Pro Chat: Holly Donnelly

After we stumbled across the artistic talent of up and coming UK surfer Holly Donnelly last week, we caught with her for a little chat, digging a bit deeper.

Interview by Anna Langer

Hey Holly, we featured your tangerine skull board in the style section of our website. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
I got a new board and thought orange and yellow would stand out. Stripes are all the rage right now anyway, so I threw a few skulls in the mix and that’s it really.

Do you customize all of your boards? If not, how do you pick?
Yeah pretty much all of them, I get my boards from Nigel Semmens and he loves seeing what I’ve put on my latest board! The other day I wrote a Libertines quote on one that I thought was quite funny and relevant to recent events in London. It says “Did you see the stylish kids in the riots?”

How did it all start?
It was just something a few people had started to do, so I thought I’d give it a try, bought some pens and went for it. Everyone at home does it now, even if it’s just writing a funny quote or spraying a random bit of colour. It’s fun to do and everyone likes to check out what the others are putting on their boards at contests and stuff.

What was the first board you painted?
Erm.. I think it was my small wave warrior about a year and a half ago, I drink loads of coke so I drew the Coca Cola logo and I put a silhouette of Bob Dylan on it!

What kind of technique do you use? Same one every time?
I use Posca pens, which is just paint but in a pen, and then spray clear lacquer over the top when it’s done. I ran out of yellow recently though, so I was using acrylic paint but it didn’t take too well, it’s starting to rub off.  Lots of people are using spray cans now, I use them on other things but I’ve chickened out on using them on a board, if it goes wrong you’re screwed. Maybe one day I’ll man up and give it a go.

Your blog suggest quite some affection for photography too. Is that right?
Yeah, I sort of got into it through uni, as I have to take all my own pictures for my projects. It’s good to document where you’ve been. I went to Brazil when I was about 14, I didn’t take any pictures so I’ve pretty much forgotten the whole trip now. I reckon everyone’s like that when they’re younger though, now when you go away everyone’s snapping away all the time, as it seems to be the cool thing to do. I’m terrible in front of the camera though; I just freeze up and look awkward. I’ll stick to taking them.

What do you like most about it?
Just looking through them months later and remembering the funny moment that made you take it. I’ve been using a film camera recently which is so much fun, I didn’t even know how to put a roll of film in when I first got it or how it worked! But its great when you get them developed and see photos you completely forgot taking, much more fun than digital as everyone’s always like ‘ooh what’s that?!’

We can imagine you’re not too stoked about winter coming around the corner…
Nah but Newquay is a much nicer place to live in the winter!

What are your plans for the cold months?
Heading somewhere colder! I’m going up to Thurso to watch the men’s UK pro tour event and then on the way back down I’m competing on the women’s tour in Wales. I’ve never been up there. Everyone says it’s really picturesque, so the camera will be out. Then I’m planning a short escape down to Portugal in December with some of the Newquay crew. I love it there, you get some really good waves and it’s warmer than you would expect for the time of year.

What have you been up to over the Summer?
I went to watch the Roxy Pro with the UK team which was great to meet the snow/skate team and get them all in the surf, they all took to it really fast unsurprisingly! Also Roxy had a stall at T4 on the beach so I got to go that which was a laugh as I’m not really into mainstream pop music! Then I’ve just been at home surfing as much as possible, oh and I went to London to see the Arctic Monkeys, which was a definite highlight for me!

How do you see the female surf scene at the moment?
Obviously on a global scale it’s amazing right now, it’s great to watch the contests, at Snapper the girls were much more exciting to watch than the men. The UK scene is pretty strong right now too, especially with a few Ozzies coming over and competing. I know everyone found it annoying at first but it has definitely pushed us all, I think everyone’s surfing has improved from it.  With the juniors I’m not so sure as I don’t see many junior contests anymore, but I know Peony Knight seems to be dominating, hopefully there’s a few others pushing her. When I was 14, there was 5 or 6 of us who could all win on a given day which helped us all, and made for a few rivalries!

What still needs to be changed?
Well on the UK Pro Tour there’s always sponsorship issues so a lot of events get cancelled, then it gets tough to put a tour of events together.  It happens with the men’s events as well though, if there was more sponsorship for the tour with increased prize money, you’d get more people entering the further a field events, as it would be more worthwhile. The events where it does all come together are great though, like the night surf was a big success. And Surfing GB is kind of up in the air at the moment, I don’t really know what’s going on with it all, but I know some of the parents are clubbing together to run the British Nationals for juniors and seniors all in one weekend which is great, loads of people are volunteering to beach marshall and judge and stuff. Hopefully they can still send a junior team to the worlds next year.

Have you surfed outside the UK much?
Yeah quite a bit for competitions and training, not so much now I’m at uni though. I’ve competed all round Europe and been to Oz, Barbados, Morocco, Brazil and a few other places.

What’s your dream destination to go surfing once?
Hmm… Trestles looks so much fun, but it would have to be empty, as I wouldn’t get a wave with all them people!

What other goals/dreams do you have in/for your life?
Once I finish uni I want to go traveling, there’s a lot of places I want to go to, so yeah go exploring!

Uh that sounds like a plan – enjoy!

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