This week we grilled UK surfer Tassy Swallow about carrying the Olympic Torch and tackling the ASP
Interview by Sam Haddad
Hey Tassy, how’s it going? Have you come down from the high of the Olympic Torch relay yet!?
Yeah, just about. I’ve done lots of school visits though to see the local kids and show them the torch. It’s really nice to see how excited they get about it and how interested they are to hear my story.
How did your role in that come about?
I was nominated by local people and Coca Cola, for the work I’ve done in the past getting children into surfing. And also for the work I have done on myself to get where I have with my own surfing I think.
Were you tempted to put the torch on eBay as some people have done?
No, not at all! Don’t get me wrong, if some people are using the torch to sell to get money for charity I think that’s a really nice thing to do, however it’s important to me that I keep it to hopefully be able to show my kids and even my grandchildren in the future, and you can’t put an amount of money on something like that.
We hear you do a lot of charity work, tell us about that?
I’ve done quite a lot of voluntary work through one of my sponsors, Calypso Soft Drinks, in inner city schools, introducing sport and surfing in particular, to less privileged children in difficult circumstances. Most of the kids were from really rough backgrounds and I felt like I could help them out by giving them a bit of a break with surfing. Surfing is a sport that should be open to anybody, anywhere in the world, regardless of where you come from, who you are or where you live. This is the message, along with a healthy lifestyle that I was trying to bring into these schools. As well as this, I have done lots of voluntary work with local surf clubs, in particular St.Ives Surf School and our junior wolf pack!
Are you excited about the Olympics and if so which events are you most looking fwd to?
Yes, I’m really excited! Great Britain are going to be amazing hosts for it this year, I don’t think people realised how patriotic we were going to be made to feel when all this was actually going to happen. But now the torch relay is going on I think that’s finally made everyone realise, and there’s a really great atmosphere around for it already. I won’t actually be here for the Olympics this year as I’m travelling to France for the summer to compete, however the events I always look forward to watching the most is the athletics.
We’ve read you’d like surfing to be an Olympic sport but if so would it not have to be in wave pools?
I think surfing definitely deserves to be an Olympic Sport. I have represented Team GB five times now and I just think it’s such a shame that every time we want to accept that honour to represent our country we have to come up with a large amount of money. This is because it’s not yet recognised by our government as a sport and I think this is the biggest problem. If surfing was an Olympic sport, I think it would be one of the best events judged by many to watch, simply because unlike a running race, the winner is not simply the first person over the finish line and I think this leaves it very open to opinion and personality. There’s a really cool thing happening at the moment which I have been lucky enough to have been asked to be a part of called ‘WaveGarden’. This I think would be the perfect way to hold surfing in the Olympics.
We also read you’d like to snowboard in the Olympics, how good are you at snowboarding and which event would you like to compete in?
I’m not very good at snowboarding at all, however a few years ago I took part in a scheme called ‘Girls for Gold.’ This scheme was trying to find girls with a talent in one sport that could be cross trained into another sport that was in the Olympics that hopefully could bring home more gold medals for Great Britain. When I took part in the scheme, I managed to get picked out of the 1 per cent who got asked to come back, and the sport they asked me to train for was Snowboard Cross. After going snowboarding a couple of times I was really keen to try and they put me on the junior Olympic development squad for London 2014. However, the current state of the Snow NGB is really suffering at the moment and I have been waiting on that really.
Who are your favourite snowboarders?
Definitely Kelly Clark for the women and Shaun White for the guys.
How is 2012 going so far for you?
2012 has been amazing for me so far! The waves haven’t been the best but I’m lucky enough to be able to deal with that by getting out of here! So far this year I have been to South Africa for two months, Barbados for 10 days and Panama for a month, and on Wednesday I’m heading out to Europe for the summer to compete on the ASP Pro Junior Circuit. I’m really lucky to have the support I do from my family, as well as my sponsors and college that means I can get away to train and compete. I can’t thank them enough!
Do you follow the ASP Tour much and if so who are your favourite surfers to watch and why?
Yeah especially it seems, when I’m supposed to be doing work at college! I follow most of the International events and then compete on the European circuit during the summer. It’s a really cool scene and it’s nice to get to know a different group of friends from all over the world.
Do you think you could make the Tour one day and if so what do you need to make that happen?
I would love that dream to be a reality, and it has been a dream ever since I started surfing, that I would love to be the first British Woman to qualify for the tour. It’s really hard to make it living in the UK though, you need to have a lot of determination, perseverance and motivation to get where you want. It’s the little things like it getting dark so early during the winter meaning you can’t get in the sea during the week because you get home from school to late, the winters being so cold, and the summers being flat for weeks at a time. These things really add up and we get so much less water time than other competitors around the world. I would love to be able to get the money together to get a place somewhere along the French or Spanish coast with my family one day.
Has wetsuit technology made it easier to surf all year round in Cornwall?
Definitely! I’ve been getting summer wetsuits recently off O’Neill that I have been able to wear all through the year! It’s crazy how much time they must spend figuring out this cool new technology that works so well. Surfing technology is going to go crazy over the next few years I expect. I feel really lucky to be a part of Team O’Neill and really rate their suits.
You seem to have surfed some pretty cool places, where are your favourite spots?
This is always such a hard question. Travelling is my biggest passion and the only thing that could make it better from here for me would be being able to take my family and boyfriend with me to the amazing places I get to experience. For machine-like waves, tropical sea, amazing food, beautiful scenery and lovely people, my favourite place would have to be either the Mentawaii Islands or the Maldives. I would love one day to be able to do a boat trip there for a couple of months with my family.
And who do you most like surfing with?
I am most happy when I surf my homebreak in St.Ives, Porthmeor. All the locals are so chilled out and even though I’m the only girl they see regularly in the sea they treat me like one of the guys and show me a lot of respect. There’s such a big surf scene at home but it’s kind of underground so none of the guys are that well known compared to those you find in Newquay, however maybe I’m being bias but I think they surf a lot better! I always have a laugh with them but they push me so much, in particular my boyfriend Luke who I surf with nearly every day.
What are your plans for when you finish school and beyond?
I’m going to try and get a base out in France for the times I need to get out there and train. I want to do lots more work helping other people and getting them into surfing, and maybe in the future set up my own centre somewhere where I can make a living from doing something I am this passionate about. I would love to try and make the tour and I am going to work really hard to try and achieve this. I’m also currently getting the grades I need to study a Sports Performance Course at Bath University and plan to go there when I am ready. For me my life will be successful if I am still enjoying surfing with the people I love when I am 90 and I can make a living from it!
Tassy is sponsored by O’Neill, Calypso Soft Drinks, Vans, Pull-In Underwear, Nigel Semmens Surfboards, Electric Visual, Robie Robes and Surfplugs