Leave a Message' movie, Carissa [Moore] impresses me. The public don't get to see the girls' talent on the tour.
What could the ASP do to sort that out?
I believe it is the ASP's responsibility to create an even playing field for their surfers. I'm sure the public want to see how all the girls surf, not just two or three. It would be nice for all the girls to market the lifestyle of surfing on a boat or a resort somewhere where the girls are offered the same waves, to generate publicity and photos. Everyone on the tour rips but this would give everyone the same chance (it is only those with main sponsors who get the opportunity to generate these images on their photo shoots).
The ASP would then have photos to promote the tour for that upcoming year and the girls could have access to a handful of high res images to promote ASP and themselves positively. They have an opportunity to seek sponsorship and create a whole marketing package with a focus on a healthy, active lifestyle instead of surfing in a G-string in one foot slop. Or if that is what the sponsors want, like right now, at least they will have the opportunity to showcase and market the surfing. They may even get to show their personalities and perhaps get to portray themselves instead of being corporately moulded to be something they are not. The men get a chance to showcase their surfing at a lot of their events and can generate this imagery. The girls aren't allowed to speak out else they get fined... they don't let them publicly talk about it and they don't listen so it doesn't seem very fair.
And any thoughts you'd like to add on 'that' Roxy Pro trailer!?
Steph is a fantastic person and role model and nothing can take this a way. In the video I didn't notice any Roxy product just lingerie. The music was quite nice but it was just a women repeating herself going ohhhh, ohhh, ohhh and put that with a World Champion surfer rolling around the bed I personally didn't think it had any tact considering it was aimed at the Roxy target audience which I would assume is for 12 to 20 years of age. It made me sad and confused. Even as a product focused video what exactly in that video would viewers want to go and purchase? The thing is that women/girls shop, they are interested in fashion and often buy their boyfriends and male family members the clothes anyway so I am sure there is a better way forward.
If it is an event trailer then all the athletes should be used to market the event, like they do in the tennis. That doesn't just go for Roxy it goes for all the event sponsors and ASP.
There's talk of wave pools being used to get surfing in the Olympics, what do you think about that?
I think it's probably the only way we can get surfing in to the Olympics as not all host countries could offer the beach, let alone a good quality wave. As long as there is a left and a right, a barrel and a nice wall then bring it on.
Any other issues in surfing you'd like to chat about?
I believe the problem with women's surfing is that the girls set precedent by posing naked for magazines such as Stab Mag. You just have to read the comments written by men with sticky hands on their keyboards to know they are not our target audience. It seems any female surfer who doesn't take part in these shoots or support this side of the industry are not listed or recognised as the best surfers in the world, and are called butch. I really don't see this happening in other sports but if they do decide to take their top off, they are equally applauded for their sporting accolades and achievements. The lucky couple who are marketed as athletes do not need to follow this precedent and neither do those with ex pro surfer male family members. Perhaps the companies should stop hiring ex pro male surfers to market the women... maybe this is where the encouragement is coming from.
Are you still riding for Protest at all?
I am no longer riding for Protest and am looking for a new sponsor. I feel I am surfing better than ever so am looking for a new sponsor at the moment... but if it doesn't come along it's ok, I've had a really good run.