Brighton’s Girls-Only Surf Club

Set up by Louise Lawrence in February 2008, Brighton Board Girls (BBG) is the first girls-only surf club in Brighton, and indeed the UK! After breaking up with her surf-mad man, Louise was reluctant to give up her new-found love for wave-riding so fixed up a Facebook group for fellow fans. Now with 150+ in the club, the numbers are growing daily as more girls pluck up the courage to take to the water.

Age: 32

From: The sunny streets of south London (Wimbledon) but moved to Brighton a few years ago. There’s no surf in Wimbledon… obviously!

Have you always loved watersports?
Absolutely. I was swimming before I could walk and my Dad taught me to water-ski in the Channel when I was all of 6 years old. I had great fun with the school and Uni swimming team… I’d like to think I would have made it into the Wimbledon High surfing team but sadly we didn’t have that option! I sucked at run-of-the-mill land sports though, I never understood the appeal of hockey, and netball just wasn’t fast or exciting enough for me. I was far too busy throwing myself off mountains at 14 when I did my first parapente jump, I was bungee jumping at 16 and I was downhill ski racing with the junior British team for most of my teens.

How did you get into surfing?
I fell in love with a surfer, and then I fell in love with surfing. My love affair with surfing has lasted a lot longer than my love affair with that surfer!

What made you decide to set up a girls-only surf club?
I set the group up back in the beginning of ‘08 after I split with the boyfriend who introduced me to the sport. It was too late – I had become addicted to surfing and everything associated with the sport and there was no way I wanted to give up a sport that I had not only grown to love, but I had also put so much time and effort into learning. I was just about up on my feet, starting to really feel confident out in the waves, and, more to the point, I’d mastered the art of understanding swell charts, tide times and strapping boards down to the roof of my car, so there was definitely no way I was going to give it all up!
I never really saw many other girls in the water down here in Brighton and when I suddenly had to head out to surf alone, I turned into a total wimp and got really nervous. I turned up to surf the West Pier one day but the fear set in as soon as I got there, I felt oddly alone, the wind was howling and I knew I couldn’t carry my board down to the pier alone so I chickened out, came home totally gutted and a few days later I created the Brighton Board Girls through Facebook. The next day I had two members… the next week it had grown to 10… by the end of the month about 25 local girls had found the group and now we’ve got over 100 paid up and active members! I’m so stoked with the club’s success.

Have you had a good response from the local surf community?
Fantastic. The general response seems to be that it’s great to see so many more girls in the water down here. The real locals here have been so welcoming. A couple of the lads who’ve been here for a few years weren’t that impressed with the club but they warmed to us in the end and it’s all good now.

Did you experience any setbacks when setting up the club?
Not really, though it did take me and Saffron a good few post-surf beers to come up with a catchy name for the club!
I suppose the real setback I’m experiencing is, ironically, keeping up with the success of the club. I work full-time so I find myself doing all of the BBG event organising, website updating, maintaining of the membership database, etc, in the early hours of the morning and also from my BlackBerry at the most random of places!

How did you secure funding?
I blagged, blagged and blagged for freebies! I managed pretty quickly to get Ocean Sports Board Riders on board as the club’s founding sponsor. They were really great helping us to get up and running and contributing to certain costs. Myself and two other founding members put in a little bit of money and then we basically secured funding by charging members £20 per year. Obviously the membership comes with lots of benefits, such as discounted surf trips, fun events throughout the year and loads of amazing discounts at shops and services both locally and nationally that are exclusive to BBG members.

What have your greatest achievements been so far?
Seeing so many girls out in the Brighton waves now. I’ve been encouraged to hear so many girls saying that they were nervous of going surfing on their own but through BBG they’ve made fellow surfing friends and gained the confidence to head out into the waves. One of the BBG’s wrote me an email recently and she said that thanks to the club she has been given the opportunity to learn to surf with out feeling intimidated. I was really touched by her comment and moments like that make all of the hard work totally worthwhile.
Securing sponsorship from Roxy was pretty special too… now THAT was an exciting day when we got that news!

