Words by: Nina Zietman
Is there ever a good time to quit your job and pursue your passion? It’s a question many of us ask ourselves all the time.
Lucy Foster-Perkins left her job as a professional dancer in London to pursue life as a surfer and yoga instructor.
Now she splits her year between Europe and Indonesia, living the dream existence of teaching yoga and surfing every day.
I realised I had to stop saying, ‘Next year I’ll surf more’ and do something about it
But Lucy hasn’t always lived the surfer’s dream. In fact, she grew up in the landlocked city of Oxford and spent many years toiling away in the city until one day, everything changed.
We sat down with Lucy to chat about how she got into surfing and yoga – and why she never feels lonely travelling solo.
How did you get into surfing and yoga in the first place?
I starting surfing aged 16 when my mum took my brother and me to a lesson in Cornwall. I studied dance at university and started surfing more on weekends and in the holiday. I’d skip lessons to go surfing with my friends if there was good surf on the east coast.
You were a professional dancer in London before. What made you leave it behind to pursue a career in surfing and yoga?
I became a professional dancer quite ‘late’ in my life. I went to dance school aged 21, as opposed to 17.
I loved being paid to dance and have fun with my friends. However, the post-show blues were really common. One week you’re dancing in front of a huge audience in another country. Then the next, you’re back working in a cafe, hoping you’ll get another dance job.
In 2012 I won a Cooler Magazine competition to spend a week in Portugal on an all-girls surf camp. That week was a tipping point for me.
All I could think about was how I was going to change my life so I could surf every day. I realised I had to stop saying, ‘Next year I’ll surf more’ and do something about it.
One night, after a couple of audition rejections, I realised I had to change my life. I packed up my stuff in London, moved back home to Oxford and enrolled on a yoga teacher training course.
I miss dancing everyday, but I don’t miss being a dancer. Now I get to surf most of the year, teach and practice yoga every day and move to different surf spots around the world.
Without wanting to sound cheesy, I’ve never looked back.
Do you miss the city lifestyle you had when living in London?
I had a love-hate relationship with London. I love the diversity of people in London and that you can do pretty much anything you want if you’re willing to explore a little.
On the other hand, I’d often feel overwhelmed by everything. I missed being in big, open, natural spaces or being near the sea.
I love visiting London now I don’t live there. I can enjoy all the craziness in short, sweet bursts!
Where did yoga come into it?
I started yoga when I began my dance training. I originally thought I was ‘good’ at yoga because I was naturally flexible and could get into most of the positions.
I didn’t realised that yoga has so much more depth to it, it’s not just about making pretty shapes.
It wasn’t until I moved to London after I graduating that I noticed how much calmer and happier I was after a yoga class. I was curious to understand why.
The more I surfed, the more connection I found with yoga. I found the same focus in the sea as I had during yoga classes. My paddling power got stronger and I wasn’t getting as many aches and pains when I went back to surfing after a long break.
Focusing on my breath helped me become calmer in myself and less panicky if I was held under water when I surfed bigger waves.
I did my yoga teacher training so that I could pass on what I’d learnt to other surfers – how yoga is really for everyone!
What is the hardest lesson you’ve ever had to learn?
The hardest lesson I’ve learnt is knowing when to stop. As a dancer, you always feel like you can’t break from auditioning or training because someone is always there to replace you.
It wasn’t until I had extreme exhaustion (turns out it’s an actual thing!) that I understood how much pressure I was putting myself under.
It was a huge curve ball in my life but it was definitely the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt, and a lot of positive things came out of it.
You spend a lot of time travelling alone. Is there a downside to living a nomadic existence?
You meet so many amazing people who are living their lives in such interesting and inspiring ways. I’ve never felt lonely. But the worst part is having to leave them behind when I move on. Luckily it’s so easy to stay in touch with people nowadays.
I learn so much about myself and others when I live in different countries. It’s helped me understand what the important things are in life, which for me is being good to other people and surrounding myself with people who are good to me.
I love traveling so much, but I also thrive on routine. I try to keep consistency with daily yoga practice, a healthy diet and surrounding myself with good friends.
What advice do you wish you could tell your younger self?
I certainly wish I had surfed more and skated more when I was away from the sea. I was always a bit scared of being too old to start, which I realise now is just something we make up in our heads.
Is there a particular woman in your life that’s inspired you?
My mum started surfing aged 50. Now at 60, she and her partner Catherine are training for a run in Chamonix in memory of my younger cousin Dave.
They have also started doing yoga every week after visiting me in India. A lot of women think they’re too old, unfit or the ‘wrong shape’ to start new sports, but my mum and Catherine have never been fitter and have laughed the whole way.
I’m constantly inspired by women who are fighting for something they believe in, despite social and political pressures they face.
There are still men and woman around the world pushing for equality. I’ve met women in Sumatra who simply want to be able to choose what they wear, and women in Europe who want female surfers to be celebrated for their surfing and not for their bodies.
It takes such strength to keep fighting and we’re slowly seeing positive changes.
What helps you get back on your yoga mat when you are feeling demotivated?
I often remind myself that I’ve never regretted a yoga practice, but I’ve often regretted not practicing.
I listen to my body and adapt my practice each day. Your yoga practice is there to help you learn about your body and relieve tension, but most importantly it’s there to help calm the mind and find happiness – that’s always a great motivation!
What would you say to someone who thinks yoga isn’t for them?
It’s usually because they’ve been presented with the wrong impression of what yoga is – and what you should look like when you’re practicing it.
It can be overwhelming when you see how many different styles of yoga there are. It’s just about finding a practice that suits you.
My advice is set aside two weeks (or even just a few days) and try as many different styles as you. You’ll soon find a style and teacher that works for you.
If you don’t have a studio nearby, the internet has tonnes of videos of classes. It’s never the same as actually being in a class with a teacher but the internet has made yoga so much more accessible than it used to be, and it can be a good start.
Try out Lucy’s own Cooler yoga for surfers video below…
Lucy is holding yoga for surfers classes around Europe this summer, plus she is launching more online yoga videos.