As O'Neill celebrates the launch of its new online girls' surf community, we headed down to Cornwall to catch up with some of their hottest female team riders
Words by Rosie Monks, photos by David Brook
All sun and smiles down at Newquay's Watergate Bay, as the first group of ladies donned their gear and made their way down to the water's edge. Time to spread the word. FirstLoveLastLove was an event organised to celebrate the launch of O'Neill's new online surf community, providing all willing contenders be they newbies or not, with a tasty sample of the ever-growing female surf scene. Designed to unite female riders of all ages or levels the aim of the new online site is not only to provide a place for all to meet and share tales but also to help inspire the ever growing number of girls taking to the waves each year. The event proved a fantastic success as the O'Neill surf academy team were on hand throughout the day to lend their expertise. When time up was finally declared, it was an exhausted but delighted (not to mention slightly sunned) party of new found enthusiasts who returned back up to base camp, mission accomplished!
Along for the ride and to spread the love were four of Europe's finest female surfers and ambassadors: Tassy Swallow, Gracie Davies and Raine Jackson. They were all more than happy to share some pearls of wisdom along with tales of their lives and travels that could only leave us dreaming. We got an insight into their busy schedules and caught up with what they had in store for the coming season.
It's been a successful year for this surf chick. Born in St Ives, Tassy not only made it into the top 20 junior European surfers following brilliant results at the World Junior Surfing Championships in New Zealand, but was also awarded one of 25 ISA individual scholarships at the beginning of this year. Having recently completed her GCSEs and hoping to head off to college in September, she admits that it's not always easy balancing her studies with her surf career. But the challenge seem to be outweighed by the benefits of a lifestyle that allows her to travel to exciting destinations and meet amazing people. Her favorite spot so far being the Maldives where she spent 10 days on a boat back in 2008. Despite all, she's always pleased to return home and catch-up with her family of many siblings. When she isn't out surfing Tassy is still on the go with Muay Thai kickboxing, snowboarding, skateboarding and yoga. A determined and promising British talent, we wish her all the best in the upcoming European Pro Junior Tour.
Born in Australia, Raine recently signed with O'Neill Europe and will be proudly charging for our British isles this coming season. An avid traveler, she's constantly hopping between countries, although she admits that lugging her case and board around the globe, on and off 10 flights in 9 weeks can sometimes be a test. But her passion for new cultures, food and languages is more than enough to keep her jet setting. "I was born to travel and until I physically can't I won't stop". She describes her recent trip through the Omani desert in June with a team of 4 other riders in quest of the perfect wave as being one of her favorite surf trips to date. In the months to come (following a quick hop to Rome) she'll be setting up base down in Hossegor as she prepares to bring a bit of Aussie flare to both the European Pro Junior Tour and European Pro tour this summer.
Encouraged by her father and older brother, Gracie took to surfing when she was 11 and began competing at 15 when she became the youngest girl ever to take the British Longboard Union's women's title. Her love for riding and her team has Gracie happily driving from Scotland to Cornwall on a regular basis. Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, she is currently juggling her career with O'Neill alongside studying English and History at Edinburgh University. But not even the icy winter waters of the north will deter this shredder from her weekly training routine as she braves the morning cold and often returns home before most of her housemates have stirred a whisker. With that kind of determination, her hopes of European and World championship qualifications for this can't be too far off.
Become a member and get blogging at oneillfirstlovelastlove.com and if you missed out this time round worry not as there'll be more FirstLoveLastLove events to follow.