Surfing is unvaryingly an integral part of our very life here on the Gold Coast. Period.
Even if you aren’t throwing your board in the car and scurrying across the sand with your eyes transfixed on the waves, you’ll be just as happy to sit and watch as the many talents do their magical dance upon the beautiful blue canvas.
One such talent is the current female world surf champion, Stephanie Gilmore. Much more than just a talent she is, in fact, one of the greatest (if not the greatest) surfers ever to lay feet on a board. And for those of you who don’t know her too well, she is also a hometown girl.
Living just over the border in nearby Northern NSW most of her life has meant that accessibility to world-class waves have no doubt sharpened Steph’s skills into becoming one of the most prolific competitors out there. Taking out her first world title as a rookie back in 2007 at the ripe old age of 19, she has then gone on to win a further six world titles- and none more deservedly so than perhaps last year.
Nicknamed by friends as ‘Happy Gilmore’, Gilmore not only mesmerises people with her skills on a piece of fibreglass, she is also a devoted ocean conservationist, a brand ambassador, and works with charities sponsoring children and providing safe water in Africa.
On the back of an emotional title win this last season and the eve of starting the whole championship again here on the Gold Coast at The Boost Mobile Pro, I had the chance to put some questions Stephanie’s way and perhaps gain a little insight into what makes her tick.
With the season kicking off shortly here on the coast, what has the down season looked like for you? And how are you gearing up for the upcoming season?
It’s been a wild ride since November when I took the title. All awesome stuff but the downtime is also busy because it’s time when I can do surf trips and shoots etc. I had an excellent break with family and friends at Margaret River, WA for New Years, which felt much needed, but January began with a Bahamas trip to shoot the next Roxy Pop Surf collection. I love the travel side of my job, so it’s not bad at all.
Speaking of gearing up what does your training and diet look like out of the water, is it incredibly strict or does it allow you to have some fun?
I’ve always approached things with a motto of ‘the beauty of balance’. I find this allows me to live a normal life while still staying on track for the competition season that is fast approaching. I have a good idea of what works for my body, and I listen closely, so it’s about keeping to what works food wise while still enjoying some wine and dessert at the end of the day. Balance truly is the key to everything.
Living and spending time growing up on the Gold Coast and its pristine beaches, What does an average day back home look like for you?
We are so lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world. I like to wake early and get in the ocean. The sun can be harsh, so I try to surf super early and late afternoon outside of the bright sun. When I’m at home, I train with my team a few times a week between surfs. I appreciate my home space so try and cook and eat most meals at home. I love inviting friends over for dinner and just hang out pottering around. Lately, I’ve been remodelling my house, so it’s been a lot of online furniture shopping too. It’s so nice to be peaceful in a familiar space. It’s important to have this home time so that when I’m on the road, I can enjoy it and be present.
The beaches of the Gold Coast are undoubtedly a huge privilege some might say, yet, as Ocean conservation becomes more of a hot topic around the globe how do you see us facing up against the challenge?
The ocean is my office, so it holds huge importance for me to keep it clean and use my voice where possible to affect change. I’m proud to say that in Australia we have done a great job in keeping things clean compared to other parts of the world, however altogether, globally, there is still a lot of work we need to do. Plastic and rubbish in the ocean is a huge issue; simply reducing use is the only way to start the change. Also, recycling holds great value in the approach to clean and maintain. It’s so important to educate yourself on what recycling rules are in your local area and to just say
You’ve been working with Roxy for a few years now, and the brand is taking a stand against marine pollution through the new eco-fabricated collection called Pop Surf. Can you tell us what the aim of the clothing line is and how important it is to you being involved in such an initiative?
It’s the only way forward, to be conscious of the current state and how each and every person can create change with everyday decisions. I’m proud that Roxy is taking a stand against marine pollution by using new technologies and fabrics. The POP Surf collection is made with 100% regenerated polyamide. And the POP Surf wetsuits have adopted a new water-based glue that eliminates toxic solvents that harm the environment. Wetsuit dyeing has also been reviewed to involve dope-dye yarn, a process that cuts down water and waste, and saves energy. The polyester materials in Roxy’s Pop Surf wetsuits are made from recycled plastic bottles, which keep plastic out of the oceans and reduce material consumption as well.
Do you think it is important that other brands move to introduce these type of collections?
I do. Incredible new technologies are being created. Once brands start moving in the right direction, making better choices in manufacturing, the overall market will change for the better. It’s baby steps but it’s a start, and it needs to happen consciously.
Congratulations on taking out your 7th world title last year and equaling the record for most world titles with Layne Beachley, In as many words as you like, could you sum up how that feels now that the season is over and has had some time to sink in?
It was an awesome moment. I never really set out to achieve a certain number and I feel like I’m just getting started so more world titles or not it’s an incredible time for our sport and as a female athlete. I feel so proud to be where I am. However the best part of last year wasn’t necessarily the world title, but the moment that WSL announced complete pay equity for all WSL owned events. This is something that made me realise the world titles are great and mean a lot personally. However, it’s the power of voice that world titles have given me that gets me excited now.
The level of surfing really is stepping up all the time, do you think there is a specific reason for this, or do you think the level of competition across the field is just bringing out better surfing each year?
I think we have fantastic grassroots programs in place, particularly in Australia (thanks to Surfing Australia) that allow kids to get started younger and hone their skills. Surfing, in general, is more popular too, more people are interested in watching and being part of the culture, so I think naturally the level and access are growing and sharpening. It’s an exciting time.
Being on the road a lot for the tour must have its ups and downs what would you say were some of the highlights and lowlights from the last year?
A highlight was seeing new places. We had Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa on the women’s tour last year, and I’d never been before. You can’t ask for a more perfect wave and magical place. I get as excited as ever to experiment with new waves and local surf towns in new (for me) countries.I’m not sure there were too many low points last year. Honestly, I’m trying to think of one and I can’t. I feel that now I’m 31 and feel far more in control of my life than ever before, I know it’s a special opportunity I have so I want to make the most of every step.
The upcoming Gold Coast event is set to be historic as the first ever championship tour event to award equal prize money following WSL’s groundbreaking commitments in September, What are your thoughts on this ..? And does it have special meaning happening in your home event?
It does. As I mentioned earlier, it’s using my voice for movements like equal pay that excite me now. I’m at a very lucky time in our sport and I honestly never would have dreamed of seeing this in my professional time on tour. But it’s all the incredible women before me that used their voice and fought the fight, overtime and step by step, that have gotten us to this point. I take my hat off to them. Sport is one of the rare places that prize money is public knowledge so it’s the perfect place to show the world (and most importantly the kids watching) what is and should be seen as normal. And hopefully eventually behind closed doors in business, we’ll see the trend of what’s acceptable in society follow through.
Of all the places you have surfed around the globe and will visit on the tour, where do you think has the most connection for you and where are you really look forward to visiting?
Each spot has its own magic so I could never limit to one. However, South Africa was pretty special. There’s so much to explore around the whole African continent for waves, I’m off to Mozambique soon and can’t wait to see it.
For our readers out there and particularly any ladies looking at the possibility of taking up surfing, what sort of advice would you have for them?
Have fun. Take a friend. Be patient, it’s not something you’ll get straight away but once it clicks you’ll be an addict for life!