Can you give us a run down of your average day?
I always get up at first light, whether that’s for a surf, run or swim. Obviously surfing is my first choice but if there are no Brighton waves then I just try to stay fit. I landed my dream job a while back, working as an account manager for A1surf so I basically get paid to talk surf all day – how fantastic is that? A1Surf are really accommodating with their hours. It’s generally an 8:30am until 5pm day with a 2pm finish on Fridays so I pray for timely surf at the end of the week, especially in winter when dawnies and post-work surfs during the week are just so difficult to make. In the summertime I head home and go for a post-work surf or, if it’s flat, I’ll go for a paddle with the girls. In the winter time, it tends to be gym, out with mates or curled up updating the BBG website, armed with a glass of wine!I

And if you could have the perfect day, what would it include?
Surf, sun, clear waters, a perfect mojito and surrounded by very good friends.

What are your plans for the autumn?
Well, our home break is down at the Southwick Hot Pipes so we’re hosting a fun challenge called the Brighton Board Girls Hot Pipe Masters later on this year and we’ve got some local legends judging the event. Some of the BBG’s are getting their first taste of competitive surfing by entering in the South Coast Champs in Bournemouth in November and by the beginning of December we’ll have the club website even more fully developed to host a members-only forum and allow them to upload their own photos and videos.

Do you have any exciting events or competitions coming up?
Our Winter-Warmer film screenings begin this November and we’re kicking it off with a cinema screening of “One California Day” followed by Roxy’s “Shimmer” which we absolutely love but it just ends up giving all of us the travel bug and making us insanely jealous of all those awesome Roxy team riders! And then we’ve got our mermaid-themed Xmas party coming up on December 11th!
Heading into the New Year, we’ve got a massive BBG quiz night organized which will see the winning team receiving a seriously dream prize (I can’t say what yet, but put it like this, they’ll need to pack their bags!) and then in April 09 we’re off on a BBG surf trip abroad. It’s all happening.

What’s your favourite surf spot?
I absolutely loved surfing out at Les Bordaines in Hossegor this summer but I have to say, there’s nothing quite like surfing your home break, despite the fact we don’t get the best ever surf here on the south-coast. There’s no one single break as each of them vary here, depending on the wind and tide conditions – I do love surfing Brighton’s west pier though. I’m off to Oz this Xmas, so ask me this question in 2009 and my answer will no doubt be very different!

How do you relax when you get the chance?
I’ve always found it really hard to relax and actually surfing has taught me to chill out a bit more. Bizarrely, boxing and working out actually keep me relaxed the most.

Do you think there will be more girls-only surf clubs cropping up in the future?
Absolutely. There are already a few that have cropped up since the BBG was launched this year. I know for a fact through working at A1 Surf that stats show more and more girls are getting into surfing… that can only be a good thing!

What’s up next for you?
Finding myself a nice fit boyfriend…preferably one who surfs!
During the year we participate in all sorts of fun events such as The Paddle Round The Pier, we’re asked to take part in sports demo’s at Hove Lagoon and Brighton Watersports Office, we organise fundraising events for the club, next year we’ll be shooting a 2010 calender to raise money for the group, we regularly have events with our sponsors Roxy, we organise surf film screenings… always keep an eye on the site to find out what we’re up to.
For next year, priorities are expanding the club so we can afford some serious kit to lend out to the girls, finding some committed people to help me run the club on a long-term basis and, fingers crossed, next year I’d really like to host a stand alone event for UK girl surfers… maybe an inter-club contest sometime in 2009. Any offers…?


For more info, head to the Brighton Board Girls website. Annual membership, including photo ID membership card, bespoke BBG rash top and exclusive BBG car sticker is a bargainous £20.


Images copyright Sean Clark / Underwater Image


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