These Are The Real Female Surfers Of The UK

Surfing in the UK isn't about bikinis and crystal clear water. We take a look at photographer Philly Lewis' project to capture what it's really like to be a female surfer...

“Men are always seen as very strong and very powerful. I wanted to show women to be the same way, because we are exactly the same. There’s no difference.”

Philly Lewis has started something quite unique. She’s taking photographs of surfers. Not just any surfers, but solely female surfers of the rugged, wind-beaten county of Cornwall in the UK.

I hate how we’re fed this imagery of girls in bikinis on boards. None of it’s very real…

We’ve all seen those widely promoted images of female surfing revolving solely around bikinis, sunshine and white sand beaches in Tahiti. The reality for many female surfers is a lot different, especially for women in the UK.

We are far more likely to paddle out when the water is a grey and there’s hail falling from the sky.

“I hate how we’re fed this imagery of girls in bikinis on boards. None of it’s very real. It doesn’t really portray surfing as it is for girls,” says Philly.

The 21 year-old surfer, photographer and yoga instructor embarked on this project called We Ride earlier this year, taking photos of the real female surfers around Cornwall’s beaches.

I’m trying to find interesting surfers out there – older women, younger girls – women that are doing something inspirational…

She paces along Godrevey and Gwithian beaches, waiting for women to emerge from the water, drenched in saltwater and covered in seaweed.

“Originally I thought people would be like, ‘Oh no! I look awful…’ but most people were happy to have their photo taken,” she says. “I try and approach them in a relaxed way, so when I take the camera out, they don’t sit there posing.”

The shots are remarkably natural, showing all these women without make-up on, as they truly look, fresh from the surf.

“I’m trying to find the more interesting surfers out there – older women, younger girls – women that are doing something inspirational.”

Professional surfer Tassy Swallow was one such inspirational woman. The 20 year-old has just set up a surf house in St. Ives dedicated to teaching young girls about the benefits of surfing.

Many from impoverished rural background, Tassy wants to show how surfing is not only fun, it can help you stay healthy and active.

Philly has shot dozens of women – from mothers in their 30s to women just wanting to escape the technology driven world for a few hours to teenage girls wanting to stay fit and healthy.

Here are a few of our favourite portraits to show you below…

Name: Gemma Pasierb
Age: 32
Current home: Porthtowan, Cornwall

“I love the way surfing makes me feel, physically and mentally. It helps me to think clearly about the world.

When I’m not surfing, I’m exploring the Cornish coast with my little girl who is nearly three.”

Name: Emily Airton
Age: 14
Current home:  Wadebridge, Cornwall

“My dad first got me into longboarding. He would go with my sister Lucie and I didn’t want to feel left out.

I surf now because I love spending time on the beach and being able to do something that brings me closer to my dad and sister.

It feels so good to be outside, doing something you enjoy rather than being stuck indoors and feeling bored.”

Name: Tassy Swallow
Age: 21
Current home: St. Ives, Cornwall

“The thing I love the most about surfing is that it’s for everybody.

Once you’re in the sea, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, it’s just you and the waves.

Surfing has taken me all over the world and I’m extremely luck to call it my job.”

Name: Jessie Tuckman
Age: 26
Current home: Newquay, Cornwall

“I love the escape surfing gives me. There’s nothing else like it. I surf every day. It keeps you alert and I love the challenge.

I leave any worries behind me on the shore. My mind is totally focused on surfing. It’s nice to meet friends in the cafe afterwards and relax while watching the waves roll past.”

Name: Holly Bendall
Age: 21
Current home: Falmouth

“Surfing is really good training for my beach lifeguarding. There’s no pressure in it for me, compared to other sports.

I love being in the water, I always feel better afterwards. It’s also great to escape from my phone/emails for a few hours.”

Philly Lewis’ We Ride project is ongoing, so keep up to date with all her latest photos by visiting her website here

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