Layne Beachley, 7 x World Surfing Champ, announced yesterday that she is retiring from professional surfing at the end of the 2008/09 season. Bryony McCormick gives you the run down…
Sometimes when I am on deadline, I find myself staring into the space beyond my computer screen and reminiscing about days gone by. I think about my childhood and remember climbing trees in the back yard and watching Kelly Slater surf through the piers on Baywatch. I remember eating fish fingers in a blue plastic bowl for lunch and the smell of my pre-school blankie. And then I think about Layne Beachley.
So, she’s not that old, but she has been around for a while. Layne first went pro at the tender age of 16, which back in the late Eighties was considered ‘a big thing’, and kicked off her professional career by winning her first event in 1993. She won her first World Title in 1998, and has since proven herself to be renowned as one of the worlds greatest female surfers, incidentally gathering a heap of titles, World Titles and accolades along the way.
More than that, Layne has single-handedly helped to transform the sport of women’s surfing over the last two decades, by revolutionising the way the world sees women’s surfing as a profession and an art. She has helped to introduce the much-appreciated respect and recognition that women deserve and in doing so, has built her own empire and reputation in the process. Through her achievements and continued dedication, training and hard work, Layne has proved to all those I’m-a-man-and-better-than-you male surfers out there that women have a worthy place on the Tour, in the media and most importantly, in the line up. With her involvement in movies like Blue Crush and Step into Liquid, she has promoted the sport beyond the boundaries that have kept it such in such a niche in the past.
Apart from her seemingly inhumane surfing achievements, Layne has spread her ambition across different platforms too. She started her project company, the Aim for the Stars Foundation, in her home country of Australia in 2003, which was created with the aim to inspire Australian athletes and in particular women to dream and achieve. When describing the Foundation, she explains that her personal struggles and hardships faced in her professional surfing career have given her the experience, that once transformed into knowledge and advice, can help people in similar positions achieve their dreams. She also has her own brand, Beachley Athletics, and sponsors her own event on the world tour, The Beachley Classic, offering one of the most generous prize purses on the entire circuit. Most recently, Layne has released her own biography called Beneath the Waves, and in it opens up to the world and surfing community. She talks about how she dealt with personal issues, like finding out she was an adopted child and was in fact conceived through rape. Pretty heavy if you ask me. She talks about the tour, working to provide for herself and in the end, achieving her dreams. It’s about climbing over obstacles and letting go of the past.
Currently lying 3rd on the tour, Layne made the official announcement yesterday, saying that she was retiring from Professional Surfing as of the end of the season. When asked by an ASP representative as to why now, especially when she is lying 3rd on the tour and performing at her best, she commented that: “I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl and to achieve the goals I set for myself in surfing, I have to give it my all and I’m not. It doesn’t mean that I can’t win world titles, but my priorities are beginning to shift and my focus and my passion in business and charity work and my ambassador roles is beginning to have more appeal to me than competing for a living.”
It will be sad to say goodbye to such an inspiring woman, although Layne will always remain an active figure in women’s surfing and on the tour. By bowing out she is simply opening the door for the future of women’s surfing. In her own words, she has “instilled hunger and passion into the future generations of female competitive surfing coming up through the ranks. I know Steph (Gilmore) looks at me and wants what I got. It was Lisa Andersen before me that gave me the motivation to become seven-times ASP Women’s World Champion. That kind of drive and dedication that it takes to be a champion is the legacy I think I am leaving behind and it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Words: Bryony McCormick